To have a class blog or not to have a class blog

I’m toying with the idea of having a class blog next year.

I’m still not sure.

The questions I’m asking myself are:

1. How will this improve student learning?
2. Do the students want to do this? What if they don’t? Should that matter?
3. Many technical issues – but those I can deal with, if it improves student learning.

I’m still not sure. I keep asking myself why I/we would do this. I don’t want to do it just because we can. That isn’t good enough.

Some of my other concerns: I strive to create an environment in the classroom where students feel free to make mistakes, ask questions, and share their thinking. How will putting this online change that?

In our class, lots of initial thoughts go up on the board or the document camera. Often they’re wrong. But we talk about it, look at other methods/options, and then fix it. Do we put up the “wrong” work too on the class blog? Will students want to put that out there? Is it fair for me to ask them to do so?

If we only post the “right” final answers, what does that say about the value of the initial missteps that led us to them? How does that help anyone learn from the misconceptions?

I’ve been thinking about these questions a lot. I still don’t have answers.

Note: If I do this, I’d like to structure the blog much like Darren does, with students taking turns writing the daily posts. Here is his current class blog for AP Calc.

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10 Responses to To have a class blog or not to have a class blog

  1. Kate Nowak says:

    Well, you mention you would structure the blog like Darren’s. I don’t see anything wrong with a student summarizing the steps that were taken during the class, including the initial wrong conjectures and the work that followed. Even if the question wasn’t resolved in class.

    As far as benefits, students summarizing their learning is never a bad thing. And your classes would have an enduring record of the work accomplished throughout the year, that they could refer to later.

    If the kids really aren’t interested, it probably won’t be worth it. But if YOU think it’s worthwhile, I bet you could sell them.

    Why not try it with just one class?

  2. I tried this once. It wasn’t pretty. None of the students comment, and so it amounted to a daily recap of what I’d covered in class, which after a while got really annoying to write out again and try to format for Blogger.

    Of course, that was before WordPress introduced embedded LaTeX, so it might be easier to write out the math now, but it still doesn’t to anything to handle student reticence.

  3. samjshah says:

    I’m actually really down to try having a class blog and daily scribes. Not for a “collective learning site” where student comment on each others’ posts, but just to have a place to have students to practice **communicating mathematics**. That’s something I really have decided to focus on next year, because my kids aren’t strong at it.

    Why online and not on paper? No strong reason, except that I think it’ll have more cache with students if they think they’re writing it for the rest of the class, and not just for my eyes.

    (This year I’m having my Alg II students each take charge of writing a study guide for Semester 1 topics, to practice their skills. They are really getting into it. Partly because of the fact that they never knew they could write equations on a computer, and partly because they’re making something for their classmates. I’m heartened by this.)

    I can see a class blog turn into something amazing, but I’m going to take baby steps. And see what happens.


  4. Jason Dyer says:

    I generally wouldn’t find a single-class blog to be worth it at our school — students don’t have enough outside access to tech to be involved.

    What might make it worth it is a *multi*-class blog across schools, maybe even across countries. Any models for that out there?

    I might be willing to toss my Alg II/Trig class in the pool at some point if people are up for the idea.

  5. David Cox says:

    I too like the idea of having student scribes. I think you are asking the right questions, though. Do you currently have students summarize their thoughts and/or processes in writing? If so, could the blog just be an option for kids? I know some seem to step it up a bit when they realize that their work isn’t just for your eyes. Others may not want to have anything to do with it.

    This year I started a wiki and had kids contribute to the vocab and theorem pages. In fact, they were completely authored by students. I tried to start a “journal” page where students could summarize the day’s notes, but it didn’t go so well. I am still trying to figure out myself if a blog has a place with my students.

  6. Pingback: What would be involved in a multi-class blog? « The Number Warrior

  7. Damian says:

    I taught English, so we’re talking two different beasts here, but something I tried that went over with moderate success was having kids post class notes to our class wiki on a weekly, not daily, basis.

    Each semester I’d ask the kids to pair up and I’d assign each pair a week of the semester – you’re Sept 9, you’re Sept 16, etc. – for which they were responsible for keeping detailed records of class discussion, lecture, activities, etc. By the following Tuesday, they had to post the class notes to the course wiki.

    I know you’re asking about blogs, but if you’re thinking about using this primarily as an information repository with the possibility of some intra-class conversation happening, maybe a wiki is a more appopriate tool.

    With regard to enhancing student learning, I think that any time you have students summarize salient points, practice skills, and essentially teach material to an audience, it is beneficial to their learning. If you were to post incorrect work, I would also use that as an opportunity for students to make corrections and explain the process.

  8. Jackie says:

    Thanks everyone. (I know things are crazy busy when I don’t have time to respond to comments on my own blog – sorry).

    Yep, my students are used to explaining/summarizing their mathematical thinking. I think if I do do this, it will be as a pilot with one class.

    Damian, I like the idea of chucking the material instead of having a daily post. I’ll have to think that one over more.

    I’m going to toss the idea out to my current seniors and see what they think of it. I’ll report back!

  9. Pingback: The Summer is Winding Down; Alg II is Winding Up « Continuous Everywhere but Differentiable Nowhere

  10. Renato says:

    I just put mine up, and I have an open forum. Students ask and answer questions. I’m using it for the purpose of communicating. I’m not looking for errors either. I want my students to be able to ask honest questions that normally don’t get answered because we run out of time.

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