Student Blogs: What I Learnedby Brian Bennett on 08/17/2011
Today I finally had the chance to get my students their blogs. After weeks of trial and error getting the site to work and email after email with IT people to allow my blog through the network, they were finally ready to go today.
A little about my blogs. I had decided from the start that I wanted to host my own blogs on my domain. I figure students already have enough login information to worry about, I might as well be the one with their blog information. I also like that I can set parameters I want and be sure that each student is acting responsibly and appropriately. I can also help them customize it more than the available options if they want.
I've got a few major take-aways from this experience that I think are important things to realize if you're planning on using blogs.
Take time during class to show them where major controls are. Show them how to log in/out, how to change a password, etc. Make sure they physically watch what you are doing or else you will be answering the same question multiple times. Once I got their eyes, I showed them those major portions, and everything went fine.
Dialogue with students about the purpose. I teach freshman and my class is definitely already using more technology than most of these students have ever used. We talked about what the purpose of a blog is or what it should be, and I found that many of them just didn't have the experience that I expected. The majority of responses centered around the "fact" that blogs are just diaries. Once they began to think outside the box, they began to take ownership a little bit more.
Expect slow internet. I tried doing this with 35 kids in my room at once. My server was not happy with me nor was the wireless router in the room. Try to find a way to do half of the class at a time to make sure you have their attention and that the internet is working relatively well. Next time I sign kids up for a blog, we will definitely be doing it in groups rather than all at once.
Let the students play. Through the class, they kept on asking "what next?", which is appropriate at times. There was a sequence we needed to go through to get everything done correctly. After that, however, they were a little afraid to do something "wrong." Take a minute to explain that while we will be using them for class projects, this is their space and it is up to them what it becomes in the long run. I will be giving assignments, but those should not dictate what they use the site for. The freedom scared some, but as they got on board, I saw more excitement than trepidation. Hopefully, some will be posting more than when I ask them to.
I'll be figuring out a way to post a directory for the blogs over the next week so you can check them out if you're interested. Feel free to ask if you have other thoughts and questions.