Sunday, June 24, 2012

Where to Publish Students' Work?

Since I started using the web in my classes I have become a big fan of publishing and I have always been proud of some of mine and my students' accomplishments in this arena. In the beginning I started blogging. At first, I wrote blog posts myself and asked students to post comments. I could see that this seemed to be a nice and interesting way of engaging students. It elicited a given structure or lexicon, and got their opinion on a given subject. However, it lacked initiative from the part of learners. I felt that I could not limit blogging to comments from the part of students only. Besides that, I found my posts a little predictable and missing the desirable originally.  To be honest, I started getting tired of listening too much of my own of voice as the conversation initiator.  
photo credit: Βethan via photo pin cc
Once I realized that reducing blogging to students comment was not enough, I moved on to the second stage of my publishing efforts. This stage involved getting my students to create blogging entries themselves. As a result, my class blogs blossomed with creativity. Students used their own drawings and images to illustrate posts. Besides that, I could see that they were more interested in reading and commenting on what their friends had written. Comments were not always written, but they always checked and browsed their peers posts. Therefore, there was a change on the cyber landscape. At this point, I also could change my role and started being the one  reacting, giving feedback on my their work. Not only that but I also got some of my online friends to give feedback on my students published content.
However, as time went by, I started realizing that blogging also had some limitations of its own. For example, in a large, prolific group, one easily loses track of content. If you have too many posts, it becomes difficult to keep up with the time line. Posts that are quite recent are not visible and only the most recent ones are displayed on the first page. As result, your audience (students themselves and others) might feel a bit overwhelmed with content. To top it all, as the web evolved, blogging started losing its appeal to younger learners. Their interest moved to platforms that allowed adding peers as friends and all sorts of connections besides mere comments on posts.
It was after realizing that students needed a more connected publishing platform that I went for social networking. So, that is where I am now. I am struggling to find one that suits mine and my students need. Although I really like Facebook, I think it has the drawback of being sometimes too overwhelming for getting an audience to more reflective publishing. Facebook is good to connect a group, but it is limited if you want to teach writing or engage your group in a given activity. I might be wrong, but I think a barrage of posts and updates does not help teaching. Meanwhile I am still looking for a more suitable and "free" social netwoking platform. While I wait, I am using Here is what my students and I have been doing. 


sinikka said...

Hi Jose
Came across your blog, and really liked reading your reflections on publishing students' work. I think I teach older students than yours (mine are 16-19) but I have had similar experiences with blogging. Lately, I have come to the conclusion that individual blogs for good writers is the best medium but differentiation in big groups (often I have 30+ students) then is a problem, especially in a very hectic modular system as we have in Finnish high schools. I used to use Ning when it was still free, but even there the blog got too crowded as students or different groups couldn't have their own separate blogs. So, I am still looking and experimenting to find a feasible solution, a bit like you, I guess. Do you ever find that students who are weaker in their English skills feel nervous and embarrassed to publish their work? Will look at your other posts, too - thank you for sharing!

joseantonio said...

Hi Sinikka,
Thanks a lot for your comment. I agree with you that in larger, older students' groups individual blogs seem to be a good solution. One thing you can do to see all of them at once is to create a page in Page Flakes. A friend of mine does that and it looks really nice. It gives you an update of the latest posts.
I also used Ning while it was free. I had a fantastic experience with it. One thing I loved about it was the fact that students could customize their pages and it worked as a portal. I have also tried 21Classes. This one is also nice, but it has a free version. I might go back to using it and see how if it has improved .
Yes, weaker students feel a bit nervous about publishing. However, they end making great improvement once they have a chance to see how others go about writing and creating content.
Thanks again for your comment.