Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Blog wrangling.... a guide for beginners

Ok so this isn't actually going to teach you anything about blogging (or cattle wrangling come to that).... rather it's an account of how I have been getting on with constructing a class blog.

In the past couple of years I have set my final year students a task of conveying their reflections on leadership values through the medium of interpretive dance the photostory. This year I decided not to repeat that exercise (as this particular cohort had already done something similar in their first year) but instead asked them to write a blog post - working in small groups -  about what leadership means to them.

I was inspired to do this by a colleague who had dome something similar with his class the previous year: however, in his case, he had asked his students to develop their ideas in a Word Document which he had then uploaded to a blog he'd created. (Sensible chap it turns out).

Naturally that wasn't complicated enough for me; no, I decided to create a multi author blog which the students could edit themselves. I figured that learning to blog was a useful 21st century skill in itself, so, heck - why not?

I tried to smooth the process along by creating a couple of screen cast videos to show them how to post, step by step, and this has worked well in the majority of cases, but a few are still struggling to create and publish their first post. However, that is understandable. What is surprising (as always) are the unforeseen "challenges" of a multi author blog composed of almost complete blog novices.

So - first problem: I send out invites to the blog to the students' Uni emails and they then set up a Blogger account using a different ID (particularly if they have created a multi-access account/password), so it's quite tricky (but not impossible with a little lateral thinking) to work out who is who.....

Then because they are working in groups I have to set up a spreadsheet that records who is working with whom. Again, not too difficult as they email me with the details, but a bit of extra work.

The real doozy is how they then seem to get lost somewhere between setting up a Blogger ID and accepting my invitation and end up creating a completely separate blog !?!?! I have managed to guide most of them back to the correct site - and one student decided she liked hers so much she is going to carry on using it as her reflective space for the remainder of the year - but I really didn't see that coming.

I have had some positive feedback from students: some have really enjoyed learning a new skill, especially, the older students in the group who worried they weren't cut out to handle this "internet technology thingy". There are also some really creative, fun, engaging and reflective posts being published, so the exercise is achieving its main aim. But I am left wondering what if anything I could do to make things run a little more smoothly next year - short of asking them to send me a word document which I upload....

And maybe some of the learning that comes out of these missteps will actually prove valuable: one student told me that she had previously been asked to write blog posts for the charity she works for - but only in a Word Document and never actually posting and editing on line herself. She was really pleased that she had now had this experience of actually contributing to a "live" blog - and indeed of setting up her own (which, naturally, she did by accident!).

The next stage is to try and get the students to leave comments for one another (I admit, I am going to moderate these!) and I will give each group feedback in the form of comments too. Once everyone is happy with the finished product, I am going to ask their permission to publish the blog so that they can see their efforts out there in the public sphere.

*UPDATE* here's the link:

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