Let me first add my two cents to those frustrated with the technology issues. I am teaching in an incredibly non-smart classroom, a reality that initially had me rethink my participation in any online projects. Nonetheless, I decided to go the "laptop+ projector" route. For reasons known only to these portable laptops, blogger never fully loads on these. For example, when I wanted to demonstrate how easy it is to follow a blog by clicking on the "follow" link, said link would never appear. Reloading (repeatedly) on the slow server brought no result. Miraculously, students where able to do it even without me being able to demonstrate. Laguardia technology 0- Laguardia students 1 (I am getting ready for the world cup this summer by keeping score).
What I found interesting is that even though I never mentioned customizing blogs, many students went ahead and did so; furthermore, in their first entry, which was to be a short personal note, many made sure to include key aspects of their biography and interests. I saw some of them discuss these in class before we started, and even seeking out people based on these. If nothing else, a solid sign of community building. But I want to come back to the issue of personalization, because that is one of the elements that drew me to blogger--students being able to take control of their space, and feel that they are also holding the steering wheel in the learning process. It was exciting to see how much thought a lot of the students put into template selection, background picture, fonts, etc. Since I tend to see such fiddling as fun and not work, I am hoping the same is for them.
Next: This week students start posting on the ENG 102 stories, so I am eager to see how the application on the texts will proceed. Soon after we will start connecitng with blogs from other ENG 102 classes.