The last post was about Thursday's class. I went in again today with two classes. The first group were in for an hour, and although they didn't spend all their time blogging, a substantial amount of time was spent looking at blogs and revising the blogs that the other class had started.
I should say hear that it was much easier the second time. I told them to save their work first, and the session seemed to go much more smoothly. However, leaving the students a complete free choice about what to publish led to some problems. A few happilly got on with the task, writing about themselves, and their lives. A couple of the others, however, took to writing unkind comments about what the previous group had published. I suppose this was because of their age (14-16), but it was a shame. Then a few of the others just didn't know what to write and they kept saying this to me, despite me giving them lots of ideas and suggestions. I think about 70% of the class managed to get something useful out of it by the end of the session. I think the 30% who didn't seem to have a positive experience will react negatively to the idea of doing it again unless I think of a way of really engaging their interest.
I gave the second class a choice of activites to see how many of them would choose to blog. I was pleasantly surprised to see that all of them went back to the blogs at least to look at what the other class had done. Most of the group then proceeded to post new entries or look at other blogs on the Web, whereas others moved onto doing some of the other activities I had proposed.
Once again, it wasn't enough just to ask them to write about whatever they wanted. A few were happy enough to do this, but others seemed to feel frustrated that they were not given more guidance. Perhaps this way of using weblogs (two classes, trying to establish a dialogue) would work better if the classes were from different countries, and especially if (as in this case) they weren't in the same school. This way, the students could create a weblog specifically aimed at these students, answering questions perhaps sent by e-mail. I also realise that it would be much better to set tasks for the students, for example, preparing and publishing a general knowledge quiz, or using the weblog as a communications tool during the course of a project.
Without a doubt, thinking about it now, I would approach things completely differently the first time with a class. I think the best way to start is to find a few weblogs that will appeal to them, that cover similar ground to what you want the students to do. This would give them an idea of what it is possible to do using this medium. The students who did look at other weblogs realised this, I think. One, for example, found a weblog dedicated to the film The Matrix, and was engaged in reading some of the articles. Another student was surprised to find that someone had posted a picture of herself with her cat, and had included a description of why she loved it.
By-the-way, if you can't find those links now, then I'm afraid that's one of the things about blogging. It's ephemeral, even more than other websites. You can change things constantly - in fact, that's the whole point of it, I suppose. To write what's important to you in the here and now. If you're looking for something more permanent, to display student writing, perhaps, then a more regular website would probably be of more use.