Blogging: Does It Scale?

12/04/2007 12:38:00 pm

I'm participating in a forum as a mentor for a group of teachers learning about using web 2.0 tools in their classrooms. One of them asked about how would blogging across the curriculum and grades scale?

I don't know that there is a best answer but this is where I'm at in my thinking about it at the moment:

There are basically three models teachers use to blog with their students:

(1) A Comment Blog • The teacher creates the blog and is the sole authour.

• The teacher posts thoughtful (provocative?) questions to the blog and the students reply in the comments. They might even aggregate research (hyperlinked to sources) in the comments when prompted to by the teacher.

• This model is often used by teachers trying blogging for the first time. Nonetheless this can be an incredibly powerful use of blogging as exemplified in the, now dormant, A Look at Bullying blog.

(2) The Class Blog (this is what I do) • The teacher and students all share authourship and contribute content to the blog.

• The teacher structures the nature of the content that students are required to contribute and the students are free to contribute more as the mood moves them.

(3) The Mother Blog (Clarence Fisher does this. So does Barbara Ganly; I think she coined the term "Mother Blog.") • Each student has their own blog.

• The teacher runs a central blog that all the students subscribe to and check in on daily.

• The mother blog is linked to all the students blogs and vice versa.

• The teacher uses the mother blog to guide the students learning by:

» "handing out" assignments on the mother blog.

»aggregating and pointing to resources that may be useful in the students learning.

»highlighting exemplary work shared by students on their individual blogs. This drives traffic (comments) to that student's blog and models for the rest of the class what exemplary work looks like. (Powerful motivational consequences flow from this practice.)

How Might This Scale? If I were looking at a school wide implementation of blogging across the curriculum I would probably aim to have a fusion of (2) and (3) above:

»Each student would have their own blog where they aggregate all their work from all their classes through the years. Over time this becomes a concrete artifact of their learning. The content can also be remixed into a portfolio of all they have learned. Using a wiki to create that portfolio (pbwiki does this quite nicely) allows them to cross reference (using links) the opus of work archived in their individual blog.

»Each class would also have a class blog blog where the teacher could orchestrate and structure the class' learning experiences. All the content from that particular class would be aggregated in the class blog. Students would cross post (copy and paste) any content they create to both their personal and class blogs. Teachers may pursue a "mother blog" concept with their classes too simply by cross linking the student's blogs and the class blog.

»When students "graduate" from whatever school they are attending (elementary to high school, high school to university, etc.) they would take their individual blog with them. Hopefully, when they leave secondary school, they will continue to use their blog to capture their learning for the rest of their lives.

One virtue of setting things up this way is that it transparently models and provides the tools for life long learning.

Are there other benefits? shortcomings?

Are there obstacles to implementing this? What are they?

What do you think? ;-)

Photo Sources: untitled by flickr user stranded_starfish
node by flickr user uqbar

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  1. Anonymous5/12/07 04:35

    I like you, use a class blog as a place to add my lessons and as a location for the students to collect artifacts and post responses to topics we examine. We have also setup a blog to simply collect student writing over a year, as an attempt to create a growth portfolio and to try to get students to reflect on their writing, as well as, get parents involved in looking at the writing of their children.

    I like the mother blog idea and was looking at using something like wordpressmu to help with the management side. Also I wonder how I can create a situation where students become more independent with their blogging, where the issues are self generated as opposed to me providing the prompts. I wonder if some of the new eportfolio systems that contain a blog, and other tools such as Mahara might be a way to more easily bring everything together. Lots to think about!!

  2. There are a couple of issues that I still find a little difficult to get my head around. At a primary school level we want to maintain a reasonable level of teacher control over the content so as to ensure safety. How do we maintain control but also allow the students to be working in an environment that they can take away with them when they leave school to go on to High School. At the moment we use a passworded intranet that has individual blogs as well as all sorts of other resources that can be uploaded to it. It is a brilliant online classroom environment but the big issue I see is that the children can't easily take their work with them when they leave. They aren't able to make their blogs public and they can't control access to them. We retain publishing safety but lose transportability. It would be great to be able to have both. My under 13's can't have a blogger account for example but it would be great if a teacher could for example set up a class set of teacher controlled blogs but be able to relinquish control without losing the account so that when a child reached 13 for example or left for High School they could be given control of their account.
    We also have a class podcast, wiki and blog which is where we make public some of the work we are doing. For us it works having a private online classroom space for the blogging but I think we lose something in the restriction on wider connections we might generate if we could open up access to the world. The window we do provide through our podcast and wiki is much more limited than I would like to see.

  3. Here's the crux of the thing, to have the portfolio mean anything, teachers have to create authentic assignments. Graduating with a full record of the work you've done means nothing if the work hasn't done anything. It's the thoughts, not the tools.

  4. I'm trying blogging for the first time this year with my classes and I do #3 -that is, each student has their own blog and I post assignments on my blog- then they post to their own blog. Everyone has google reader set up so that sometimes an assignment will be to comment on 3 classmates' posts. Many students do not like it, but some dig it. The benefits of it right now are giving students a voice outside of the classroom, and I am getting alot of feedback on their progress in class. I only do it now about 1 time a month. I will take suggestions anytime. I teach high school math.

  5. Anonymous9/12/07 20:07

    I have noted each type of blogging scenario in my upcoming book (RSS for Educators - ISTE Press), and thing the style of blogging you choose doesn't matter as much as what you'd like the students to get out of the experience. I almost think the level at which they are involved might depend upon the age group.

    At the elementary/primary level, I think a class blog is a great idea, and if you choose, you can use a blogging system that requires approval before posts "go out."

    We wrestle where I work on internal vs. external blogging with students. I think if we had a 1:1 environment, the blog should be part of the deal, and I agree-to be authentic-it likely should be available from home, and seen by others. But some systems like WordPress allow password protected posts or sign-on to access the blogs.

  6. Darren, thanks for the post. We are starting district blogging next year and I would like to use your post in my introduction to staff. Great synopsis