It has been a week full of memes and tagging teachers and lessons on how blogs written by children should be evaluated. Honestly, I am tired of that. And of course, I am against it.
Firstly, we should ask ourselves these questions:
1. What is the purpose of student blogging?
2. What are the reasons for assessing them?
3. If assessing, how can you develop a rubric that covers creativity/round pegs in square holes?
Since I do not have the same teaching values as everyone else (thank god for diversity!) I can only express my own views and share my own classroom practices.
1. Purpose: My students do not blog to showcase their “best work” as others do. They blog to tell me about many things:
– how they learned to play an instrument
– who came to visit and what they did together
– what criteria they would use for a final project
– what ideas they have for the current inquiry unit (yes, I ask for their input so some lessons are done together, based on their views)
– how they liked Skyping with a teacher
– what their reaction is in relation to a lesson, a video that I or their peers posted
– what application they discovered and how we can use it in class
– what their questions are about a specific topic
– to tell me what they are doing while they are ill, at home
and so much more.
Some write more, others less.
Some write nearly daily, others less frequently.
Some have more spelling mistakes (we are second-language learners), others none.
Some use pictures or videos or embed an app (e.g. VoiceThread), others don’t.
Conclusion: Our class blog transfers the idea of community and need for self-expression. It is not yet another assignment that has to be done.
That I encourage them to blog is one thing, but to make them accountable for not blogging enough or according to certain criteria is another. It is, eventually, a personal choice. Don’t WE blog when and if we want to?…
2. Reasons for assessing students can be found at anytime, right? It is in our culture to judge and set kids against criteria (and often against each other – of course, under the surface). But then, I ask, why would anyone blog if they found themselves rated and judged all the time? I asked today on Twitter, “ Would you like to be evaluated based on a rubric”? It would be interesting to see who would.
3. Now the famous rubric. We can develop a 10, 20 –point rubric covering a lot of what one should look in a blog for: language, style, mechanics, multimedia etc. Sure we can do that – we are teachers. We can turn nearly everything into measurable scales. But…just take a look at the diversity of blogs out there. Most would inevitably fail.
The first example that comes to mind is Seth Godin who has thousands of readers. Multimedia? None. Does it have a classical rigorous structure? Not at all. Length? Not even that – his blog posts are some of the shortest on the web. No, Seth, you wouldn’t get maximum of points on my rubric- sorry to disappoint you.
Other examples? John Hagel. Oh boy, he blogs very rarely and his posts…well, loooooooooooong. Really long and always packed with so many ideas to munch on. You always need to reread them and rethink. But oops, no multimedia there. Just plain, articulated, good writing. Sorry for you, John, but neither you will make the 100% on my rubric.
And the list can go on.
So here I am asking: how can a rubric cover this creative, very personal style of blogging? It can’t, in my opinion. Because a rubric also excludes. What is new, interesting and relevant in other ways.
For me, not only in regard to blogging but to teaching in general, this Indian saying tells quite a lot: “If we want to make the elephant grow, we feed him, not weigh him every day.” Let the children write, offer them models, let them engage in conversations – with peers, you, others – and allow them this freedom. Because eventually they would blog better. And better.
*Because J. in the comments asked, I thought of providing a visual proof of how comments change in time without any rubric whatsoever. Feedback and conversations is all it takes for kids to get better – the same way we, as adults, improve.