For a little while now, since I used Blogger for my freshman blog project, I’ve wondered about evaluation of the blog entries. I’m already working on gathering weak and strong examples on overheads to show classes what I’m looking for and how I will grade. Several entries in this first onslaught of blogs will work just fine. With a little tweak of words and phrases here and there, nothing will be easy to identify so I’m not singling out any students as weak or strong writers in front of the whole class. And I can easily cut and paste those entries onto my blog to keep a running record of weak and strong entries available for the entire class on my blog (on a side note, I am also trying to write every week and post things on my blog as examples of what I’m looking for and when we get to the point where they will have to read and comment on other blogs, mine will be available too).
Ideally, I’d like to keep all evaluation of blogs electronic, since to move things from the computer to paper would defeat a large part of my purpose in using blogs in the classroom. If there would be a way for to have an electronic conversation about my evaluation of the blog entries kept online between me and the student, something that isn’t one sided and something that can continue in much the same way as comments on a blog, so much the better. I looked into setting up password protected entries on a WordPress blog, but there is no way to sign out of such an entry, thereby leaving an paged accessed on a computer in the classroom open to anyone else who happens to look.
I thought of using comments to catalogue my… well… comments about student writing/blogging, but everyone can see that. I don’t like the idea of the world checking out how a student is evaluated; the evaluation process seems a terribly personal one, particularly at the high school level and with regard to one’s writing (usually a mark of one’s thinking and possibly about personal subject matter).
So I was stuck, forced to write up an evaluation for each blog entry either by hand or in a Word document to be printed out later. But I’ve just noticed that Blogger, in a response to the massive amount of comment spam that has flooded the blogosphere, has created the option for all comments to be moderated. This is exactly what I need to be able to leave my evaluation as a comment on a student’s blog.
Moderation means that comments wait for approval before being made public. I’ll sit my classes down at the computers on Monday or Tuesday and walk them all through the process of turning on moderation. Then, I’ll show them what happens when they have comments pending moderation, that all comments are in a list, waiting to be approved or removed. All the comments that I leave for them are ones that they can take no action on, thereby leaving my comments in the moderation list, in a sort of limbo, which is fine by me.
The comments will be available to them in their Blogger Dashboard so they can always see what suggestions I’ve given them, but they will not be available to the rest of the reading public. I can create a database full of my remarks to students by just cutting and pasting comments as I make them (hrm, that’s one more step for me to take in an already multi-step process, so we’ll see how that goes). Failing that, I can always log in as the student and look at their Dashboard for a quick reminder of what I wrote since I’ve collected all usernames and passwords.
So, comment moderation not only helps take care of the comment spam problem, but it also helps make evaluative comments possible since the author can read them without everyone else having access. Evaluation can continue to take place between student and teacher instead of inviting the entire world in on the discussion.