Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Blog Plateau

The Plateau (Problem and Concerns)

I feel as though my students have learned to set up and use the blogs in the last two weeks, but are currently a bit uninspired in the way they are creating posts.  Some students have not posted the past assignment at all, and others have done the minimal job possible.  Some did not really understand or respond to the question in the way it was intended, and this is true for both the ESL099 course (ESL and Art pair) and the ELL101 (linguistics) course. Finally, both the other professor (in the pair) and I are concerned that the ESL/Art students are plagiarizing and copying text from websites, and we are going to have to address this in some way.  All this brings me to these doubts and musings:

1.  Should I have walked them through the assignments in more detail in class than I did?
2.  Are blogs not as interesting to the students as it seemed in the past weeks?  Or are they generally overwhelmed with other things in the classes (quizzes and readings) and the blogs therefore seem not to be the priority for them?
3.  Are my assignments either uninteresting or unclear?
4.  Will assignments posted by the other professor in the paired class encourage students to use it more and take it more seriously as an integrated space for both classes?
5.  How will I best address the plagiarism issue?

Next Steps: Getting Inspired

I am going to peruse your class blogs and see what activities you have been doing to get more ideas!  I am also looking around on the Internet.

One thing I have found (and remember from prior conferences where people had really interesting, dynamic presentations using this program) is Prezi.  Has anyone used it for classes?

I have actually created a short Prezi presentation for the "Language of Art"course - and am also going to show it to the Intro to Language class - as an example - and then will ask students to create their own Prezi presentations (in groups) to teach a particular topic to the class.  Here is my presentation, on "Creativity":

Prezi: Creativity

I welcome feedback on any of the ideas/musings/queries in this post!



  1. Prof Rebekah: I checked both your blogs and your assignments seem fine per se. Perhaps students are overwhelmed.

    Some questions: Do they have to post by a set date (short term), or a is a set of their blogs due at a specific time (long term)? Do they work on the blogs in class or is most of the work done out of class? Is there a clear connection between the blog entries and other activities with grades (as in, do the blogs help scaffold other activities)? How much of the overall grade are the blogs?

  2. Thank you for looking into the blogs! I usually give them a due date and in the ESL099 class they can work on them some in class. In the ELL101 class, they are expected to do the work as homework, outside of class.

    I hope that I'm making a clear connection. I just reminded Ss in ELL101 that their blogs are 20% of the grade and showed them the new assignment for this week in more detail than I had the last time... we'll see if that helps, in their case!

    In ESL099, the blogs are very scaffolded - we study vocab and students read the text or do activities before posting about them.

    I will continue to see where things can be better explained, better supported, and tweaked to work better!

  3. I think scaffolding the blogs is a great idea, and that may be one of the best ways to create student investment.

    I also agree that students are overwhelmed at this point. I have students work on blogs and essays during class, and I do find that helps things a bit.

    I'm typically very blunt about my expectations for a blog. I often explain to students that outside readers need context for the class: what are you talking about? What are you reading? Have you defined your key words? Have you introduced the text? They then say, do we have to introduce the text for each blog? And I say, yes, you do. I insist that they must change their line of thinking from:

    What Do I Need to Write?


    What Does My Reader Need to Know?

    I try and remind them of this. A reader may be outside the class. The benefit of this is that they should always begin the blog saying, "This is a blog about_________." I'm using the text _______ which is about ________. All this intro-stuff to the blog helps deepen the blog entries. It also helps them clarify their own writing.

    Having said this, I have to remind this of these tasks again and again.

  4. Mmm--part of the problem with ELL may be the homework part. I do not know why, but a sizable portion of our students do not take homework seriously.

    Is there any way you can make 1-2 blogs a class venture, even if you don't have a lab? When that happened to me, I sometimes had 1 hour of class, then say: "Go post X in B-333. It should be posted by the end of class or you are absent for the second hour." Voila!

  5. A strategy that's helped me get students to "dig deep" is to show them an example of what a completed assignment would like. I don't teach content course but in wkshops when helping students identify their strengths, for example, they usually come up blank (even though I've given one exampe) but when I give them a list of strengths they have a much easier time of identifying their own. Hope this is useful.