Monday, April 26, 2010

One Way to Organize a Multi-Author Blog

((I'm cross-posting this from the JAM since it's buried in a response to a response.))

I notice that a few people mentioned the possibility of using multi-author blogs for their courses, and I thought I'd share one possible way to do that here.

Some years ago an acquaintance of mine organized students he was teaching at several different community colleges simultaneously to do an online publication together: they decided on a series of projects (I think they had a central theme) and then established editorial, researcher, and writer positions. Each group did an article from start to finish, and then everything shuffled: students could swap groups and rotate positions. Every student had to occupy every position (writer, editor, researcher) at least once during the semester. I think there was a second tier that included a main student editor and a student website designer too (this was pre-blog) but I'm not exactly sure how they fit in.

My acquaintance's instruction was focused entirely on composition, research, and writing process; beyond that, he simply made himself available to help the different groups do problem-solving. His grading was based on the articles each group produced and on response papers that group members wrote individually, describing their role and the group dynamic.

At the time, he reported that the students were unusually engaged with his writing instruction, took their own writing process very seriously, and did a lot of learning from each other as they rotated tasks. According to him, the students reported that having people from different colleges in the same work group also tended to increase their sense of responsibility and their concern about the quality of their contributions.

Since he was working across colleges, it seems that you could easily link two or more LaGuardia classes in this way -- even classes with different instructors. It sounds like a lot of up-front organization and plenty of potential for the unexpected, but it also sounds like the class would begin to "run itself" at a certain point in the semester.

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