The Stages of Blog Enjoyment…

I am finding that there has been a real spike in what I would call learner engagement in blogs lately.
It begins with a spike of excitement when the original idea is introduced. Students are (mostly) into the tech, and the cool format. They like the idea….but
This spike bottoms out pretty quick when they find out that this is assigned work. I cringe even to use that word (assigned) when referring to blogs, but, in all honesty, the blog becomes an assignment. Excitement quickly fades to apathy, and the complaints begin to surface. In my experience, this has been extremely demoralizing. I take it personally, especially since I have spent a great deal of time researching this process and planning it, but my colleagues and my wife all agree in their advice to me: something along the lines of ‘do students complain when you assign an essay? Do you drop it because of those complaints, or do you push through it because you know it is important for their learning…then why are you hesitating now?’ (by the way, I teach high school English, hence the essay ref.).
A big thank you to people who remind me of that fact. These people are willing to remind me that I am a professional, and that students will complain about things, whether they are cool or not. They are also holding me up, in a sense, reminding me that I am a teacher and that my job is to facilitate learning. Sometimes we need those reminders to trust our judgment and go with our instincts (and all that research and planning that helped test those instincts). If it wasn’t for them, I would be pulled down by this apathy.
Now, here is where I am at currently (hopefully): That bottoming out seems to be followed by a steady climb back up the ladder of euphoria. It is a slow climb, but a climb nonetheless. Example: the other day in class, I actually had a student request if they could do their reading response on their blog. I just about fell off my chair, as this was the same student who I had heard a month or so ago stating that blogs sucked.
Honestly, I still have moments of uncertainty around this… Those moments of wondering ‘Am I wasting my own time and precious class time on this?’ But I still feel that this is a worthy and important endeavor.
As a sidenote, I just finished the personal blog ‘assignment’ for my grade 12 class. I have decided that I will run this assignment until just after spring break (about 5 weeks). I would love any and all constructive feedback on this one…here is the pdf:


14 thoughts on “The Stages of Blog Enjoyment…

  1. Interesting and neat.

    At first when I got to the part where you said that posts would be marked for grammar and spelling I heard the student in me groan. But you know what? I feel that ever since I graduated I’ve become more sloppy with grammar, (hopefully it’s not glaringly obvious,) so I decided that this would be great practice to keep grammar “up” in everyday things.

    I’m curious as to why you put such an emphasis on creating and using categories.

    Haha. I don’t have anything else to say. However, the previous paragraph would have been a terrible ending. Take it easy!

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  3. Kailem,

    Thanks for your comments, I am honoured by your presence.

    I agree with you on the ‘grammar groan’. I feel it too, but it is a necessary evil. I think it is an important, if painful, tool to use.
    I feel the same sloppiness setting in over my own writing style and grammar since leaving the university world behind. Like you, I decided this is one way to keep on my toes while also expressing myself.

    Categories. I know it sounds really anal, but part of my emphasis on categories speaks to new requirements for grad.
    It won’t hit until next year, but students will have to present a portfolio in order to graduate…
    so part of this school blogging stuff is me trying to meet some of those requirements for the portfolio stuff. So, categories will come in really handy for that.

    Thanks for the comments, Kailem

  4. After the conversations a long time ago about purposeful blogging it was interesting to see what direction you ended up going in with your blogging assignments. I have continued to be quite structured and have started with a few “what have you learned? posts. I plan on moving towards a discussion, where I provide background information such as I have with my “Body Image? assignment. I am not sure if I should move on to another structured discussion or keep the post topics more open ended as my last semester class suggested. It will be interesting to keep in touch with your class blog to see how things develop.


  5. Graham,

    i agree, this is a strange divergence from my thoughts about purposed blogging…i have told students to try and limit themselves to 3 or less topics for the posts they want graded…but this is in part an experiment. our gov has put in place a new grad requirement, and students must present a grad portfolio (starting next year) in order to graduate. The topics are totally up to them…the gov. claims they could do it all on skateboarding if that is their passion (and it is a BIG portfolio too!) so I think part of my thinking in opening up the assignment was to see if this would work. I am also excited about the potential of students learning about things they want to learn about. Sure, we will do the required course stuff as well, and a bunch of it will be accomplished or worked on at least in doing this. We are focussing alot on writing and using sources…but, as I said above, this is an experiment. We will see how this works out. That is partly why I assigned it for only 5 weeks…to see if there is value in this kind of approach or if students just take the open-ended ness of the assignment and fall through the cracks.
    I will have to take a look at your assignment ideas…Do you link to your classroom via your blog?

    THanks for your comments, Gary. Good to get an outside opinion on this from someone who knows what a blog is!

  6. James,

    At the university we have been learning about an older and more used educational technology (more used than blogging): web quests. My prof has his PhD (one or two of them) in the relationship between technology and education. Regarding web-quests, his research and others’ shows the same trend you have been observing. Students start with great excitement which quickly moves to frustration and apathy. However, as students become comfortable and familiar with the technology and new way of thinking required by the unfamiliar assignment, they move through a stage of warming to the technology back towards a level of sustained interest and moment of excitement.

    While this regards web quests, I have little doubt that you will see the same trend play out in your students’ and their blogs.

    Just thought I’d pass along a possibly encouraging bit of research.

    – Mark

  7. James,

    Most of the time I feel like I have no idea what anything is, let alone a blog. However, I did think based on some of your old posts that you were moving towards a more open direction with some of your class assignments.

    I do wonder about e-portfolios though. If you look at what our LA 8 is doing, in terms of, finished product and videoblogging and the online art critique system and even my tech blog which has been set up as a course content site is seems to me that it would not take that much to use tools such as WordPress to collect and display students work. Podcasts of students poetry, video work, written content a lot seems possible!

    Do you link to your classroom via your blog?
    I guess I am using the site as a content management system and the kids link to it to discuss topics as the blog component of the website.

    The big thing for me is even with what the kids go through during the process of using the technology is that they continue to write and read the writing of their peers and that has to be a good thing!


  8. Mark,

    Thanks for the encouragement. It is nice to hear that I am not the only one thinking along those lines, and that there is some research out there reinforcing my brief classroom experiences around this stuff…

    I gotta tell you, today another student mentioned ‘I think I might like this blogging stuff…’ I just about fell over!

    Perhaps more apathy is being shifted over into a bit of enjoyment….that would be nice.

    Thanks again for the info. I remember the big push on webquests…what fun. I think they are useful things, but have never used one and don’t know if I would create one as they seem so big!

  9. Gary,

    Thanks again for contributing to the conversation.

    I just spent some time over at your La8 blog and it looks pretty amazing!
    I agree with you that the big focus is on writing here. I wonder if students sometimes see through this and discover we are just trying to get them writing more…but I guess it is more than that. We are trying to get them to connect with bigger ideas and conversations going on outside the classroom…those conversations going on in the world out there are valuable for us to learn from and contribute to.
    We are trying to get students to construct their knowledge, and boy is it messy sometimes! It can sometimes just be a real push to try to get students even writing about what they are interested in…I don’t read a lot about that in posts around student centered learning…
    Thanks for your input. I like your optimism around the idea of blogfolios…I think it is a great tool to manipulate to that end….I just found out it appears I will probably be teaching a journalism class next year, complete with student newspaper…and am really wondering about using blogs for it. I don’t want to flog a dead horse, but am wondering if it would be a great medium to use for this and for helping students gather their best work for that grad portfolio I ramble so much about…
    any thoughts or experience on this?

  10. I like the new theme. The LA blog isn’t mine but a collaboration between my wifes LA class and the Middle school tech teacher. He originally had it set up using another tool but my wife wanted more personal control of what was happening so we moved it to WordPress. I will pass your thoughts on to her. I am hoping that the students will add podcasts of their poetry to this soon.
    I agree that is more than just writing but also connecting to bigger ideas and conversations. At the middle school level I also wonder if blogs might be used in the revision process. Having groups of students looking at other students writing and using the a blog to create a work in progress instead of only posting the finished product. This would be an interesting way of looking at the development of writng and revision. Maybe next year.

    We have been playing with putting the middle school newspaper online and although in the past we have had always put the High School Paper online, it has not happened yet this year. I am hoping to work with a theme or perhaps a different tool to get a site that has more of a newspaper feel to it. the hope is to create the paper in both electronic from within some type of blog/management system and also have a pdf copy available for download and the standard paper copy.


  11. Gary,
    did you just mention a school newspaper?
    We need to talk…
    I just pitched a high school journalism course a month or so ago to my admin, and it got approved…so, from what I’ve been hearing from students in terms of student course selection, it sounds like I will be teaching and running a school newspaper starting in the fall.
    I would love any advice you could pass along, as I am not trained in journalism…

    I like your idea of using blogs for tools of revision. I am thinking that will be a big role for them in the journalism course, as well as being a portfolio home for student writing (something I am thinking will be a big part of student marks….compiling a portfolio of articles they have written).

    Again, I would love to hear more about your experience in the whole school newspaper field, as well as any approaches you have found successful. I want this course to be extremely creative, but also extremely practical…(I am pretty sure that you can put those two together when it comes to writing…?)

    Sounds like you are on light speed too with the whole podcast thing…For me, that is just a pipe dream for now. Just wondering what kind of equipment you use for this?


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