Thought I'd put some of my contributions to one of the PLP Nings up on my blog as it is worth cataloging here for future reference.
Discussion in my blogging forum / early January.
It took me a couple of years before I was sure enough about blogging as a vehicle for learning in my classroom but in 2008, my students were involved in a very successful blogging program. Each student had an individual blog which was linked to a main classroom blog. I was hoping that this would become a learning community and over time, with the right nurturing, I believe that is what happened. I've blogged about this process in greater detail on my own blog.
My colleagues in my learning team also started individual blogs for their students but they seemed to peter out midway through the year. There are a number of factors that I believe caused that and the next group of teachers taking on this age group this year will learn from that. Every community has its leaders and if you as teacher can identify these students at an early stage then you can encourage and praise their work so that they lead the way and model the potential. Moderating their comments regularly shows the students that you value their interaction. One area I'd like to improve in 2009 is injecting my own comments into their posts on a more regular basis. One or two students really took that role on their own accord - one girl posted more than 100 comments for her 29 classmates over the course of the year.
Now blogging and writing in this way is not motivating for all students but I think I had greater take up from the students knowing that their blogs were not being formally assessed. A few reluctant boys (in terms of their writing) certainly improved in their output and became more conscious of proofreading their efforts because they knew an audience was reading. A core group of students have continued to post and comment during the holidays which is our major summer break right now down under. It is a real pleasure to know that they value and want to use this tool in developing their written voice - and most of the kids doing the writing will not be in my 2009 class!
Follow up comment / just a few minutes ago.
Things have been very quiet and I haven't been putting any new discussion up for a while so I thought I'd just pop in and give you all a bit of an update on my classroom blogging program. We've just started the new school year here in Australia in the middle of a heatwave (5 days in a row over 40 deg C / 100 deg F!!!) and most of my 2008 class have moved next door with my trusted colleague, Maria. But it was interesting to watch my little blogging community over the holiday break and see who was still contributing and how. A small group of students kept commenting and posting over the summer break - one student posted 16 times (which beat me easily) and contributed many comments for other active bloggers and trying to draw other less active bloggers into the conversation. Regularly during the week, I'd have a number of comments to approve and I tried to make sure I did so promptly so that the conversation would continue. And when one of most reluctant writers posted about - http://floppyj.edublogs.org/2009/01/02/i-miss-school/ - (because of the great support the kids had built up for each other) I felt that the time and effort to help these kids connect and respect each other through their writing was worth it.