My Class Blogs: Part 2

3/05/2009 04:37:00 pm

Here's Part 1 if you missed it.

The first 7 to 10 days of the semester are busy, particularly the first 2 or 3. I ask each student to email me and mention the class they are taking with me and what period it's in. (Each class has their own blog.) This allows me to "capture" their email addresses in my gmail account so I can communicate with them as needed later. I copy and paste their email addresses (I hate typing long lists) into the appropriates space on the blog and invite them to be contributors to our blog. (In Blogger go to: SETTINGS > PERMISSIONS > scroll down and click on ADD AUTHOURS) I use a group blog model; each class has their own blog which will serve as the social and academic hub of our time learning together.

In our first class I discuss the same things you do: class expectations (mine of them and theirs of me), give a quick overview of the course, and something I call The Critical Path to Success. I also discuss the class blog, how scribe posts work (their contributions), and how I post the daily lesson slides to the blog and occasionally share "links for learning" (my contributions). One of the best descriptions of scribe posts I've ever read I discovered yesterday on one of the class blogs. It was in the chatbox (more about this in my next post); written by one student to another explaining what they were supposed to do when it was their turn to be scribe. PJ said:

A scribe post is basically like you are teaching the class again, but this time in your words in a way that other people can understand it. You can also recap other important things that we talk about in class (like Pi Day) so that if someone was away in our class, they would know what they missed. Also don't forget that when you scribe, you get the power to choose the next scribe.

I thought it kind of cool that he described choosing the next scribe as a "power".

The way I present information, and consequently they way I teach, has undergone dramatic growth in the last few years. I decided that I owed it to my students to develop an opening presentation that was similar to the sort of thing I do when giving a workshop. This is what my opening day talk looked like in the Fall of 2007. I podcasted this particular class so you can listen to me if you like, but I warn you, it's not compelling listening. ;-)

I updated it a bit for the Fall of 2008. This is what the latest incarnation of my opening day talk looks like:

There is no scribe for my first class which has no real mathematical content. There are also no scribes for tests days. Recently, some students have taken to publishing a personal reflection of how they felt the test went, inviting the rest of the class to share their thoughts in the comments. I love the spontaneous incidental learning and thinking that comes of students habitually publishing their thinking.

By the next morning I'll have a small handful of students signed up as contributors to the class blog. I ask for one of them to volunteer to be the scribe for that first class and remind them that they must finish their scribe by choosing the next scribe, which can be anyone in the class, and by labeling (other blog platforms call this "categories") their scribe post properly ("First Name", "Unit Title", Scribe Post). This kicks off the students beginning to take responsibility for their own learning and each other. I never choose a scribe; they do. If the scribe is absent for class one day I tell the students that they have to figure out who will cover for the absent student and decide how they want to manage this. Sometimes I lean back against the board at the front of the room and wait several minutes until they start talking and get it all sorted. I'm consistently clear that this is their responsibility; not mine.

I also begin discussing ethical online behaviour, alerting students to some of the things that can happen when we publish content online. At the end of the day I publish a post to the blog called Digital Ethics which is required reading for everyone.

In my next post in this series I'll talk a little more about the follow up to the Digital Ethics post and The Scribe List which I post to the blog as we continue getting organized for the semester. I'll also touch on how the blog evolves as a learning ecology and how I deal with certain pitfalls like students that don't have computers, email accounts, hit technical snags, or don't register for the blog. (I know I'd said I'd do that this time, but next time a really will. ;-) )

Photo Credit: Farewell February by flickr user Cayusa

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  1. I'm looking forward to your next post on a handling the technical snags, as I'm thinking of implementing a scribe system for this school year.


  2. I am wondering how you handle it when a student doesn't scribe on their day.

  3. @Dana If a student doesn't do their scribe I ask them when can I expect it? Not doing it isn't an option; just because the day has past doesn't man we don't need that "page in our textbook". I'm just really clear this their job no mine and choosing to not do the work is equivalent to chosing not to learn and that isn't an option. This may sound idealistic, and of course I deal with individuals individually, but it really works.