Student blogging – “Important person” comments

I can barely believe that it has been a whole week since my previous blog post. Life is certainly fast and furious….

It is a good feeling to be finished and done with the thesis thang – as I called it. My opening words to my defense were that I felt very blessed that I chose a topic about which I am still interested, still learn from, and will still want to continue to study in the future. Not everyone has that experience with a project that is carried over nearly three years….

The topic was online collaborative learning for high school students with a focus on the development of self-monitoring skills (it was an action research study). Two issues that my research raised that I continue to chew on is the role of sociality in the online environment (and how it fosters critical thinking skills) and how valuable it is for an “important” person to show interest and provide feedback to the students.

Before the Montreal shooting tragedy of two weeks ago, I had arranged for my students to begin blogging in this elgg environment, personallearningspace.com, created by some American teachers from several different cities and schools. Even before this, when I was certain that I wanted to have my students blogging this year, I had approached my headmaster and asked if he would support my endeavour by reading the students’ blog posts and responding to them – the “important person”. The deal was that the students would be asked to respond to the weekly assembly addresses of the headmaster (he is a good speaker who chooses challenging issues as his topics) and then be asked to blog a response to the address.

I visited the Teachers Teaching Teachers site tonight to see what was new, and discovered an excellent post by one of the founding teachers of personallearningspace. He raises a number of questions about the elgg environment and questions about how to encourage students to post and respond.

Here is part of my response:

HI Paul,

You have raised some excellent questions, some of which I have had myself.

My students (Lower Canada College) have been using the personallearningspace elgg environment for about ten days or so now. I have had some experience with blogs (I blog – or try to – regularly) and have just completed my thesis (Ed Tech) in collaborative online learning for high school students.

One of the interesting results of my research was that students really appreciated having “someone important” respond to their posts. With that in mind, I approached my headmaster at the beginning of the year and asked if he would read my students’ blogs and leave comments if they were asked to blog about his weekly assembly addresses.

We are a school in Montreal. Many of you are aware that about two weeks ago, a gunman opened fire on a college campus here killing one and leaving twenty others wounded before turning the gun on himself. It hurt our community very hard. The first opportunity we had to listen to the headmaster was when he spoke after this tragic event. The students were asked to blog about their thoughts about the tragedy and his address.

I have been very impressed with the level of thinking that my grade 9 students have displayed. They were asked to comment on two of their peers’ posts after creating their own post. Again, the quality has been impressive.

Three years ago, I created a rubric for evaluation of online participation. I would be very happy to share it with you as it might provide you with some of the criteria that I believe should be evident in online communication.

I believe the requirement to blog academically is a valid one. We are asking our students to think and write critically and reflectively, share ideas, display good citizenship qualities, learn to disagree without offending – the list goes on. The best blogging will take place when there is an authentic issue and an authentic audience (the “important person”). You may want to consider asking such people to visit the students’ blogs and leave comments. Perhaps you may want to approach local experts in issues and topics that you are tackling in your classroom.

It is now the “season” for conference and grant proposals, so besides trying to keep up with teaching and marking, I am spending extra hours trying to create meaningful proposals. This is mostly new for me, especially the grant proposals. It is not something I *need* to do, but I want a little bit of practice and one of the grants is a lucrative one.

I am thoroughly delighted to be making a NECC proposal with two great ladies of the read-write-speak-listen web. We are using wikispaces to generate ideas and organize our thoughts. I have already learned a good deal about how to create and manage a wiki page! I also want to create a proposal for the upcoming K-12 Online Conference. I may even use the topic of “important people” and online learning environments!

Today was the day that the matches for the next Global Virtual Classroom Web Design Contest were announced! I am matched with Shaun Creighton from Santan School in Arizona (he is a terrific webmaster of the school) and Grant Sundal from Colegio Granadino in Manizales, Colombia. I look forward to working with them and their students for the next six months on this exciting project.

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2 thoughts on “Student blogging – “Important person” comments

  1. Hi Sharon,
    I read with great interest your post to Teachers Teaching Teachers. I also hope you know about the Education Bridges Elgg at http://www. educationbridges.net/elgg. It is another place where we all gather and share.
    The news was very sad about the shooting in Montreal. I was running a teen online community around the time of the shooting at Columbine and I remember the online discussion. It is wonderful that you were able to engage the elgg for discussion and response to the events of the day. What are your students talking about now? Was it an easy transition or did the next step of conversation seem almost superficial after that urgent first conversation online?
    Your comments about the need to blog academically also impressed me. I agree that it is valid. It will be interesting to see how we can walk that fine line between real issues and contrived conversation, action and simply reaction.
    Thanks again for taking the time to post at Teachers Teaching Teachers,

  2. Bush and the Republicans were not protecting us on 9-11, and we aren’t a lot safer now. We may be more afraid due to george bush, but are we safer? Being fearful does not necessarily make one safer. Fear can cause people to hide and cower. What do you think? What is he doing to us, and what is he doing to the world?
    If ever there was ever a time in our nation’s history that called for a change, this is it!
    We have lost friends and influenced no one. No wonder most of the world thinks we suck. Thanks to what george bush has done to our country during the past three years, we do!

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