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Friday, January 13, 2012

Having students blog

[The Chronicle article about the AEA session made it sound like I talked a lot about having students blog but it was really only the last few minutes of my presentation. I wasn't originally even going to talk about that at all (what I posted the other day was all I originally planned to say) but Brad Delong had to cancel so I added more stuff. So here's what I had to say about students blogging...]

I did want to take a few minutes to talk about an entirely different aspect of using blogs in the classroom and that is having students blog. I actually started blogging originally because I was considering having students blog for one of my classes and I figured the best way to learn how this blogging thing works was to do it myself. My perspective is that blogging can be a relatively easy way to get students to do more writing, which is something that has become increasing rare at my university since our classes keep getting bigger. Blogging typically isn’t something that you’re going grade the same way you would grade normal papers – the idea is simply to get students engaging with the material so you might ask them to write about their reaction to readings or to class discussion. Since it won’t be graded for content or style, some faculty may think, well, then what’s the point, but one way to think about it is that student blogging can be a type of formative assessment; that is, it’s low-stakes but it gives you feedback on where your students are at. So by reading what your students write, even if it’s not graded, you can get an idea of what they are thinking (or if they are thinking). And because blog posts are inherently public, many students do still take it more seriously than you might expect for a low-stakes assignment, because they know that someone other than the professor may actually read it – and that can be reinforced if you have students read each other’s blogs and comment on them.

I only had students blog one semester, and it wasn’t really a typical economics class (it was a course for teachers), so I’m not the most super-qualified person to talk about this but if anyone is interested, I did want to at least offer up a few resources. One is a book by Will Richardson, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Richardson gives lots of great advice about getting started with blogs. I'd also suggest checking out edublogs.org, which is a blog platform - so you can have your students create blogs on their site - but more importantly, it's a community of teachers who are having their students blog. So there's lots of information about how to do it from people who are actually doing it themselves.

*** I will add here that since my university just moved to Blackboard 9, which can host blogs and wikis, I am considering giving student blogging another shot, maybe next year. Stay tuned!


  1. Hi,

    Thanks for this article, it really helps me. I am a High School Economics teacher and I have just started a blog. I intend to use the blog as a teaching tool, though blogging is foreign to our part of the world. By the way I am in South Africa. I would very much appreciate if you can visit my blog and advise me on how to improve it. The address is www.dumisanihompashe,org.

    Many thanks,

    Dumisani Hompashe

  2. Hi Dumisani and thanks for reading. Looks like your blog is off to a good start. One thing I found helpful when I was getting started was to read a few articles and blogs about blogging in general (like http://www.problogger.net/), as well as blogs that were already doing what I wanted to do (in my case, those are all blogs outside economics). Good luck and I'll be reading!


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