This year, I have instituted a mass experiment of blogging in the classroom. I introduced this in an earlier post: “Blogging in the Classroom.” Instead of the students handing in answers to various questions, I asked that they post their answers on the class blog. Next, I offered them the potential for extra credit – they could get a few bonus points if they read and responded meaningfully to a classmate’s blog post.
I have set up a class blog in all five of my classes: three ninth grade history courses on Ancient History, one US History (11/12th grade), and an AP Art History (11/12th grade). They all have a little bit of a different focus. For example, for AP Art History, it’s more of a tool/resource for the kids to have moderated discussions on topics that interest them. My freshmen have a more formal environment with specific assignments. My Juniors/Seniors in US History fall somewhere in between.
This is the first time that I have instituted this process and I’m fully expecting some bumps and draw-backs along the way (and have already experienced a few). I also have some amazing colleagues that have agreed to become members of the blog to provide their own thoughts and reflections on the process- sharing their insight (much thanks Gail, Karen, and Paul).
Last week, we all sat down in the computer lab and dealt with the technical difficulties, addressed confusions (that some students had), and let them do their assignments hands-on. First period, the students got the information very quickly – they became excited, I heard and saw them help one another, and most of them finished their homework assignment in class. When I walked into my third class of the day (the one right before lunch), I found only three students in the classroom. We walked over to the lab to find all of the other kiddos sitting at the computers waiting, they said “We heard from the other classes that we were in here and doing something really cool!” For the second day in a row, I had students who, when the lunch-bell rang, had not yet packed up their books or notebooks and weren’t eager to leave to ‘beat the lunch-line.’ It was a great experience! I’m attaching a copy here (names blocked out) of an example of one student’s post to the questions as well as a classmate’s response:
Now, just so I am not accused of being too polly-anna-ish, it wasn’t all fun and games and amazing buy-in. I certainly had students who thought that blogging was ‘stupid’ or wanted to submit their work hand-written. Some were readily distracted by easy access to sports scores or the recent unblocking of Facebook and Twitter. There were certainly some bumps and some ways that I will make changes as I go forward. However, as a first time out, I was pretty happy with the results.