Sunday, September 16, 2007

Encouraging student participation in blogs and wikis

(I had originally posted this question on the discussion on the Introduction page and then thought it might be easier to discuss here.)

Hi everyone,
I have just spent a pleasant hour browsing everyone's introductions and looking at members' blogs and wikis. "Chapeau" to all your efforts!

Last year was my first year in a high school library after 3 years as an elementary TL and teaching experience K to 8. I looked into both blogs and wikis last spring and started a wiki on graphic novels for my extra curricular group that met to discuss manga and graphic novels. Students were finding it hard to get together because of demands on their time. We thought a wiki might work as people could "chat" as they found time. The wiki never really took off and students didn't contribute although they said they would like to.

Last year I also had a reading challenge based on the Survivor theme. Students read from the twenty books I featured and book talked in all English classes. As they participated their names were entered in prize draws. We voted books "out of the contest" until we were left with winners. Students were happy to read the books but were not interested in meeting to discuss them. They talked extensively to me when they returned them. I wondered if they might contribute their comments to a blog or wiki if I had a similiar reading challenge with a different theme this year.

I am appealing to your collective wisdom. Do students participate voluntarily on their own time to blogs and wikis you establish? Does this need to be linked to class assignments and class time provided in order to get participation? Any tricks or suggestions for me? I have worked with classes during class time using Blackboard (which facilitated discussions like wikis and blogs do) and been very satisfied with the level of participation and comments.


Posted Yesterday 7:00 pm


Donna said...

Good question about voluntary student participation in blogs and wikis. I have found that most students participate when required to do so (I come from a high school background and there are always a few who choose not to participate - even for marks!). Very few students seem to participate when it is totally voluntary - this was my experience with our school's book club. But, I have noticed that when participation is part of the classroom expectation that there are always some students who contribute more and make more voluntary posts than others.

Just last week a grade seven teacher showed me posts by one of his students who was writing on his own time. And, after showing a grade four class how to set up and post to their blogs a little girl asked me if she could write poetry - from home!

I believe that we need to provide the opportunities for all and then encourage those who want to do more.

Donna DesRoches

bookmarks said...

I was very surprised by your comment about lack of student participation and Donna's observation as well. I just assumed that because the task was computer generated that students would love to participate. I did try a blog with some grade 8 students at the end of last year but they participated because I asked them. I'm going to try again this year.

Melanie Holtsman said...

Sometimes I have the kids collectively help me write a post and then at the end ask a question they need to answer. (Something fun) I ask them to comment their response from home. I may also offer small treats for those that follow through. The other advantage to posting "together" is they watch how to insert photos or other "how to" procedures and give it a try on their own blogs!
:) Melanie

librarian at large said...

Interesting discussion. Our literacy committee wants to create a blog as a means for students in our entire school to respond to books they and other students are reading. That explains why I am learning about blogs and how to create them. It never occurred to me that students wouldn't participate!

I hope students will be lured by enticements such as the survivor game you tried, book draws, contests, surveys, links to cool book-related sites, and other things that I'm unable to hallucinate. We're hoping to get a few creative students who know what "cool" is to help us. Left to our own devices, our blog is almost certain to be lame. I'm just rambling, so I will go away now.

Amy Williams said...

I have just set up a blog for students in grade seven to write about books and I have been disappointed in the results. Now, I am not very confident of my skills with blogs and perhaps that is why the experience has not been as successful as I had expected. In some cases, not all, students have struggled to write about a book. Their comments to the other student have had little depth or reflection. It has crossed my mind that the students are more interested in setting up their desktop and playing games then they are in writing. On the other hand a few student's voices came through in their writing. I am not sure where to go next with blogging and this class.
It seems we spend more time discussing the need to capitalize and punctuate than we do on the discussion of books
I had really hoped to set up a blog for the school about books. I may need to consider doing it as a non class activity.

Amy Williams

Lucille said...

Hi Chris,

A teacher sent me a link to Facebook last year, whereby students were posted with their favorite books and in point form the students had highlighted what they liked about their pick and why they were recommending their choice. I suspect that the students were chosen by some classroom teacher to participate in this booktalk in this manner. While I thought the idea was neat, I was concerned about posting students pictures on the internet. This is why I thought blogs and wikis would work best. Maybe to get students participating, we need to invite different classrooms to participate as a class project on a rotational basis. Once one classroom teacher is invitied, maybe others will want an invitation as well. I don't know for sure if this would work, but it might be worth a try.

Chris Arnstead said...

I appreciate the discussion this question has generated. You have given me lots of new ideas to consider.

I used the Blackboard program supplied to us through Centralischool and SaskLearning to have grade 3, 8, and 11 classes discuss things online in a password protected environment a few years ago. I was excited about the results. Students who didn't participate orally in class suddenly became enthusiastic and fluent! Kids that I didn't feel I was reaching in class but who liked technology participated to a greater extent. A core group of students in each class spent time outside of school responding.

I found that the questions had to be quite directed to received good postings. I did require that we use "school" English rather than "chat" and had no problems with that. I did some modelling of posting and commenting but realize you can never do to much. If you want quality work from students they have to learn what you expect. I used a rubric for scoring student responses and participation. This was a great preliminary experience for me before being introduced to blogs and wikis because I see many similarities. Also because I did my Masters classes online from U of A so I was familiar with threaded discussions etc.

Like Lucille I have been concerned about several sites I have visited that have student pictures associated with reviews. I don't feel comfortable with that and will definitely be discussing with the teachers I collaborate with whether they want their students to use pseudonyms or their real first names. It will be more difficult to track and grade if names aren't used.

Several of the suggestions made in the comments are excellent - having students take ownership of the blog will definitely increase the "cool" factor and participation too I would think. Rotating through classes for responses or reviews not only spreads the work but increases the interest as students will want to log in to see what others have done with the assignment.

Thanks again everyone for your comments. Chris