assignments to help students learn how to blog

In my talk on Network Literacy last week, I said that many students won’t know what to write in that empty white box they see when they log on to Blogger.com or whatever system they’re supposed to be blogging on. To learn how to blog, most students will need some specific assignments. Once you’ve done some blogging and have experienced ways it can be done, it’s much easier to find that you actually want to blog something and come up with your own ideas for blog posts.

Jamie asked for some examples of such assignments, and digging around in my teaching and blogging category, the list I started became so long I thought it should be its own blog post.

  • First class: have them set up their blogs and write a brief post about what they hope to get out of the course – or any of those other kinds of first-class-things. (Blogger.com is easy enough that setting up a blog realistically only takes them a few minutes; if you use another system you may have to set up their blogs beforehand – making everyone install MovableType from scratch in their first class in 2003 was a disaster. Installing a blog for each of 60 students using MovableType in 2004 took ten hours. Therefore Blogger.com. There are of course many other options.)
  • Read other students’ blogs and leave comments on at least two of them.
  • The teacher explains what trackbacks are and shows how bloggers link to each other. Talk about weblog conversations – the visualisation of a blog conversation in this story tends to make sense to students. Make sure trackbacks are enabled, and then ask them to write a post in their own blog that responds to a post in a co-student’s blog – and that they link to that post. Talk about how this works – what’s the difference between a discussion in comments and between blogs?
  • Last ten minutes of class: Summarise the most important things you learnt this class in your blog.
  • Redesign your blog. (If learning HTML/CSS, and/or if thinking about identity online, self-representation etc
  • Write a blog post explaining why you redesigned your blog as you did. Link to sites that inspired you.
  • Discuss traditional academic citation techniques and look at examples of different ways in which bloggers cite their sources through links. Use /and/or redesign the blockquote feature in a blog post where you use a quote from another website and link to your source.
  • Write a how-to guide for your co-students – my students did this on their own in the process of learning web design (e.g. a colour-blind student explained how to design for colour-blind people, a topic I hadn’t thought of discussing) but this is something the teacher could give as an assignment.
  • Have students write reviews of other blogs (though be aware of ethical issues)
  • Have a look at some of Jenny Weight’s ideas
  • Do small group tasks and instead of (or as well as) doing the full class open discussion afterwards, have students write individual blog posts answering the small group assignment towards the end of the class. Many will actually finish a blog post at home if they’ve started on it in class, but hardly any will write it at home if they’ve not already started it – well, unless it’s compulsory and being graded. Here’s an example
  • A total failure was having students look at confessional, diary-style blogs, discuss characteristics of the style and write a blog post in that style. They did great on that assignment, but then proceeded to use that style in all future blog posts…. uh oh…

Do you have any additions?

28. April 2006 by Jill
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