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Idea for Student Blogs

September 1, 2010

I had a pretty relaxing vacation at the end of August, but school’s opening is here now and I’m pretty excited to begin my next big thing.

Students who take the  Classical World course at Central do so because they’re interested in the ancients and the world they created and inhabited.  Some of them are even taking Latin simultaneously!

I want to tap into this interest and have them create and  guide their own learning on some topic within the curriculum that is potentially their passion for this time period.  I was talking to a colleague of mine about this the other day and through our conversation we thought it may be a cool idea to have each student create and maintain a blog over the course of the semester which is devoted to a curricular topic of their choice.

I find that a lot of my students love the mythology and pageantry of the gods and goddesses of the ancient kingdoms.  Others love the blood, gore, courage and fear of war.  Gladiators are always fascinating and public and personal hygiene during that time period always seems to open eyes (and turn stomachs)!  I don’t want them to feel that there are certain days or times where we learn about and discuss these topics and others.  I want them to know that learning happens all the time and in many self-directed ways.

So I have this nebulous blog idea out there.  The Big Question for this project that I am toying with is “Why do we call the civilizations during this time period ‘classical’?”  It’s not my question; it came from colleagues and it’s in our curriculum guide.  But I think it’s a great question because it creates the link between then and now and it can go a long way to explain why we still care about, and are fascinated by, these people and their achievements.

And when we go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in December for our artifact study I expect that they’ll have prepared and researched in advance so that some of the artifacts from the museum’s collection are familiar to them, and they’ll write on on their blog about what they learned at the Met based on their artifact study.  It’s almost like it’s didactic and reflective all at the same time.

I really want it to work and it’s going to be a journey for me, too.

I am going to be talking to my friends in the IMC and other colleagues over the next week to start to shape it up.  Some of the questions I have are:

  1. How do I do this and get it all set up?  (netvibes and Edublogs)
  2. What kind of structure do I give this in terms of how the kids ultimately address the Big Question and demonstrate learning?
  3. Their writings have to be informed.  The site could become a part of someone else’s PLN.  How do I keep them true to a researched based assignment while at the same time giving them ownership of what they’re writing?
  4. How do I make this authentic to them while at the same time meeting my curricular needs as well as my research skills needs?
  5. How do I have them reach out beyond the four walls of the classroom to make connections with sources which enhance their learning?
  6. How frequently do I have them post to their blog?  What’s the right balance of reflection, research and just plain writing?
  7. Do I give them the option of taking it public if they want, or keep it private?  Both have benefits and drawbacks?
  8. What am I not even thinking of?

As I go through this process I’ll write about it and post things that I create.  I am also looking for any suggestion or experiences you’ve had with this so that I can make this a powerful and fun experience for my students.

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