Using Blogs as a Novel Approach to Engage Students
Last week, I described the basics of blogging and promised to share stories of educators using blogs in the classroom. So today I’d like to introduce you to Janice Robertson, who’s using blogging to engage her students in some novel discussions.
Robertson teaches seventh grade English in Ontario. Her blog, Novel Discussions, encourages students to respond to her reading assignment questions online.
The blog, which uses Blogger as its website platform, is written as a series of questions. Some questions prompt students to discuss the content of the books; in other cases, Robertson asks the students to reflect on how they would handle a given situation from the book, or interview others on how they might handle it. For example, in one blog entry she asks her students to interview two adults and see if there was anything in their lives they would do over again. The students respond by posting comments to the blog.
“The beauty of it is that my really shy or my weak readers get to respond to the novel discussion with as much power as my mouthy or my ‘great’ readers,” Robertson explains. “I’ve asked them to post anonymously, except they have a code number so I can give them credit for participating.”
“The second great thing is that I don’t miss the discussions anymore,” she continues. “When we used to do them face to face, I wasn’t always able to be six places at once! Now, I can just log on and read the comments.”
The Novel Discussions blog has also helped connect her students across both classes. “In the past, my one class couldn’t have a discussion about the book with my other class because I never saw them at the same time,” she notes. “Now they can.”
Though Robertson considers the blogging project a success, she’s been stymied by her school’s filtering policy, which now filters all addresses ending in blogspot.com - including her own. But her students have already demonstrated they know how to get around the filters.
“The only sad thing is that my [school] board now filters the blogspot site because there are, if you search long enough, some inappropriate ones,” she explains. “I’m sure you can tell how I feel about this. The students took exactly one day to figure out how to bypass the filter and get to the site. So officially they only post at home, but in reality, they bypass the filter and post their novel discussions at school as well.”
Despite these hurdles, she’s proud of what she’s accomplished so far. “I also loved how easy it was to set up a blog. I don’t have the technical knowledge to set up a web site that allows for responses, so I loved that this was up and running in minutes!”
“I know I haven’t used it exactly the way a blog was supposed to be used,” she adds, “but it works for me!”
And that’s precisely the point. There is no absolute “right” or “wrong” way to use a blog; the beauty of the technology is that you can adapt it to your own needs. As long it works for you and your students, then you’re using it correctly as far as I’m concerned. -andy
Filed under : Blogging