Monday, June 1, 2009

Blogging with Classblogmeister - Part One

While this blog has been somewhat dormant of late, I have nevertheless been active in the blogosphere, introducing my class to Classblogmeister. This has been part of an action research project for my MEd, in which I set out to determine whether using blogs brought about an increase in the motivation of my Year 7 & 8s to write. Here is a link to the blog, Bouncy Castle 29. From there you can also access the students' blogs as well (feel free to leave comments on their blogs!)

It's been a great experience so far and I have really enjoyed introducing my class to the sense of connection and audience that blogging brings. I learned a lot along the way (still learning!) and found some great links and resources that others might find useful, so I intend to share some of that here over the next week or so.

So here was my situation: 
The students in this class are provided with opportunities to write daily. Some of this is guided formal writing, such as recounts, arguments, letters and so forth, while some is free writing. The students follow a writing process which takes them from the ideas stage, through drafting and in some cases, publishing.

Generally, this writing is not shared with anyone beyond myself as teacher and their immediate peers in the class. Some in the class enjoy writing and are naturally motivated to put their thoughts into writing, but many are not motivated and produce very little.

My action research project sought to investigate whether or not the use of weblogs has an effect on learners' motivation to write. The key affordances of a blog that might generate this motivation are:
1. The prospect of an audience.
2. Receiving feedback from others, including friends, family and the teacher.
3. The digital medium itself, as opposed to pen and paper, which allows the multimodal presentation of ideas.

I was also investigating the usefulness of Classblogmeister as a platform to achieve this, in terms of ease of use for teacher and students, teacher control and internet safety.

Rather than give the learners complete freedom to blog about anything, I felt it was necessary to provide a particular context for their writing, one which would lend itself well to teaching, modelling and practising the conventions of blogging, including such skills as the appropriate use of someone else's material.

To do this I decided to make the blogging part of our class Current Events programme. The structure I gave the students is based on one of the key tasks of this Webquest about blogging by Anne Davis, called 'Blogging: It's Elementary!'. The instructions/steps/process were a large part of the content of my first blog post on the class blog, Bouncy Castle 29. 

Essentially the students needed to:

1. Choose a news story that interested them from the categories discussed in class, making sure it is something they are interested in so they feel motivated to find more about it.

2. Choose three questions that they would like to investigate. Choose at least one from each stage (questions given were presented in three stages, stage one being lower order thinking, stage three higher order thinking).

3. Try to find out more about their topic so they could answer their questions. They needed to watch TV news, read the newspaper, look on the internet (using links provided on the class blog) and ask their parents and friends what they think about it. As they read/listened, they needed to start to form opinions of their own about the topic. I encouraged them to take a few notes so they could use them when they started writing.

3. Write a blog post a couple of paragraphs long, summarising the story/topic and what they found out about it, and giving their opinion about it. I stressed that their writing MUST be original! They should not cut and paste from other people’s work, but could link to it from their blog.

4. End with a thought-provoking Stage 3 (high order) question that will encourage other people to leave a comment on their blog.

So that sets the stage! Next post I'll look at issues to do with internet safety and parental consent.

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