Blogging for Grades — I’m that kind of teacher!

Last week I introduced all three of my classes to the concept of blogging. Some of my students were already familiar with the concept, though that familiarity ranged between having vaguely heard of it to already having tried it on their own. By Friday, most of my students had set up their own blogs, as assigned — eventually their blogs will be evaluated as their Course Culminating Activities. Some are using WordPress, others doing Blogger. A few have already gotten followers, to their great surprise, and a few have taken right to it, adding photos and reblogging and generally enjoying the experience, which is extremely gratifying to me. Last semester, I had students grudgingly blogging, with much complaint and remarks that no-one would ever look at their work anyway.

My rationale for using blogs in the classroom is this:

  • It’s a positive internet presence for students who might only otherwise be online with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media.
  • It’s a demonstration of their best writing, like a portfolio — but one that they cannot lose.
  • It challenges their abilities to use communication software, graphics, written expression, and knowing their work could be visible to others puts a bit of pressure on to make sure it is good work.

Some of them don’t believe me when I tell them that future employers may search them up online, and that having a blog that demonstrates their capabilities in the English language could be of benefit. But these classes are taking to it rather well. So that brings up a whole new set of challenges for me:

  • A number of students have asked me how often I’ll expect them to blog. My answer is that ideally, they’d blog a little every day that we have class, reflecting on what they’ve learned and what they think about it, but that may not be practical. So maybe once a week. Even then, I have to remember that I’ll be the one to read through all of these in the end!
  • They’ve already started posting about their Independent Novel Studies. Do I have them continue to add to their original posts, or do a separate post for each chapter or section completed? I could teach them how to add a separate page to their blogs, as well.
  • Do I book a computer lab once a week? I tried that last semester, and the year before, but the students I had at the time generally didn’t complete their blogging in one period. It might work better this time around; most of my pupils have their own phones or tablets, making the task that much easier.

I’m excited to see what my students will produce. Whether we add separate pages or just keep them to the simple layout for now, one of the most powerful aspects of having each teenager blog about what we’re doing in class is that they’re seeing the Internet for more than just entertainment and messaging. Blogging is akin to journaling in many ways. I’ve also given them the option of making their blogs private, and providing me with the password, but since their material isn’t going to reveal personal details, I think we’ll be safe. That’s another powerful lesson as well — how blogs can be as anonymous or open as the user prefers. That’s a topic worthy of discussion this week, I think.

I still have to plan my lessons for the next few days, but we’ll see how they fared over the weekend. I want to see how many made progress in their novels, whether anyone spontaneously blogged, what they thought about the experience if they did, and if they didn’t, then why not? I’d like them to think about what it means to communicate online, as digital citizens. That’s on top of doing our class novel reading and starting our look at literary elements and devices. So much to do, so much to balance . . .

Plus, I have to start organizing a 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge taking place in two weeks. That means making up registration forms (would have liked to have done that today, but we had visitors for the teenager’s birthday), setting up the advertising, and ensuring the participants have rehearsal space. And my greatest fear is that if I don’t get enough registrants we may have to cancel the event. I worry about that a lot. I feel like it would be a bit embarrassing. But it is what it is — all I can do is try.

I also signed up last week to do a guest post on Mysti Parker’s blog, on the (fictional) scientific aspects of love, and that’s due tomorrow. Gotta get that done!

And then, I’m looking at that field trip to Ottawa ComicCon in May, so I have to get details together for the proposal (mainly bus estimates and accommodations, plus the tickets to the Con). I would still like to see that as a class project, but at this point it might be easier to do the legwork myself.

One task at a time. Remembering to breathe. My happy place at the moment is thinking about skiing. I was able to listen to my tunes while skiing this weekend, turning and swishing in time to the beat. I love those moments when I can lean into the curve and my uphill leg is bending, skimming over the snow like a bird dipping over water. It’s intensely satisfying to make those switch-backs without losing balance, gaining speed and then reining it back with one ski braking. An hour or so is all I can do before I’m wiped, and if I fall, I can’t get up without taking my skis off first. Still, it’s good.

Long day. Long weekend. Not much R&R to it, but the kids are happy, and I think I’ll sleep well tonight. Hoping, anyway. 🙂

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