Yay! Someone agrees with me :)
“Group blogs, however tempting, are a bad idea and do not work!”
Group blogs are very tempting to language teachers: I’m one of them. So far, however, I’ve got to agree with James: they don’t work. Something is stopping students from participating. Those few who do seem to be posting to the class blog often do so in error (they send their posts to a class blog instead of their personal blogs). What’s more, communication seems somewhat “disconnected” in a class blog and students don’t leave comments often enough for the few who try to continue. Possible reasons for failure might be:
James, you know I think the world of you and your work, but sometimes group blogs can work!
I know I know… what was it that Ritter said, something about hammering nails with a saw ;) Aggregation is the answer… it’s our hammer!
Group blogs CAN work. I’m watching a learning community develop in my class. Mind you, they are very bright 3rd year university students and I have used the teacher’s “hammer” of giving marks for posts. BUT they are doing more than required and actively helping each other with technical problem; (they are using Audacity.) It’s exciting to see their thinking as they use out blog to reflect on what we are studyiing and their learning. This is my second time using a community blog (on Elgg) and this time I have a better feel for giving just a little direction and enough feedback in Comments and in class to encourage them. Or maybe I’m just lucky and they’re great!
I’ve had good luck with group blogs as well. I think the key here isn’t “group blogs bad” but figuring out what makes so many of them (including some of mine) go wrong. Of course we also need a standard for what we mean by working– I see the group blog as achieving a very different end from individual blogs, and given my experiences I think they work best as a complement to students who are maintaining their own blogs.
Individual blogs seem to trend towards individuals going in depth and “riffing” off of materials and posts in other blogs, while the group blog seems to be the place where students actually respond most directly to one another, answer questions posed to them by other students, etc.
Ideally, my model is that students are blogging individually (more and more of them are already doing so) and the group blog is both a central and centralized (with automated attention and manual links and connections) environment that ties the classroom in. the reason being that I want the students to own their space, but that can actually become a disincentive to include material related to their learning, so I try to have an outlet and– to be frank– an excuse for those students who are reluctant to upset their “blog” vibe by posting to the class blog and/or using that as the place to excuse their own disruption…
Hang on there, Elgg isn’t group blogging… everyone has their own space!
Agree with you Chris, you do need a central, facilitative tool to link people up… I’ve used FeedWP before now to create a ‘group’ blog from aggregated individual blogs.
Thanks for an insightful, thought-provoking response.
I sat up & we’re using an owned Community Blog on Elgg. Not much shows because the students have chosen privacy, but I assure you, it is on Elgg.
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