Saturday, September 18, 2010

Setting up student blogs and blackboard readings issue

As my class meets on Mondays and Fridays, and it is on the latter day that we have a computer lab, yesterday was the day the students set up their individual blogs. So just to back track a bit, I decided to use blogs for my class; we have one class blog and each student has his/her own blog. Thus far it is quite hard to gauge whether how the students feel about the blogs. When we discussed it on the first day, they kind of accepted it as just another requirement for the course. For homework, I assigned them a short reading- Deutsch's Male Privilege List, and the task of setting up a gmail account, if they already do not have one, as well as to check out the class blog. So once I got home after Monday's class, sent an e-mail to check if I have all the students' e-mail addresses and also sent each student an invite to the blog. By Friday, only about three students accepted the blog invite (currently the total number of student followers on the class blog is seven). Then yesterday, when we got into the computer lab and after they all completed the student survey, we began setting up the blogs. The blogger website prompted them to enter their phone #s in order for them to receive verification codes. This got a bit troublesome as some students' phones had no reception and one student's phone's battery died. But within forty minutes they were all exploring the blogger gadgets to add to their blogs. Of course, in all this excitement, although I asked them to add a link to our class blog to their individual blogs, I didn't ask them for the URLs of their blogs. The discussion of the reading, the individual entries on the Male Privilege List that they found interesting, curious or disagreed with went well, and then I asked them to create the first blog post commenting on one of the items on Male Privilege List, much like in our class discussion.
So when I got home, I posted on the class blog, asking all students to post their blogs' URLs. For those who used gmail accounts, like I asked, and joined the class blog, I was able to view their URLs by clicking on their picture icon in the followers list. Bad planning and monitoring on my part.

But the most problematic aspect is the use of Blackboard for the class readings. Some students are completely unfamiliar with it, although in the beginning of yesterdays class I asked all of them to log into their Blackboard accounts and almost all of them were able to do so. Those who weren't, stayed after class and we resolved the issue. So now I'm contemplating requiring all of the students to purchase a reading packet, which means I have to print all of the readings and get them to the print shop. I really wanted to save on paper and for the students' sake, on money, by only asking them to purchase The Little Penguin Handbook ($24 on but now am having second thoughts. Also am worried about including the readings on the class blog as all the readings are sections/chapters of books and I don't want to get in trouble for violating copyright laws.
So should I be tough and tell the students to deal with Blackboard or should I cave, and get the packets?
Also, how often should I check up on the students' blogs? And comment on their posts? I mean it's impossible to comment on all of their posts...right?
So overall am still a bit discombobulated but super excited about the be cont.


  1. The whole phone verification thing drove me nuts as well, but we handled it. I finally decided to jettison Bb6 and put the copyrighted material in Google Docs and then "invite" the students to view it and/or print it. One less sign in procedure!

  2. I think you might be right. Blackboard seems like more hassle than the blog. Thanks

  3. I agree w/Jason. I just put the entire CATW student handbook in my Google Docs for the whole English Dept. to see and it works like a charm. Google Docs takes all kinds of formats also. And since your students already have an account w/Google (a.k.a. already sold their souls), it should be easy to share docs.

    And I am using Google Docs to share grades with students (only the student and I can see the doc)

    But, to your question: read their entries, but DO NOT respond to everything, though you could respond to everyone for one major assignment. Instead, have THEM respond to each other, or use certain blogs as "good" examples, etc. in class so that they know you are checking.