I originally posted about my desires and plans to use blogging in the classroom in my post: “Blogging in the Classroom.” I felt that this was important for my students for several reasons – the rise of blogging in college classrooms really put me over the edge. So many of my former students and colleagues (that had returned for first or additional graduate degrees) were telling me that online assignments and class blogs were becoming the norm in 21st century education. They told me that the greatest challenge for them was simply learning how to use the tools – the less exposure to computers and online tools, the steeper the curve. And of course, as many of us who have been through the college experience, know – it is a rare College Professor that will hand-hold you through the learning process, or even patiently walk you through the process. They expect you to already know it (as part of your own college preparation) or expect you to learn on your own.
I started with a simple blogging assignment that I highlighted in “First Week Using Class Blogs” and followed up on “Update on Blogging in the Class.” I teach three different levels of classes – 9th grade, 11th grade, and 12th grade. So I have geared various assignments for those skill levels. It’s been a learning process along the way and overall, I’m happy with the new addition and think that I will continue with it in the future. Out of all of my classes, I’ve found that my 9th graders have been the most excited and readily adapted to this new medium. My older students have largely been more hesitant – I’m struggling with grabbing their interest. I know that if I could get a Facebook page going, we’d be all there.
With my 9th grade class, we have a weekly assignment called “Current Events in History.” They have to go out weekly and find a “historical news story.” It can be about a new book coming out, an archaeological find, the destruction of a monument in war, etc. They must prepare an oral presentation (with a PowerPoint slide) and do a summary write up for the class blog. Also, they choose the topic on a ‘first come first serve’ – that means they have to check the blog before they post to ensure that they don’t repeat a classmate’s story. Their blog post has to be at least 100 words and include the source. They seem to have really taken to this. What I have seen is that they are better at collaborating (they will tell me before I get a chance if a classmate has ‘taken’ their story), becoming better public speakers (they have 2-5 minutes of practice every week), are better ‘casual’ writers (although sometimes I have to remind them), and are becoming more adept at finding reliable resources. They can also get up to 10 points of extra credit on the assignment for commenting on a classmate’s work – still not getting a lot of collaboration there.
Here is a great example of some of their recent work: