Towards Reflective BlogTalk

Ever since I returned from EduCon, I’ve been thinking about instructional conversations. After touring the Science Leadership Academy and listening to SLA students share their views during all sessions that I attended at EduCon, I have come to believe that I need to have more conversations between myself and my students, as well as among all the students in the classroom and the class blogosphere. I think we need more blogtalk – more talk about texts.

It’s not enough to know how to grow a blog, to pick a topic and keep contributing to one’s blog. Our students must also be aware of the class communities in which they learn. They have to have opportunities to think and respond to other writers. They need opportunities to engage in and sustain conversations about their own work and the work of their peers. Blogging is not about choosing a topic and writing responses for the rest of the term. It is about meaningful, thoughtful engagement with ideas. But a grade eight student may need additional support to learn what it means to be thoughtfully engaged. I find that for so many of my students blogging often becomes a race to publish, to write entries and receive comments. (Most of them measure the success of their blog by the number of comments they receive, and the content of the comment is often not as important as the mere fact that it is there). They rarely look critically at their own writing, preferring instead to judge their own work by the traffic that it attracts to their blog.

Over the past couple of months I’ve been trying to test and implement a number of strategies to get my students more involved in their work. The first step that I take towards helping students think critically about their own work, towards engaging them as writers, consists of leaving readerly comments on their blog. The blogging platform we use makes that process easier and more transparent for the student. What I like about this platform – 21 classes – is that my comments appear in a separate space from that devoted to comments left by other students. The author of the blog can use the dashboard to quickly scan the entries where the teacher left comments. It may not be a very important feature to all teachers, but it is of significant value to me and my students because it makes conversations easier to track:

21classes - Teacher Comments
(Click for a bigger version and embedded notes)

In my opinion, this feature encourages instructional conversations. Comments are not just an extrinsic part of having a blog – in 21classes they are presented as an integral part of the activity. The caption at the top says “Follow Your Threads” thus making it seem like there’s a discussion forum attached to every blog entry. All of the links shown in the screenshot above are linked to specific entries where the comments have been posted so the students can easily follow all the comments left by their teacher. They don’t have to check every single entry. All they need to do is log into their dashboard and the latest comments and the entries they are attached to will be displayed for them.

This does not mean that teacher comments are more important than those posted by the student’s classmates. In fact, my doctoral research suggests that peer comments can have a stronger impact on confidence, engagement, and development of writing skills than comments left by the teacher. However, having the peer and teacher comments arranged side by side does help, I believe, in learning to see every entry as an originator of activity that can then lead to deep reflection. The students quickly learn that the same entry can generate very different responses or responses that address the same aspects of the entry but from two different points of view. For example, with the peer and student comments arranged side by side, the students see that my comment on their blossoming personal voice mirrors an entry left by a classmate who wrote that the entry was interesting and fun to read. The two comments, one left by a classmate and the other by the teacher, are indeed quite different but focus on essentially the same aspect of the entry. Seen side by side, they complement and reinforce each other. The voice of the teacher and the voice of a classmate combine to have a strong impact on the author’s sense of confidence and can lead to ongoing conversations about his or her work.

Also, while I do try to assume a readerly and conversational voice when leaving comments, I also believe that my role in the classroom is to guide and support, and that the students need that specific type of teacher presence to be available to them. Having teacher comments appear in a different column makes instructional conversations easier for the students to follow and participate in.

But there’s more.

In order to engage in truly reflective thought about their work, students must also have opportunities to analyze who they are as bloggers and writers. They must have opportunities to look critically at their own work and see how they fit into the class blogosphere.

Recently, I developed a handout that helps students accomplish just that.

The Ripple Effect Sheet is designed to encourage students to become aware of the class blogosphere, of other writers, of entries that define the environment in which they write, and of their own contributions to that environment. I begin this process by asking the students to reflect on one of their own blog entries:

The Ripple Effect

This handout gives students an opportunity to pick their single best blog entry and comment on how writing that entry contributed to their growth as a thinker or writer. In other words, I want them to think about the perceived ripple effect that this one specific entry – one specific topic and their subsequent engagement with that topic – had on them as individuals. How did it expand their understanding of the topic? What exactly did they learn? Was there a reaction from the class blogosphere?

Here’s a sample response:

The Ripple Effect Response
(Click for a bigger version)

As you can see, this handout provides a perfect opportunity to start a conversation with a student about his or her specific entry. It’s a great opportunity to not only help the student reflect on what she has learned through her entry but also try to discuss the impact of the entry on other writers in the class blogosphere. For example, the six comments that Terry mentions in the Ripple Effect diagram shown above offers a good opportunity to discuss specific characteristics that made the entry appealing to his classmates – to discuss, in other words, the impact that his work had on its readers in the class blogosphere. Once Terry completed his Ripple Effect sheet, we sat down and looked closely at the six comments that his classmates left on his blog. We talked about how the depth of his work and his unique conversational style appealed to his classmates. Needless to say, it was a very empowering conversation for Terry but also one that helped him look discerningly at his work and see himself, for the very first time, as a member of a larger community of thinkers, not just a classroom where students write because they need to submit assigned work.

But the process did not end there. Having looked closely at his work and discussed some of its aspects with the teacher, Terry used the other part of the Ripple Effect sheet to assess the strengths and weaknesses of his work:

The Ripple Effect Response 2
(Click for a bigger version)

 

Take a look at the first comment under “Weaknesses.” Terry wrote: “Careless mistakes that everyone noticed.” I did not have to point out to him that his entry was filled with careless mistakes – the community of his peers did that for me. They assumed not only their readerly roles but also the role of the editor. When we sat down with Terry to talk about his work, I did not have to begin the conversation by assuming my traditional teacherly voice and pointing out typos and grammatical mistakes. Having reflected on both his own entry and the comments left by his peers, Terry himself arrived at the conclusion that careful proofreading would make his work clearer and easier to follow for his classmates.

This is a very important realization for a thirteen-year-old student. It’s a realization that I could have tried to drill into his head by printing and then underlining or circling all the careless mistakes that he had made in his entry. I did not do that. But I did not abdicate my role as a teacher either. I merely adapted my presence to work within a class community of writers. In other words, I chose not to say anything. I chose not to directly address Terry’s carelessness because I knew that the community I had helped create would step in and make Terry aware of this problem. Now, let’s face it, there are schools out there where modifying my presence in this manner would lead some people to accuse me of being irresponsible, of not doing my job. I believe, however, that creating a community of reflection and support that the student can depend on for timely and accurate feedback that can replace, or at least complement, the role of the teacher is more important and more effective than maintaining my authoritarian voice of the expert.

The fact that Terry’s realization about careless mistakes did not come from me is immensely important. Learning from his own classmates that his work, while interesting and fun to read, would become even stronger if Terry took the time to proofread and revise is much more effective as a learning tool than constant reminders from the teacher. By encouraging reflection, the Ripple Effect handout helped empower Terry and made him more aware of the strengths and weaknesses of his own work. It also provided me with an opportunity to become a conversation partner, a guide who helped Terry find the time to reflect, to evaluate, to listen to and become aware of his own voice and other writerly voices in the class blogosphere.

This awareness of other writerly voices is very important. That’s why the Ripple Effect sheet provides an opportunity to reflect not only on one’s own work but also on the work of other writers and their impact on the class blogosphere. Once the students get in the habit of looking critically at their own work, I also ask that they look around the class blogosphere and pick one or two entries that had impacted them in some way. Once again, I ask for a reflective response. I ask the students to describe the ripple effect that the entry or entries had on them as individuals. “What did you learn?” I ask. “How did you respond?” “How big of a ripple did this cause in your own understanding of the topic?” “Was there a ripple effect in our community?” “Did people respond? If so, how?””Did this writer help you grow as a thinker, a writer? Why? How?”

Here’s a sample response:

The Ripple Effect Response 3
(Click for a bigger version)

The response develops from a simple “Sierra Leone and Child Soldiers by Anna” to a much more complex “I realized what is happening there relates to Animal Farm (undemocratic governments).” The reason why I think this process is valuable pedagogically is because, without it, most of my students would not even be aware of the fact that Anna wrote about child soldiers. The ripple effect handout, however, forces the students to look carefully at specific entries and think about their own reactions. It gives them an opportunity to look carefully at what is happening on other blogs in the class community and then reflect on their own reactions. I want the students to realize that Anna, for example, is not just some isolated writer writing in order to get a grade, but a thoughtful, creative, and sensitive human being who is communicating ideas we can all learn from. Once Terry understands how much Anna can contribute to his understanding of the novel and current international events, he will be less likely to dismiss his class blogosphere as just a group of kids writing for school. And so, it isn’t surprising that Terry’s reflection does not end at the last ripple – his engagement with Anna’s piece went beyond making the connection between Sierra Leone and Animal Farm – he also made a connection with the author, with Anna herself, and, as his own words indicate, he cemented that connection by leaving a comment.

I admit, this approach is still in its infancy, but it provides a valuable mechanism to engage students in reflective thinking about their work and the work of their peers. It also provides an opportunity to continue to redefine my presence in the classroom.

The point here is that when we talk about blogging, most of us focus on writing. We tend to ignore the fact that a class blogging community provides teachers with a very valuable opportunity to use informal instructional conversations to engage our students as thinkers and writers. These conversations can help our students immerse themselves in the rich tapestries of voices that characterize blogging communities.

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47 Responses to Towards Reflective BlogTalk

  1. Richard February 5, 2008 at 1:52 am #

    Konrad,

    Thank you for this exhaustive description of your uses of blogging to encourage student reflection and student-student dialogue. I passed it on to our high school English teachers. You may enjoy a post on Collaborative Composition Technologies that I wrote after a conversation with our English department chair: http://www.kassblog.com/index.php?itemid=557

    Richard

  2. Edita February 5, 2008 at 7:00 am #

    “tapestry of voices”: readerly voice, writerly voice, reflective voices, my voice in the blogosphere, building a community, becoming part of a community, critical thinking…
    Thank you to help me develop my proximal zone!

  3. carla arena February 5, 2008 at 8:47 am #

    Dear Konrad,

    Thanks for sharing your amazing insights on blogtalk and the power of students voices in the blogosphere. This is certainly a topic that has been part of my interests for some time, but I’ve never gotten to the point of analyzing it from such a deep, reflective, pedagogical perspective. I’ve been talking about the importance of teacher’s feedback and students’ voices in blogging, but you’ve certainly tapped into the most essential elements to make it a meaningful, powerful blogging journey for learners and educators.

    My question to you is: how have you been working on this “Ripple Effect sheet” with your students in the classroom? Do you set individual appointments with them? How do they react to the assessment? When they write their posts, do they do it during class time in a lab or at home?

    I could go on asking you tons of practical questions to understand the blogging dynamics in your class, but I’ll refrain myself and wait for the others! Then, I’ll get back to you to keep this wonderful blogtalk flowing!

    Thanks for such an inspired post to the blogging4educators group!

    Warm regards from sunny Key West.

  4. Matt Clausen February 5, 2008 at 9:05 am #

    I love the deliberateness of thought you are expecting from your students (and yourself). I will be passing this post along to some teachers who are starting their own classroom blogging projects. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Susan van Gelder February 5, 2008 at 2:10 pm #

    I hope you don’t mind – I have recommended your entry to some consultants in Quebec. What an instructive and thought-provoking entry! I have also linked it to the LEARN site http://www.learnquebec.ca/en/content/pedagogy/cil/lead/readwrite/leaderscol.html#where
    Your sharing will have many ripple effects.

  6. Konrad Glogowski February 6, 2008 at 10:45 pm #

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for your comment. I left a response to your entry on your blog, but I’m not sure if it got saved. Here’s what I posted:

    Richard,

    First of all, thank you for inviting me to share my thoughts on this post and also for your comment on my blog.

    I am familiar with the DIWE environment and agree that it is a superior piece of technology designed to support student writers and help them develop into critical and reflective authors. I was fortunate enough to use DIWE with a mixed-ability group of high school students several years ago and was very impressed with what the environment helped them accomplish and how it empowered my students. Unfortunately, the cost became prohibitive and I was not able to continue to use it in my class.

    Eventually, I turned to discussion boards (CSILE & Knowledge Forum) and then to blogs.

    Now, let’s see if I can answer your question about replicating DIWE with web 2.0 tools.

    I believe that it is possible to replicate DIWE by using a classroom community of bloggers. Granted, the environment would be much more distributed than DIWE just because you cannot and should not try to clearly define every single aspect of the community. DIWE offers a well-defined box that provides all kinds of support. A blogging community is different – it can certainly provide tremendous support, but can never be a self-contained environment. There will always be other conversations and other entries that, while potentially distracting, also add to the richness of the community and its interactions. So, I think the first step would be to think about moving away from the structured and teacher-driven environment of Drupal. I guess you could do it with Drupal if you were trying to replicate the environment, but I think that a less well-defined community can offer something else – it can be user-driven, which is what I am trying to accomplish with blogging in my classroom. In other words, what you’re suggesting involves putting the teacher very much in the driver’s seat. I think that it would be interesting to see what happens when some of the features of DIWE are implemented in an environment that is not as teacher-controlled.

    Anyway, these are just my initial thoughts. As you can see, I am not a big fan to Content Management Systems :-) . This, however, certainly does not mean that I’m not interested in learning more about what could be done with Drupal. However, I’d be really interested to see if a more open environment can be used.

    If you’re looking for people to build a DIWE-like environment using Web 2.0 tools, I’m definitely interested.

    – Konrad

  7. Konrad Glogowski February 6, 2008 at 10:47 pm #

    Matt and Susan,

    I hope that you will share any reactions to or adaptations of this approach. I’m really interested in learning more about how this can be used by other teachers to facilitate instructional conversations about writing.

    Susan,

    Thank you for recommending my ideas to your colleagues and adding a link to the LEARN site! I’d love to engage in conversations about this kind of conversational assessment and student support strategy with you or your colleagues. Please share all responses and encourage your colleagues to get in touch with me if they’d like to discuss this further.

  8. Konrad Glogowski February 6, 2008 at 11:08 pm #

    Hi Carla,

    The students can fill out the ripple effect sheet in class or at home. Yes, I do give them time in class to reflect on their work and on what is happening in the blogosphere. I also sit down with them individually whenever I can to chat about their progress, their specific entries, even specific ideas that they’ve shared on their blogs. The key to successful blogging is a lot of conversational and informal support. It’s difficult because we’re so used to assigning grades or working with rubrics, but engaging students in ongoing conversations about their work is important in terms of building confidence and empowering them to “risk” writing even when they do not think they are capable of competently expressing their thoughts.

    You also asked how the students react to this kind of assessment. Well, many hate it because we’ve trained them to play school – so, they expect grades and not informal chats about how they’re doing. It takes time for them to get used to this approach. Some are initially uncomfortable because this kind of detailed, albeit informal, analysis of their work and their engagement can make them feel vulnerable – it’s so much easier to hide behind and be defined by a grade. Gradually, they all realize the value of talking about writing and feel empowered by conversations in which they can be themselves. Also, knowing what kind of impact their work had on others or analyzing why certain entries impacted them gives them a great insight into what good writing really is. Knowing what they should be aiming for when composing helps them realize that writing is not just about ideas and organization but also about voice.

    I guess that’s why I really enjoy these conversations – you can see how voices emerge through close reading of their own and peer texts.

    Thanks for your comment and I look forward to more discussions.

  9. carla arena February 7, 2008 at 10:50 am #

    Konrad,

    I totally agree with you that we need to shift paradigms in terms of students’ assessment, and blogging can transform not only the way our students see themselves, how they express themselves, how they make an impact on others, but also how they can see their own development. Although I had to deal with grades in the classroom, it has been some years now that I’ve been conducting assessment in my groups in other ways rather than grades, through surveys, self-evaluations. As you pointed out, some really don’t like it, and might think, at first, it’s a waste of time. However, they start to realize what learning is about, they get “in touch” with themselves, their strengths and weaknesses. For teens, it’s a challenge, for that’s the way their regular schools work (I’m in a Binational Center, language school setting). Grades, external rewards, punishment. Blogging takes those kids’ perspective to another dimension. Even adults. They were used to grades and formal correction of their work. Once you start with peer feedback, self-evaluation, etc, it takes some time for them to realize where we’re heading to. The journey is full of hurdles, but worth taking. Though I still have grades, I’ve been managing little-by-little to add those assessment elements that I hope will make a difference in my learners’ future.

    The matter is always to balance your teaching practices and beliefs with institutional requirements and parental pressure. How do you deal with that?

  10. Timeka Ross February 7, 2008 at 12:14 pm #

    Can you please help me figure out how to receive alerts of my students’ blogs when they post them? Thank you.

  11. Ben Chun February 7, 2008 at 2:54 pm #

    Wow! Is this actual student work? Very impressive! I’ve been using Moodle as a way to host class “discussions” online, and I would love to try having students bring their ideas into a more structured kind of writing. Do you worry about 21classes being proprietary, hosted software?

  12. Eric February 8, 2008 at 3:55 am #

    Hi Konrad,

    I like Carla’s questions about logistics. Also: out of a class of 20 (?) 30 (?), how many students respond as positively as Terry did?

    Keep up the great work,

    Eric

  13. Leolaoshi February 8, 2008 at 4:17 am #

    Dear Konrad,

    Thank you for this wonderful blog abt conversation I want to contiue this with my Chinese perspective

    I have been using a website called http://www.haokanbu.com a free photo blog for abt a year with my college students in China , the things you write in your entry really bring me home to many things happened in the class

    1 I was using blogs with my students first WordPress blog , but also other BSP in China ,but later when it finish my group project in my class I found it is so hard to encouage my students to write regually in blog ( do you force them to write ?) so I moved to Haokanbu , a microblogging and photo blogging and my students Love using it we created more than 100 stories in it and my students has a lot of fun using this to submit their reseach slides you can see here http://www.slideshare.net/guest1a9ec2/webbingandmakingmywayin-china my reflection on the using of blgging so I had to change my apporach with my students

    2 My question to you , in your blogging commuitiy do you alllow other stranger to leave comments in your student’s work on line ? or only you and peer students can leave comments ?

    3 I allow other strangers in haokanbu to leave comments on my students work , and it really something make me think abt the meaning introducing my students to the larger community instead of only my class

    4 a diffcult in my class blogging is I found The problem of me using blog and haokanbu( http://www.haokanbu.com ) a photo blog
    > with my students is I found it is hard for me to engage my students all the time , coz we only have 2 assignment one is group project another is individual , so if nextterm I am going to teach the same class , how can I make my students use the blogs and photo blog more often than last term ,
    which means students not only use this as a plaace to submite their assignment vut also use that as a communication tool to talk with their classmates Advices needed on this part

    Thank you again for this wonderful insights

    Leo from China

    By the way I used something like Rubrics with my students it is a little bit like Ripple effect handout you are using here

  14. C. Ashley February 9, 2008 at 3:09 pm #

    What an innovative and necessary idea! The Riple Effect Worksheet is a great learning tool for students to be able to relate their growth of external knowledge (about topics out in the world) with their growth of internal knowledge (about themselves). Too often teachers feed students information, ask for a response, and never follow up beyond that. This is such a great way to expand the learning process and hel students take responsibility for their own learning.

  15. Konrad Glogowski February 9, 2008 at 8:06 pm #

    Ben,

    I understand your fears – I had them too when I first decided to abandon LifeType and try 21classes. However, I have never had any problems and the tech support has always been fast and very supportive whenever I emailed questions regarding design, features, or integration with other services.

    In fact, it was a big relief after hosting my own site using LifeType to not have to worry about any of those admin issues and just put my trust in a hosted service. They have not disappointed me and have even asked for input regarding some features.

    Having said that, I should add that I have a paid classroom blog portal. The price is more than reasonable and the features like tag clouds, fulltext search, and 25 MB webspace per student (instead of 2 MB) are very important to me.

    If you’re thinking of using 21classes, please contact me and I would be happy to chat about how you can best use this service in your classroom.

    Thanks for your comment.

  16. Konrad Glogowski February 9, 2008 at 8:26 pm #

    Thanks for stopping by, Eric!

    You raise a very important point. In a class of thirty, there will always be students who are not interested in jumping into the community as contributors and writers. Individual students will have their own individual reasons for this. Some dislike writing, and may need much more time than their classmates to start contributing, to engage with others, to “risk” writing. In my classes, there are almost always students who do not seem interested in investing time and effort to become a valuable, contributing member of the community. They will post just because they know they need to “jump through hoops,” but will not exhibit any genuine interest in what’s happening in the community. These students are always a challenge and I’m currently researching and trying different strategies to see if reluctant, disinterested, or struggling students can be encouraged to become more immersed in the class community. To answer your question, out of a group of 30, I usually have around 5 who lack interest and tend not to show any initiative, despite much effort on my part to get them to participate.

    Terry, however, is certainly not my best student or most gifted writer and, over the past four years, I’ve had at least 10 kids like Terry in every class. Of course, their responses are not always going to be so positive about the work of their classmates. Sometimes, they find shortcomings and do shre them with me and the other students. That always gives me an opportunity to talk about meaningful and constructive criticism (critiquing creative writing is always a good introduction to this because they are all very vulnerable and very sensitive to reactions to their creative work).

    I think the key here is to create an environment where reflection and critical analysis of one’s own work and that of one’s classmates is a natural part of being in the community. If the class community resembles a third place, students tend to become more involved and more aware of other voices. I try to make sure that everything I do in class shows the students that what makes writing fun are those other voices and how they can interact and intersect with our own.

    Does that answer your question?

  17. Konrad Glogowski February 9, 2008 at 8:46 pm #

    Hi Leo,

    Thatnk you for sharing your perspective. Your comment is filled with very important and compelx questions. Let me begin by saying that I certainly don’t think that there is one correct answer or approach that can be used in order to solve some of the challenges that you described.

    Having said that, I will share my perspective.

    Question 1:

    Please keep in mind that my students are in grade 8 (12-13 years old). So, there are some things that they have to write (but I tend not to make those assignments part of blogging). Also, in order to write, they must have a reason. The fact that they’re in school is a good enough reason for some of my students (they want to do well), but I believe that it’s the wrong reason. So, I encourage them to choose topics that they are interested in as human beings and give them time to explore those topics. I believe that they must have a sense of personal investment. Otherwise, blogging is really just homework done online.

    You will find more information about my approach here:

    blog of proximal development » Blog Archive » How to Grow a Blog

    blog of proximal development » Blog Archive » Creating Learning Experiences

    Question 2:

    No. Only people approved by me can comment on student work. My school’s privacy policy prevents me from making student work available to the public.

    Question 4:

    Please read the entries I linked to above. They should give you some ideas. My suggestion is: make sure that writing is personally meaningful for your students. Ultimately, it has to come from them. If all the writing that they do comes from your lesson plans and assignments, they will never engage as writers, they will only engage as students. I think the first step is to create a classroom community that is as close to a Third Place as possible. Then, help each person grow as an independent writer and contributor. Modify your lesson plans so that the students can focus on learning that is personally relevant. I know it’s very difficult and, believe me, I have not yet entirely figured out how to do it myself, but I am convinced that we need to stop treating students like passive automatons and start providing environments where they can engage as human beings who have a passion for something, not as human beings who need to get an A.

    I hope this answers at least some of your questions. Please feel free to comment or contact me again if you’d like to chat about any of this.

  18. Konrad Glogowski February 9, 2008 at 9:11 pm #

    Carla,

    This is a very complex question and I think to a great extent depends on where you teach and on your own teaching philosophy.

    My answer to teachers who raise this issue after my presentations or on this blog is two-fold. I tell them that both approaches, in my experience, can work equally well, but that the one that makes me feel like I’m really making a difference is #2 :-) .

    1. Aim to achieve balance. If your school happens to believe in traditional assessment and evaluation strategies or if there are programs that are imposed upon you by the state, province, or district, make sure that you always have some examples of traditional evaluation to show them. If you do, they will leave you alone and you’ll be free to spend the rest of your time doing things that are more meaningful and much more important for the learners in your classroom. For example, have your students write essays and mark them using a school- or district-sanctioned rubric. But, at the same time, use blogs, for example, to help your students become stronger, more confident writers so that when they have to write that essay they will approach it from the perspective of a contributor, a blogger, a writer, not a mere student who has to jump through hoops.

    Some teachers cannot escape standardized tests or using specific rubrics, or assigning certain types of work. What they can do, however, is supplement them by creating an environment in their classroom that gives students opportunities for self-expression and critical thinking. In that context, we can do amazing things as teachers, even with stuff that’s imposed upon us by others.

    2. But there’s another way of dealing with parental or institutional pressures. Tell them that you’re an expert and that, as an expert, you need to be trusted. Tell them that what you do in your classroom is aimed to help the students become better writers and more confident individuals. Explain it. Show how it works. Send letters home. Send examples of student work. Organize an information night. Show that what you do and how you do it may be unorthodox, it may be different, it may be unusual, but, at the same time, it is just as effective (if not more) as the strategies that the parents or the school itself are trying to force you to adopt. If you do take those steps, you will gain respect as a teacher who is constantly searching for new tools and methodologies. Most importantly, you will earn respect as a teacher who refuses to stop learning. No one in their right mind will stop you from doing things in your classroom that you can demonstrate are helping the students become more confident, articulate, critical, and independent learners, writers, people.

    Let’s remember that good teaching is a subversive activity. We’ve been using external pressures as an excuse to do nothing for too long.

  19. Elizabeth February 10, 2008 at 5:39 am #

    Everyone’s teaching situation is so very different.
    I have my fourth or fith year university students in France for just 9 to 12 weeks, depending on their course.
    I’ve just started my first class blog half way through an 8 week course! However, it(s very empowering in itself for the students since they are quickly becoming more expert than me! – and it’s great for me too, since the best way to learn is to teach !
    After just the first week, one student, Marjorie, has produced some awesome work, and the people who didn’t turn up for class are in real trouble!
    It’s remarks like your “you’ll be free to spend the rest of your time doing things that are more meaningful and much more important for the learners in your classroom.” which helped me to actually dare to give it a try. The B4Ed people are all so MOTIVATED … and I am personally getting round administrative obligations by looking as if I know what I’m doing and (while looking superior!) muttering things like “pilot projet” “21st century” etc.etc.
    In fact, the assessment is quite simple, because the students were already assessed on the paper “courselog” they gave in at the end of their short course – so I’m keeping it simple for the moment, and have simply transferred the courselog to a blog.
    Last year I got stuck on the notions of “writing for the world”, and this year it all clicked into place with the very simple thought that they were not writing for the world, but simply writing for the teacher as usual – the only difference being that it was also available for others to read if they so wished.
    I look forward to listening to you this afternoon.

  20. Teresa Almeida d'Eca February 10, 2008 at 11:21 am #

    Hi, Konrad!
    I’d like to congratulate you on a very powerful, eye-opening and thought-provoking blog post.
    Your comment “I admit, this approach is still in its infancy, but it provides a valuable mechanism to engage students in reflective thinking about their work and the work of their peers” is so true. And it should be tackled by many of us.
    As is your comment, “The point here is that when we talk about blogging, most of us focus on writing. We tend to ignore the fact that a class blogging community provides teachers with a very valuable opportunity to use informal instructional conversations to engage our students as thinkers and writers. These conversations can help our students immerse themselves in the rich tapestries of voices that characterize blogging communities”.
    This is a bit of what I tried to achieve at a very elementary level (1st and 2nd year EFL) with my two blogs, in addition to having students use the language they were learning for “communication”.
    Have Fun with English! 2 ( http://fwe2.motime.com/ )
    CALL Lessons 2005-2007 ( http://call05-06.motime.com/ )
    Please say “Hello!” to Patricia for me. :-)
    Best wishes,
    Teresa (in Lisbon, Portugal)

  21. cory plough February 10, 2008 at 1:11 pm #

    Konrad- I sat through your presentation at EduCon and was really impressed. I use blogs with my students but really need to get better at helping students find their voice and minimizing my teacher voice. I’ve made some changes in my courses and have a list of things to revamp for next year. Just stumbled on your blog through Twitter today and thought I would touch base. Thanks for the ideas.

  22. Kim February 10, 2008 at 1:15 pm #

    I found the idea of the ripple effect being applied to the blogosphere very intriguing. I stumbled upon this site for a class and this description did a wonderful job of explaining blogs for me in a clearer manner. Thank you.

  23. Gladys Baya February 12, 2008 at 3:44 pm #

    Dear Konrad,
    Both your post here and at Blogging4Educators (coupled with your live session at Wiziq) have been truly inspiring and helped me gain insight into my blogging practices. I’ve right now decided to adopt the “Ripple Effect Reflection Sheet” for my students’ self evaluation of their blogging!

    Thanks a lot for so generously sharing your learning with everone on cyberspace!

    Cheers,
    Gladys

  24. Jen February 14, 2008 at 12:20 am #

    Konrad,
    What a great idea and fascinating post. I have given each of the students in my English class their own blogs and allowed them to post on any topic, as long as they can relate it to something in the world. Their writing has to generate some kind of discussion and make people really think about their topic (which is tough for many of them). I really like your ripple effect worksheet and would love to use it (or modify it), if that is ok.
    I also have a class of Gr. 8 bloggers who would absolutely love to read the blogs of other Gr. 8’s so if you are interested in sharing, please let me know.
    Thanks!

  25. Max February 19, 2008 at 12:45 am #

    Konrad-

    I agree that Blogging is a great idea, and it is something that may become an important aspect of learning for both future students and teachers. But I’m wondering if you have any tips or suggestions for running a blog in a science classroom. Many times, the topics taught in a freshman level biology class are not necessarily conducive to being discussed in an online format such as a blog. What are your thoughts?

    -max-

  26. Nicholas Smith February 25, 2008 at 11:26 pm #

    Konrad,

    I do think blogging is a good idea and it teaches students to think outside the box. However, as a new blogger I am finding it hard to think of comments back or to find a blog that really strikes me. I think I will use blogs when I become a teacher and hopefully by then I can use this technology to better the students learning. I find it necessary to use technology to make the class more engaging for the students.

    -Nick Smith

  27. Annie Chieu March 5, 2008 at 1:16 am #

    As a current college student in mathematics secondary education, I feel kind of silly reading that 13-year-olds are using the same website (21classes) as we are in our course (Introduction to Secondary Education). Then again, it demonstrates that the technology we are only learning about now has already been implemented in the school system. Many times I’ve heard that teachers today are being trained for technology that has yet to exist. It’s a scary thought, but effective research can go a long way.

    When you mentioned doing doctoral research on the impact of peer comments versus teacher comments, I was intrigued. Growing up, I have been taught to earn the grade from the teacher and cater to the teacher’s grading style. Even in courses I take with friends, I notice how angry students will get hearing about little comments that professors make. However, research does beat the personal experience of one or two friends.

    I like that teacher and peer comments are side by side, as you mentioned. Those comments complement and reinforce each other since students will hear both a personable and a credible response. It can also cover different types of students. Both students who prefer peer responses and those that value teacher responses will be able to read and reevaluate their blog entry.

    The ripple effect is an interesting worksheet. It seems so simple, yet it gets the point across and helps the student think more deeply about their writing skills. Essentially, it is the internet version of peer editing without the pressure of writing a standardized 5-paged paper with specific margins and formatting. Plus, it assists students in practicing typing with proper grammar and punctuation. It sounds like you are facilitating students’ writing very well.

  28. Charlie A. Roy March 9, 2008 at 10:16 am #

    @ Konrad
    Love your work. I am working with a group of core teachers to integrate blogging into our instructional practice for next year. Your comments are tremendously helpful and your strategy for evaluation is very creative. Thanks for pushing the envelope but more importantly thanks for sharing.

  29. Jacci March 25, 2008 at 4:05 pm #

    I agree that most students see blogging that is required for their classroom as a race to the finish. It is interesting that you noticed many of them seem to judge the success of their writing based on the number of responses that entry receives. It is great that you realized these problems and came up with a great solution for it! Specifically, I like your Ripple Effect Worksheet. There is evidence through your entry that this self-assessment has changed the way students use and reflect upon their own entries as well as others’. One of the most intriguing aspect of this worksheet is the example you gave when Terry had realized his own weaknesses in grammatical and spelling errors because his peers had brought it to his attention! It is as if the students are playing the evaluator’s role toward one another instead of the teacher which is awesome! I think you have definitely steered your students in the right direction with this self-assessment worksheet – keep up the good work.
    – Jacci Stier

  30. Lorraine May 31, 2008 at 9:03 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing your thinking and your resources. This article is just where I am at…

    Blogging is spreading like wild fire across our cluster of schools yet I am left pondering what the deep effect is on learning. It is not only studnets who ar emeasuring their blog success by th enumber of hits or comments. Teachers are doing this too, as if competing in a small way.

    Your ripple effect is a valuable tool to scaffold this into a more meaningful reality. Thank you.

    I would like to quote your article in our cluster wiki and post your examples. I would also like to adapt them for my own use.

    Please let me know if you have any difficulty with me doing this. Thnak you.

  31. Jeff Jackson December 28, 2008 at 4:03 am #

    Thanks for the practical suggestions pushing the creative and richness of understanding of students. Looking forward to trialling a few ideas with students during the coming year. The Ripple Effect really appeals to exploring the link between comment and post!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Ripple Effect « Tech Ticker - February 5, 2008

    […] post – Towards Reflective BlogTalk – is quite comprehensive and well worth a read. Posted by Mike Bogle Filed in […]

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    […] 17, 2008 Posted by mstliteracy in uncategorized. trackback Konrad Glogowski writes in his post, Towards Reflective BlogTalk, “Blogging is not about choosing a topic and writing responses for the rest of the term. It […]

  12. Blogging Article Snippets : Harrow School - October 26, 2008

    […] Pasted from  http://www.teachandlearn.ca/blog/2008/02/04/towards-reflective-blogtalk/  […]

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    […] Growing Your Blog Jump to Comments A great example of blogging with students is Konrad Glogowski’s Blog of Proximal Development, which shares a variety of tips for blogging with students such as How to Grow a Blog and Towards Reflective BlogTalk. […]

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