I just finished reading an article by Aaron Campbell about approaches to classroom blogging. In it he describes 2 different approaches, the ‘crack the whip’ approach and the ‘facilitator’ approach. Teaching styles described by Indiana State University go even further describe 4 different teaching styles.
This has led me to consider my own approach to blogging. There is one class that I regularly use blogging with – a class of adults who need to pass the CAE exam.
There are no grades outside the exam, and I expect the students to participate actively. My first aim was to get them acquainted with blogging. To do this, I had each person summarize the lesson on the blog. After showing them how it was done, they could choose to post their summaries themselves, send them to me for correction first, or e-mail them to me to post.
I suppose this is a bit of a ‘crack the whip’ approach.
Almost everyone contributed in some way, a result of the expectations from me and the others in the class who already had posted. There was also discussion about the usefulness of these posts, the resulting discussion showing that those who missed a lesson or more appreciated these summaries, and the others had to admit that it was a chance for them to reflect on the lesson and practice writing.
The second step was to have them introduce themselves to a future guest and ask this person a couple of questions. Nearly everyone sent their introductions, and half of them were posted directly by the students. The motivation to post to someone whom they would afterwards meet was highly motivating. This would be a successful mixture of facilitation and whip.
In between I offered topics in the form of texts and videos for the others to comment on, with sparce contributions.
Now one of the students is spending a month in another country. I asked her to send the class a message – which she did as e-mail, and encouraged the others to comment. There was only one comment for a while, but after a short discussion about how motivating it is to be answered, and a reminder that some of them would also shortly be away, the number of discussions went up a little bit, and I hope more will comment the next time one of the students sends a greeting. Here I tried to be a good model and motivator.
Time will tell if the last model was successful, but it seems to me that a clear framework, first an introduction, then a motivating and intrinsic factor can lead to increased use of the blog as a means of communicating with each other. I hope that at some point the interaction will move from being teacher-led to student-led interaction. However, if students are new to blogging and this form of communication, there will be some whip-cracking necessary, a clear raison d’ être, and motivational pay-backs.
My vision for the future is that my students will show more openness towards possibilities of communicating through blogging, that they will take the initiative in discussions, that they will perhaps even be interested enough to start their own blogs and begin their own discussions. I would like my students to find their voice and project it.
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