Turn student blogs into an online class community

China at the celebration of light 2009
Image by eyesplash Mikul via Flickr

I have been interested in using blogging software to create online learning communities for a while now. This last year, I had students start Blogger.com, Tumblr.com, and Posterous.com blogs, then subscribed to all of their blog feeds with my Google RSS Reader. Students would “turn in their work” by posting it to their blogs. This enabled me to see every student’s assignments as they posted them, in real time. I was able to output these student blog feeds to a Netvibes public page so I could show other stakeholders like parents, the principal, and their other teachers.

While it was easy for me and all the adults to see what students were doing, it was not as easy and intuitive for students to see and respond to each other’s work. These are kids who are quickly adapting to the Facebook paradigm: that whenever anyone in your community posts thoughts, images, or multimedia, it flows past you like a river of information. You can interact with this river– adding to it, commenting, building– making it easy for new ideas to be generated. Much like the teacher who used Twitter in the classroom, we need to mimic this real-time confluence of information in online learning communities. I think if I had this to do over again, I would try something like Ning or BuddyPress so everyone feels like part of the same class network.

Towards this end, I really like the way that the abovementioned sites allow you to subscribe to other blogs and see them in a stream– especially Tumblr and Posterous, both of which appears to be a feature-richer version of twitter.

I still haven’t figured out a way to subscribe to students’ blogs and let them all subscribe to one another– so all of my students can see what the others are creating. (By the way, I’m an 11th grade Digital Media Arts Teacher). If you have good ideas on this– please add them to the comments.

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