Freshmen Blogs: Update

In a stack of papers called Technology.

  • May
  • 17
  • 2005

Today was a good day for the freshmen blog project. The assignment for today was simple. We started class off by treating that writing prompt as a daily, a quick piece of writing that starts the class. Everyone was writing and looking through the text for their quotation. Some questions came up, but no one was at a terrible loss for words when they were just dealing pen and paper. Maybe that’s key to ease into blogs: write it down first, then type it.

After about 10 minutes (the morning announcements are loud, typically 5 minutes long, and hard to concentrate on writing through), I announced and wrote on the board that this is blog assignment #5. As soon as anyone was ready, they had permission to move to a computer and begin typing in their paragraph. While some were typing, others were writing. When some finished typing, those writing moved to the computers. When they were finished typing their assignment, they were to get into groups and work on the current assignment. But even without that assignment waiting for them, I could easily just had them read our current text to review for the day, to catch up, to forge ahead, there are plenty of things I could have had them do.

It went well because there was something for them to do at each step of the process. Write. Done? Type. Done? Quickwrites (the current assignment). There were some (only a few) who missed out on working on the quickwrites in class today since they were typing for a while and that’s fine. There are two students who didn’t post today’s writing assignment. I’ll get them tomorrow. [UPDATE: those two who didn’t post were simply victims of a technical error; it’s not that they didn’t do the assignment] There were 3 people absent today. They’ll work on it during tomorrow’s class (actually, 2 of those students I could give it to for homework and it would be completed).

Today was a day that the computer-illerterate student had no trouble logging in. Small victory, but I was happy to see that he’s getting the hang of it. He seemed to be a bit proud of it, too. His entry is appaling in terms of grammar and cohesion of thought, but I’ll take that up with him on another assignment… This is just about him getting used to the technology, though his spelling of response (“responce”) makes me cringe. The quiet kid in class didn’t post anything today. I suspect it’s because of a technical error, though, because I saw him working with one of the smart kids (funny how these roles play out in each class: the quiet kid, the smart kid, the funny kid, the kid who *thinks* he’s the funny kid…).

Today went well because the command of “This is the next blog assignment!” was enough to get them typing. This is what I’ve been wanting.

And they’ll never even see blog assignment #6 coming:

Comment on at least 2 of your peers’ blogs by proposing an answer to the question they included in blog #5. After you’ve written your 2 comments, read a few other blog posts on this topic, just to get a feel for the other ideas people in this class have.

Now, for your bit of writing about all this, write a new blog entry on your blog about your reaction to reading some other people’s blogs. Compare them to your blog post on this same topic. What are you proud of in your writing? What would you like to improve? What did you see that you liked? What got you really thinking?

At the end of your blog entry, include links to your 2 comments.

It’s the perfect set up and they just thought I was making arbitrary requirements when I told them to end this entry with a question!

For the next assignment (there will probably only be 2 or 3 more assignments this school year!), we’ll work on good comments that promote discussion and engage in conversation. That’s a skill all on it’s own and is different than the skill needed to write an entry. I’ve done some modeling for them (my comments on their last essay were typed up and attached to their paper as a mock up of what comments on a Web site should look like) and will do more.

I think it’s consistency that will make this project more successful in the future. Writing every week or every two weeks will help make this a better project. But with more kids to monitor, it’s going to become a bear. I wish there was a way to have access to all of one student’s comments, through some kind of admin screen on my side. Like a comment tracker or something… Then I could see whether or not they are commenting on each other’s entries, what they are saying, and give directions where needed. To be able to look at everything a single student is typing, the way that student is interacting in the blogosphere of the class, would be helpful.

Also, if I had a table of contents to quickly scan down for who has posted something for each assignment (almost like a checklist for each assignment), that would be easier than clicking on each student page just to find out if they completed the assignment. This would make it easier to spot who isn’t doing the work and easier to grade those completion assignments that I don’t judge for quality. The faster the points are in the gradebook, the more immediate the assignment becomes and the more clear that assignment’s purpose (at least on a surface level) becomes.

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