Blogging Update from Linguistics Course
Now that the semester is winding down, I did want to talk a little bit about how blogging is progressing in my course and if either the students or the instructor have learned anything.
A while ago, I wrote what may appear to be a bleak entry on blogging in the classroom (Why Johnny Won't Blog in Class). It was a discussion on whether students would "voluntarily" blog for all courses or whether instructors need to gently prod them (via blog assignments). Although I wonder if most students will ever do more work than we ask them to do, I do think we can make "required work" interesting work.
Truthfully, I've been quite pleased with how the students in my course are doing. Students may not normally choose to blog, but once they are asked to do so, they have been writing down some very thoughtful responses. I've done both ANGEL discussion boards and blogs, and I'm pleasantly surprised at how much longer the blog posts are than discussion board posts. Normally, I would see 1-2 sentences in a discussion board, but most blog posts are usually 1-2 paragraphs...or longer. I've also seen more students do some "research on the side"
Like discussion boards, I've also gotten some really great posts from students who rarely speak in class (and good ones from the talkers too). There does seem to be something about the platform that seems to "liberate" people a bit. I should say that each student has an individual blog, so I'm curious to see if the same trend would continue for a joint course blog (I think it would actually).
I have learned a few things. One is that I do have to prod. I noticed that few students were commenting on each other's work (even when I dropped major hints and posted the links to the other blogs). So finally, I made an assignment where they were asked to review the other blogs and make a comment. But...they did give some interesting answers and a few said they were glad to be reading what others were doing.
Another thing I've learned myself is to make the blog assignments as open ended as possible. For most of the blog assignments, I gave a students a research assignment of picking a language, buying a cheap textbook then having report on various aspects of it. In the beginning, questions were fairly specific and students didn't always have the integrated technical skills set they needed (part of my learning curve).
Interestingly, after one particularly tricky assignment on figuring out pronunciation based on just the textbook, I asked students in the following week to comment about it. I got a lot of great responses about language textbook design and why they are set up the way they are. Many of my students will be teaching foreign language, so it's great to see them thinking about the nature of language teaching.
Later I began to make questions more specific and even formed one as a "scavenger hunt" (what's the weirdest grammatical feature of your language). Again better answers going in unexpected directions. I'm even beginning to see stirrings of more of a life-long interest in some students as we're progressing in the semester. They may be learning to take a little more "ownership" of their own curriculum as we hoped in the beginning.
I'm not sure if students will pick up the blogging habit for every course, but I hope other instructors will. I'm still learning the ropes to making an effective blog assignment, but I really believe that blogging forced my students to go into the "meta-cognitive" realm which I normally don't see in a traditional blog-less course.