Sunday, September 7, 2014

Favorite Places: The First Blog Post

Debbie Morrison made my day by writing something about my students' blogs in Online Learning Insights today! That prompted me to start documenting here the ways my students use their blogs; I'll begin with how the students start blogging in Week 1 of the class and the first assignment that they complete: a Favorite Places post.


BRIEF DESCRIPTION. Week 1 of my class is an Orientation Week, dedicated to introducing students to the types of writing assignments and writing tools they will be using in the course. The first tool they learn to use is Google Blogger, and the first post they create is "Picture a Favorite Place," a post that includes both text and image(s).


DETAILS. You can see the instructions I provide for the students here: Create a Blog and Picture a Favorite Place. Thanks to the power of Inoreader, you can see the great job the students did with this assignment here: Favorite Places Post. I made a "Favorite Places" post too. (In a separate post here, I'll explain about the blog I use to post the same assignments that the students complete in the Orientation Week.)

I am pleased to say that the instructions worked really well! The only real problem came with the next post; several students were not clear about the difference between creating a blog and creating a blog post, so I'll try to make that more clear next semester in the instructions both for this first post and for the second post.

As the students completed these posts, I tried to comment on each one promptly. I had so much fun reading about the places they picked! So, that is another plus in this assignment's favor: because I was so curious to see which places the students wrote about, I was able to respond with sincere enthusiasm. I'll have more to say about the importance of sincere enthusiasm in some posts here on feedback!


HISTORY. For five years, I used Ning as the group blogging platform, but the demise of the mini-Ning necessitated a change this year. I opted for Blogger; I need to write up a separate blog post to explain the reasons for that choice. I was prepared to treat this year as an experiment, not really sure what would happen. So far (three weeks into the semester) the results have been incredibly encouraging!


GOALS. This is a very important moment in the class, so I have high goals for this assignment!
  • Get Students Off to a Good Start! I really want to create a sense of both confidence and excitement about the blogging experience students will have this semester.
  • Start Good Blogging Habits. In particular, I am trying to promote the use of labels to make blogs more useful both to their authors and to the readers who visit them.
  • Build Online Presence. The "favorite places" post provides students with an opportunity to share something important to them which is personal but which does not require a lot of writing.
  • Promote Responsible Image Use. I hope students will start to understand some of the basics of image licensing while also learning how to cite the images they use.

GENERAL THOUGHTS

What I did not expect was how excited the students would be about having their own blogs. That was such a great difference between the Ning and Blogger! When I used the Ning for blogging, the students did not have the same sense of pride in having "my" own blog. Which is great: since one of my goals (see below) is to create confident and excited bloggers, I am very glad about this switch from Ning to Blogger.


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