Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Minor Musing On Teaching And Blogging

Conor Friedersdorf responds to this video with a simple question: "Good idea, right?"

I agree, I might try it with a sophomore composition class during second semester.  I have a few concerns.  I don't need a young Susie's parent angry at me because young Ralph wrote something they disagree with.  In this era of touchy sensibilities, that eventuality is a near certainty.  I also want to find another platform.  Blogger has some frustrating idiosyncracies that preclude using it for a class.

I also have a modest proposal.  If Cory's Madville Times prediction is correct, and I hope and pray that it is, Governor Daugaard and Secretary of Education Schopp should forget about merit pay and put their apparent beliefs about competition work. They could create a system for teachers to get grant money to implement innovative programs.  The grants could cover cost of materials, and the teacher could include an appropriate emolument in the proposal.

Testing advocates will not doubt scream that there will be no accountability,  The writing example has built in transparency.  Other proposals could be equally transparent.  Further, writing a series of  a blog post is a more complete assessment than a bubble test.

Governor Daugaard may object to my modest proposal because it stems from a teacher in a progressive school in New York instead of his fellow Republican governors.  I'm fairly certain that no one gets a seat at the big boy Republican governors' table by following an idea from any teacher, let alone one who has taught at a progressive school.


caheidelberger said...

I understand your nervousness about parents' reactions to their students' writing being placed in such a public forum. But that's one of the primary reasons to have students blog. Instead of throwing their words away in papers seen by no one but that weird teacher who doesn't know anything anyway, they must write knowing that anyone in the world could see their words... and perhaps say something in response. That's authentic writing. I want to believe such live public writing forces any writer to think more about the audience and take more responsibility for the words she/he writes. Do you think your kids would get any of that? What other benefits do you think they'd get from blogging?

LK said...

I agree that it would make them more careful, but I'm more worried about the local situation.

Some kid writes something "liberal" or quotes someone "conservative" and parents will complain I'm bringing my politics into the classroom or letting kids "indoctrinate" each other.

For example, I've had kids read The Ring of Gyges and watch a Green Lantern intro. I've had them respond to the contention that everyone will do evil with power vs. belief that people with power do good ie political leaders, business leaders, or literary characters.

I can see some student criticizing Romney and Republicans getting up in arms. Also, now that DC turned one Green Lantern character gay--not the one from the movies--I worry about some blowback from parents who will claim I'm promoting some agenda or another. I also don't need people screaming that I'm watering down the curriculum by using pop culture.

I don't want to seem to be complaining with what follows, but I give about 12 hours a day for less than 8 hours pay. I would give more time to help students write or analyze or debate. I'll even listen to students complain about the assignment being too hard because that's what students do. I'm not going to give more to deal with the stupid complaints that may come from a student essay published online.

caheidelberger said...

Valid concerns. Still, it drives me nuts that some parents would complain that kids are being allowed to indoctrinate each other. Do such parents think kids should not talk to each other during school? Do they not think that the mere act of attending high school subjects a student to social indoctrination?

If parents want kids to address no debatable, controversial issues in their writing, they force us to teach them in a vacuum, detached from reality. Disconnect between the classroom and real life makes kids learn less. Efforts like your Ring of Gyges–Green Lantern lesson try to make hard thinking relevant. It's a shame that the misguided hypersensitivity of a few parents and the hassles they could cause would prevent all students from enjoying such challenging lessons.

Mike Larson said...

Based on some of the suggestions about flipping the classroom and blogging as a tool of activity and checking to see if students are getting engaged in the material, you don't always have to post the comments to the public. I am going to set up blogs by the class level. I am then going to then have public access page for various activities to post select comments/writings. You can also moderate the blog to weed out inappropriate material and establish different levels for parents to be able to view. I am going to be trying edublog. It is free and established for teachers.

Your concerns are very valid. Corey, I agree with you, but I have been burned a few times by this. A school I was working for was threatened by a parent to be sued over an editorial written by one of my students on the grading scale. We talked the parent off the ledge and if I didn't have more understanding administration, I would have been looking for a new job. This is just one of several instances that will come about from encouraging students to get involved in controversial issues.

I think you will get more positive feedback from your blog than negative. I have students write a lot of short stories and poetry in American Lit class and Comp class. A lot of the material is very good. Creative and well-thought out writing that should be shared with students, but they are often afraid to do it. When we can share the writing with others, it has a great impact on the school and can serve as a good role model.

I say go for it.

Mike Larson said...

Strike that. I am using and not I have to think while I write.

caheidelberger said...

Funny: Mike's above two comments illustrate another reason I like the idea of student blogging: writers have to own their mistakes!

A really important part is that students experience some sort of publication. How big a public do we dare? A public no bigger than the class—a blog that only students and teacher can access—is still better than no public. Mike, how do you decide which items are safe to share beyond that community wall?

LK said...


Thanks for the recommendation.

For both Mike and Cory,

I see lots of benefits. I know it will take time to adjust and make it work. I'm willing to do all of that work. I want to avoid unnecessary bureaucratic hassles.

I plan to try to have students create some of those xtranormal videos as well. I think they will work for a couple of classes, but I have the same concerns there.

Teaching has become a catch-22, We're supposed to change to make reformers happy, but when we change local folk get upset because teachers have stopped teaching like they did when the locals were young

caheidelberger said...

Well, hurry up and try it so you know if it works before merit pay kicks in. Then you won't have to gamble your bonus on it later. ;-P

LK said...

Good point, Cory.

Thanks for reminding me about the bonus. I needed the extra motivation.

I wasn't going to think about school or the classroom or anything else this summer, but now I'm going to brew a fresh pot of coffee so I can begin pulling an all-nighter to get that video ready and research blogging platforms.

caheidelberger said...

You know, if you're going to incorporate blogging into the curriculum, you might want to bring some bloggers in as guest speakers. Get a bicyle blogger, a ranch blogger, a poetry blogger,... and you know, I could hook you up with a politicial blogger who will be in Yankton to judge State Interp at the end of November. ;-) (Or we could just do an online video chat!) Show them that blogging isn't just an academic exercise, but something in which mostly sane people find value.