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Proposal - Blogging in Advisory

Since I won't be blogging as part of my Global History course, we're started having some conversations about where it makes sense to integrate Blogging into our curriculum. Until we have time to set up/test/teach some sort of Moodle and/or Elgg on a school wide basis (which realistically, may not be until the start of the next school year), we are looking for smaller environments to establish a prototype which (in theory) can be copied by other teachers.

I mean this post to serve as a first draft of my thinking in terms of the proposal I will bring to our staff along with Chris, our Tech Team leader who will be joining me in this endeavor.

All our students participate in an Advisory class. Each teacher is responsible for 12-15 students, who they stay with throughout the students' four years at our school. The class meets 40 minutes, four times per week. Advisory is a very dynamic class that wears a lot of different hats. The two most relevant aspects of Advisory for this proposal are Silent Reading and Letter Writing. Two days per week students (and Adviser) participate in Silent Reading, where students spend the Advisory period silently reading a book of their choice. Letter Writing is a two step process. Once per month, I write each of my students a letter. The letter contains three parts: 1) an update on what has been going on in my life the past month (personally and professionally), 2) a summery of what I have read in the past month (analyzing/explaining plot, characters, and themes), and 3) response and questions regarding the students' previous letter to me. The students then write me one letter per month, following the same format.

Ideally, I would like to switch the whole letter writing process from a traditional hand-written letter to blogs. There are two limitations that prevent this from happening. First, computers are charging during the advisory period (and we would not have enough for all advisories anyway). Second, we do not want to loose the privacy and intimacy of the personal parts of the letters (where students often disclose very important personal information). Therefore, Chris and I have developed the following plan to pilot a blogging program in our advisories (I have a 9th grade advisory; Chris has an 11th grade advisory; hopefully a 10th grade advisory will join us).

  • At least 2-4 students from each of our advisories will participate.
  • Once the initial group of students are set up, this will be offered to the remaining students in participating advisories.
  • Participating students will stay after school once a week (though perhaps only once every two weeks will be necessary) in order to have computer access and for Chris and I to help these students get their blogs started.
  • Students will learn about blogging safety and the importance of anonymity as part of their blogging setup.
  • All involved advisers and students will keep a "Reading Blog" which will replace the reading portion of the monthly letter. Their blog posts will consist of what was formerly Part 2 of the Monthley Letters. Part 3 will be replaced by comments left on blogs (adviser comments on students' blogs; students comment on adviser's blog initially, and eventually other students' blogs).
  • Students will continue to write the personal part of the monthly letter directly to their adviser. However, the student will now have the option to submit this portion through e-mail.
  • Initially, students will be required to publish one blog post and one comment per month, though will be encouraged to do more.
  • Blog posts will be assessed by the same criteria that letters are assessed (which differs from advisory to advisory, and in some cases, from student to student)
  • While non-blogging students are writing their letters in Advisory Class, blogging students will either read silently or write a paper draft of their blog posts.
Questions that need to be addressed:
  • Is this open to any adviser who wants to participate? (Chris and I will not have the time to support additional advisories, so if it is open, how and when do other advisers get the necessary training to participate?)
  • What is our school's policy on teachers' anonymity, or lack there of, online? (My first and last name are on this Blog - Is it okay for me also to be using the school's name? I will be setting up a separate blog to use for my reading - since students will be posting there [and I will likely be linking to student work] to I need to refrain from using the school's name and/or my last name to protect students?)
  • What issues are I forgetting here?
In the interest of modeling the type of conversation that blogging makes possible, I have posted this here in order to get feedback from my coworkers and anyone else who has any advice to give. As always, all comments, questions, and suggestions are greatly appreciated.


stephen lazar said...

Sarah sent me the following e-mail:
"Thanks for sending this to me. It seems that you've got a solid structure in place and are asking the right questions. I have just a few:
1. What is the ultimate goal of introducing blogging to the curriculum?
2. What is the set-up time? (This comes from my own ignorance of how to establish a blog)
3. How will we monitor blogs for appropriate content?
4. Will students have access to their blogs after the graduate/leave BLS? If so, and if the blogs are still directly connected to the school, how do we ensure appropriate use?
5. Is there an on-line and/or blog-based grading capability or will teachers use the PTAL in paper, or Word form?

I'm excited to see it evolve!"

stephen lazar said...

Great questions, Sarah. I hope the following addresses your concerns.

1. This is a very short summery of the longer answer to this question. The ultimate goal of introducing blogging is to improve our students writing and thinking. Blogging has a number of advantages over traditional writing. First, and probably foremost, the fact that the writing is published instead of turned in gives the assignment an extra sense of practicality and "real world" applicability. Second, blogging allows students to be more involved with the work of others -- instead of letter writing being only between the adviser and student, students can now read and comment with other students. Third, the added dimension of linking (and also potentially including images and video) adds a higher level of thought and analysis to the process. Fourth, most of our students are doing this already. To them (and let's be honest, me), letter writing is dead. This is the new letter writing.
2. Set up time is minimal. For the test (let's call it the Beta), we'll be using a free online blogging service. I'll have all students set up in about 30 minutes.
3. There's an easy way to monitor blogs using a technology called RSS or Feeds. This is easier to show than tell. I will demonstrate (or check out Google Reader or Bloglines ; I use the former).
4. While this is in Beta, we will be using blogs that students, in theory, would have access to after BLS. If we were to implement this on a large scale, the blogs would only be accessible to current BLS students (though the students could easily export their writings to take with them). However, one of the rules to insure the anonymity of our students and their safety is that they will not be allowed to use the school's name, so their writings will have no official connection to the school.
5. Teachers will continue to use paper/Word PTALs

Anonymous said...

Its a good idea and I think students will like this idea better than writing letter all the time. To me it will be a fun idea to do

Anonymous said...

I think it's a fun and good idea, It'll make things better, letter thing is too boring and this will make it more fun!