Friday marked the end on the first semester at my high school. With next week Final exams and EduCon, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on my Blogger's Cafe.
You can find my initial posts on the Blogger's Cafe here. I'm going to approach this reflection in a couple of ways. First, I want to think about how the students used the blogs. Second, I want to think about how I used the blogs. Looking at both of these things will really allow me to see if the Blogger's Cafe is worth continuing.
I was very happy with the way students took to the Blogger's Cafe. A students convinced their parents to donate some comfy chairs for students to use and a student promise to bring a mini fridge for snacks and drinks for the bloggers of the day. Kids were excited to blog and looked forward to their turn. That was true during the first week of the semester and during the last week of the semester.
I really liked the fact that the kids did not request grades for blogging. From the first day I told them it was a class expectation to blog when it was their turn and that was that. I think it was easy because they are Freshmen and do know any different. I think that is good in some respect. Start with the Freshmen and build up over the next few years. This scaffolding could pay of in the long run as students become more proficient in using tech tools.
There are some students that struggled with blogging at first and has some trouble accessing the Kidblog and posting in the right spot, but their partners would help them out and they improved over time. It was great to see other students take active role in helping their peers who were having trouble with blogging. It created a good learning environment for the classroom.
I did have one parent that expressed some concern over the regular class blogging. Her child has some difficulty with spelling and some sentence structure. The parent wanted me to excuse the student from blogging because the student might be embarrassed by their poor spelling and grammar. I thought about it, but considered how much more harm not blogging could do. I assured the parent that the student could always use spell check and edit posts at home if they felt there were too many errors. It would actually help the student in the areas they struggle in. The parent never responded to my email, but the student kept blogging and improved over time.
Overall, I think the students took to the blogging and the responsibility of maintaining the blog for students who missed class and needed notes. From this perspective, I feel the Blogger's Cafe was a success. How I used the blogs in class is another issue.
The blogs were set up to allow students to take class notes and share them on their hour's designated Kidblog. The setup doesn't allow for much flexibility. Kids type and I talk. It feels very bland. From a communication standpoint, it was a success. Absent students and curious parents had a place to go and keep up with class. Besides that, I feel I haven't explored the uses as well as I would have liked.
I think it would be cool to offer student the chance to do some video blogging. Having students recap the week in video form and posting that on the site would be interesting. I'm not thinking about grading the students for this. I just need to make it part of the class expectations. I think kids could have a ton of fun with this project. Besides that, I'm not sure where I can go with in class blogging. It will be a focus of mine for the second semester.
When I thought about the Blogger's Cafe for the first time, I wasn't sure where it was going to go. It had the potential to be a catastrophic failure, but I had great support from my Admin staff and a terrific group of students with supportive parents that made all of this possible. Although the Blogger's Cafe has not been perfected, it is worth trying in your classroom.
I'll keep you posted on any changes I make with the Cafe and I hope you will share suggestions on how I can get the most out my idea.
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