What Web 2.0 Looks Like in My Classroom

Art can be fun. It can also be difficult. Or it can be confusing. And it can be intriguing.

One way we play with the digital art of writing in my classroom is through blogging.

Since many of our students are digital natives, and those who are not are at a significant disadvantage both academically and professionally, introducing and using Web 2.0 into my classroom seemed like a good idea.

davisenglishI created a classroom blog, Davis English Addendum, where I could post things from class or about class and where the students could too. I actually started the blog in response to the question Why are we studying art in English? And the first four or five posts were written by me for the students. However, the blog soon went beyond that.

Now it is really a class blog. The students are required to post and comment, but because of or perhaps despite that sometimes they get very involved in each other’s lives through the blog.

I have my students make blog posts. These posts are all about their lives and their classwork. I am trying to decompartmentalize their learning, since studies have shown that students separate learning on one subject from learning on another (Abbott and Nance).

marine-corps-flag-wikipThis is a Marine’s blog post and all the comments students made. It was part of an assignment to introduce the students to each other and the blog.

A very different approach to the same assignment is seen in Secret Spy.

As you can tell, these two posts generated a lot of feedback, even though they were very different posts.

Not all of the posts, even the thoughtful ones, get commented on. Appreciate Everything, Take Nothing for Granted was part of the narrative cycle of papers, in which students were supposed to post a six-word autobiography and discuss it.

Using a blog is a good idea for more than just an English classroom. I’ve used the blog to post assignments for my humanities class. These blog posts are made sticky (to stay at the top of the blog) and the students simply post comments. Examples of these can be seen at HUMA Homework 2/17/11 and HUMA 1301 Homework 2/24/11.

I also used the blog to post a quiz. The quiz came up two minutes after class started and I projected it for the class. This quiz is a bit long with the pictures and I divided it into three sets of questions.

There have been many things we did with the blog that are not directly related to the subject matter.

The students use the blog to get help for class. Here is an example of how a student got help on an assignment when I was out of pocket at the hospital with my father.  Two students got on the website quickly enough to help him do his homework.

hurricaneSeptember 2008 I used the website to keep students who were out of town up to date on the hurricane. Obviously that wasn’t useful for those of us around here without power.

We also used the website to discuss Hurricane Ike.

Things I mentioned in class, but that might be forgotten, can be posted on the blog.

Early on I posted sample paragraphs from previous students’ compare/contrast papers on the blog, such as this one on embryonic stem cell research, this one on abortion, this one on health care reform, or this one on global warming.

More recently I have started taking examples of good paragraphs from my students’ papers and posting them online for their classmates to see. As we were writing the research paper in which they must explore both sides of a controversial issue, I posted Good Intro Paragraphs on Overview of Controversy and Good Body Paragraphs for the Overview of Controversy.

Students also learn that early posting garners them comments, while later posting does not.

CB029654Sometimes I reiterate important parts of the lesson, such as types of definitions, and give supplemental information, such as definition examples from real life.

The blog is a very useful classroom tool.  Blackboard and Moodle can be used in very similar and non-public ways.

I like using a public blog because sometimes we get comments from the general reading population or from other students at other colleges. That is fun for the students. Once an author of a video poem commented on a student’s response to his poem.

Related ideas (or “A word to the wise is sufficient.”)
“Digital tools do nothing more than make ongoing conversations efficient and approachable. They give kids a chance to participate in a school culture that continues to discourage participation. ” from The Tempered Radical

Finding the sources
Abbott, William and Kathryn Nantz. “History and Economics: Can Students (and Professors) Learn Together?”  College Teaching 42.1 (Winter 1994): 22-26. Web. 18 January 2011.

Lenhart, Amanda, Aaron Smith, Alexandra Rankin Macgill, and Sousan Arafeh. “Writing, Technology and Teens.” Pew Research Center Publcations. 24 April 2008. Web. 20 January 2011.

“Theory and Research-Based Principles of Learning.” Enhancing Education: Carnegie Mellon University. n.d. Web. 26 April 2008.

Related information
Video: A Vision of Students Today

Hard Questions for Teachers Who Teach Blogging
This post actually made a big difference in the design of my English composition course.

Think Before You Tweet

Using Extant Tech in the Classroom
I confess that I have my students use their cell phones in class. Sometimes for looking up vocabulary words. Sometimes for snapping pictures of modern cave paintings and showing me their homework. Students use them to copy the notes I put on the board.

Blogging Pedagogy from UT Austin

Generational discussion generators
Generation Y in the Workplace An introduction to living generations, with a focus on Gen Y (1979-2002)

US Census Bureau on Baby Boomers

Saunders, Victoria J. “Boomers, XY’s and the Making of a Generational Shift in Arts Management.” Culture Work 10.3 (August 2006). 24 February 2011. Web.

Wilson, Michael and Leslie E. Gerber. “Generational Theory Can Improve Teaching: Strategies for Working with the ‘Millenials.’” Currents in Teaching and Learning 1.1 (Fall 2008): 29-44. 24 February 2011. Web.
source on generational teaching and Millenials

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