Recently, I shared with you my thoughts about creating a single, multi-authored blog for my new course this semester The Politics of Reading. Today, as promised, I want to share with you the exact directions I give my students AND how I plan to keep them organized in this venture. Feel free to use any of this in whatever way it helps you.
The Directions (That The Students Get)
A key aspect of this course is being actively involved with and producing knowledge for a public audience. In this class, we will do this by blogging. We will maintain a group blog through WordPress. This means that we will all serve as authors on this blog. WordPress.com is a free and public blogging platform that people around the world use.Keep in mind that your blog will be a public blog, and anyone, anywhere can read it. You do not need to share your real name in your byline.
You will be expected to blog throughout the semester, and you will be assigned a day/time for your post to go public. You can write your post at anytime that is convenient for you and then schedule it to post at your assigned day/time.
Blogging will start the week of 1/20 and will end the week of 4/14. I have created a calendar for you to sign up for blogging and help keep you organized. Each post should be between 500-1500 words. WordPress automatically counts your words for you.
What Do You Write About?
Your post can be on anything that can be connected back to the course topics (Politics of Reading). You can take a broad view, a local view, or a micro view of an issue. You might choose to talk about a policy and analyze it OR you might choose to discuss how a policy is impacting instruction, teachers, students, and families. You can and should draw on other documents (readings, blogs, videos, etc..) to inform your post, and you can and are encouraged to embed appropriate videos and link to others as it makes sense to do so.
Keep in mind that the blog and all posts are public. Therefore, you have to write in such a way that anyone can read your posts. Do not make references like, “I found today’s assigned reading to be…” as the general public has no knowledge about assigned readings for this class. You can draw on a reading though. For example, “I recently read XYZ…” summarize the argument and take it from there. The key is to make your writing accessible.
How Often Do You Post?
You are expected to post ten times between the week of 1/20 and 4/14. This is a 12-week span, and you can decide which weeks you do not wish to blog. You cannot make up blogs. Late posts will not be accepted. I will only credit one blog post per week. Therefore, I highly recommend that you save your two passes for the last two weeks of class OR for a true emergency. You will be assigned a date/time for your posts. If you want to write additional posts during the week, please do so but leave them unscheduled and in draft mode. See me (or email me) to get them scheduled. This ensures they do not overlap significantly with what others are posting.
An important part of blogging is engaging with other bloggers.You are required to comment on two posts each week for 10 weeks during the semester. This gives you the freedom to take some two weeks off – you decide which weeks. You must post two comments during the week in order to get credit. You can post more if you want, but I will only credit two per week.
When you comment you must post one comment to a classmate and one comment on a blog of someone who is not a member of this class. The comments you post to others can be any educational policy related blog. It does not have to be a new blog each time. We will be collecting ed policy blogs that you can use. See the sidebar.
Documenting Your Work
In order to get credit for your work, you must complete a worksheet. It is your responsibility to keep this worksheet updated. If you fail to update your worksheet, and you cannot find your work, then you will lose credit for what you have done. I will not go through the web to locate your work, particularly your comments. You should save a copy of the worksheet where it will be most accessible. DO NOT make edits directly to the document as it is a public document. Save the worksheet in the following manner: LASTNAMEFIRSTNAMEBLOG (or hallleighblog). Then you will need to share the document back with me on goggle docs. You will need to share by adding my email address to those you share documents with (firstname.lastname@example.org). DO NOT send me a link to your document. I will not keep track of links. The document needs to appear in my list of goggle docs.
What Makes a Good Blog Post?
Some tips to keep in mind for crafting a good blog post:
(a) Have a purpose. Your post cannot talk about everything. You might have many things to share, but what is the main message you are trying to get across with your post? Decide that first and then start writing. Know you may have to leave interesting things out. Save those interesting things for a different blog post. It’s better to have a clear, focused post than a list of random interesting things.
(b) Remember your audience. Yes, you are a part of this class and program. However, your audience is not solely this class. Your primary audience is likely teachers and educators. When you write a post, add information that will help your audience be able to understand you. Read the blogs of people who are not in this class. Find the ones you like. Use them as a model.
(c) Craft an interesting title. While this last tip is not always possible, it is a good one to keep in mind. At the very least, try to write a title that captures the overall point of your post. It will help orient your readers so they know what to expect.
What Makes a Good Comment?
It’s easy to write a comment that praises a person. However, good comments will push the writer to think more deeply about their writing. Keep the following in mind:
2. Leave a question or thought behind that pushes the author to think more about the post. For example, “I really like that you let the students choose their own books to read. However, I am wondering how you might get students to pick books in genres they are less familiar with.”
3. Make a suggestion. If the author is sharing an issue or concern, offer specific ideas for how to address it.
4. Pay attention to previous comments. In a long thread, you may not read every comment. However, most threads are easy to read and digest. When relevant, make connections to what other commentors have said. You are having a disucssion with the author but also other commentors.
What Do You Do with Comments?
The answer is, “It depends.” In general, you want to acknowledge 90% or more of the comments that are left for you. Acknowledging comments is not required for this class. However, in blogging it is considered good manners to do so. It is also considered good form to read that person’s blog and leave a comment when it is appropriate. Not all comments will be substantive. You do not need to respond to comments that do little more than say, “Great post,” or you can acknowledge them in one sweeping response such as, “Thanks for the support! So glad everyone enjoyed this.” The people who deserve a response are the ones who put thought and effort into their comment regardless of the length of the comment.
My Extended Thoughts
One critical key to success here, I think, is knowing who will post when. With 18 students enrolled in the course at the time of this writing, it is imperative to make sure I keep up with what they are doing but also so that there is space between posts. I didn’t want someone posting on a Monday at 10:00 and then someone else posting at 10:05. I want a post to sit there for a few hours before another one rolls in on top of it.
This is why the calendar I created is so important. It lets people sign up for when they want a post to go live. However, it does not dictate when they write their post. Anyone can write whatever they want at anytime, but they have to schedule it to go live at their assigned day and time.
I will be allowing students to select when their posts go live. However, as in the past, I am only crediting one post per week for their grade. The idea is that students should stay engaged with the blog throughout the semester. You cannot come in and blog for 10 days in a row and be done with it. They can do more than one post per week if they are so inspired. As I noted in the directions, “You will be assigned a date/time for your posts. If you want to write additional posts during the week, please do so but leave them unscheduled and in draft mode. See me (or email me) to get them scheduled. This ensures they do not overlap significantly with what others are posting.” If anyone wants to write more than one post in a week, I will take care of getting them on the publishing schedule. Most people do not do this so I doubt this will create a burden on me.
Note that students are expected to publish 10/12 weeks during the semester. I give them two weeks off, and they can use these at their discretion. For this class, I am going to recommend that they go ahead and sign up for 12 slots. I have made enough slots in the calendar (I think) to accommodate that. And if not, it’s pretty easy to fix on the spot. Then, if they get sick, have some kind of emergency, whatever they can simply not post. If they make it through all 10 weeks in a row then they can take the last two off. This ensures everyone is signed up and ready to roll from the get-go.
As in my other classes I do not allow make-up posts. I do however recognize that life happens which is why students get a two week pass (I think that’s plenty generous). If students use their two week pass up front because they simply don’t feel like doing the work (and yes, this happens no matter WHAT I say), and then they have a real emergency they can either take a hit to their grade or figure out how to get the work done. I will work with students who have documented emergencies – but everything has to be documented. If you skip out on the first two week and then have a documented emergency, well, it doesn’t work that way in my class.
The blog will be launching soon. I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s running, and I’ll keep you posted on the inner workings of how it all transpires on my end. If you are interested in learning more about how I use blogging in my classes, I have a book on it here.