Thursday, November 11, 2010

If Your Students Posts Are Not Being Commented On By Other Students, Their Audience is Not Authentic!

I had a great and very valuable discussion with Melanie McBride a couple days ago. It centered around commenting on students blog posts. Melanie made the point that students need to be creating peer networks through their blogging and commenting just like we adults do. She wrote that teachers using their social capital to generate comments is "an artificial model of how community works...peer developed networks are what kids need to learn."

This brought to the front something that has been bothering me for a while. The original idea was for Comments4Kids to be a way to identify student work that could be commented on. My plan was and still is to have my students leave comments on these posts. Of course I like to leave comments on the posts too, but the value in the process needs to be experienced by my students too. 

Do you really believe that students writing for other teachers is any different than writing for their own teacher? How authentic is the audience when they are virtual teachers? For our students to write for an authentic audience, that audience has to be their peers. Peers that have no "educational" agenda. Peers that are reading the posts because they are interested in what the author has to write.

I am not saying you should not comment on student blogs. What I am saying is the students won't find the value in your comments like they will from another student. Make time for your students to comment.


  1. Agh! Ate my comment.

    Basically, I kind of disagree. There is value in student commenting, but it depends on what they are commenting on. Is it thoughts on a story read in class? Then a student comment on their thoughts on the story might be more valuable than a different teacher offering their opinion. However, the more perspectives on a story can only help a student grow a deeper understanding and appreciation of the text.

    If the blog is about their passion project (20 Time), does it matter if the person who comments is an adult or student? If they share the same passion, age doesn't matter.

    Lastly, sending blogs out to the Internet for anyone to comment on is very authentic. You never know who will grab the post and share from there. I encourage students to read other student blogs and comment and they do. It's when anyone outside of their community, regardless of age, comments that really gets them excited. Our job as connected educators is to expand and connect communities.

    1. Thanks Nick for the push back. If one of my students had a network like I do this would be a harder post to defend. :)

      Having written this several years ago I had to reread my post and try to find where it came from. The thing is, I still believe it is spot on. You are correct that the possibility of creating an authentic conversation is there, but the reality is it doesn't seem to be happening very often. Not unlike the lottery, there are many more losers than winners.

      Comments4Kids, Quadblogging and even just a teacher guiding students to particular posts really is an artificial way for students to create or find networks. Yes, it does happen sometimes (and yes I think it is still both valuable and important that we give students these experiences.) The problem is I see very little evidence that suggests students are creating networks from these interactions.

      I would love to find ways to better help my students create networks, the thing is I can't even seem to do that with the adult teachers in my building who can easily tap into my great network.

    2. Okay... I feel like I might need to weigh in this morning...

      Does it lack authenticity or is it modelling the way?

      I am thinking back to my own beginning experiences with SM and how I got started. Colleagues were quick to support... and they often guided me to a particular teacher or post that might better help me in my quest... as a teacher or as a learner. So I guess I need time to reflect and think a little more... but my guess is that with a great coach to guide, support, and model for us we just will get lost.

      I too am struggling Will with the simple fact that while teachers are excited and blown away by my connections... it isn't enough for them to want to start venturing out on their own. I wish that my colleagues could see the value in being connected.

      I will say this... the learning from others has been exponential... it has shaped who I am as a teacher & learner. Perhaps it isn't about the tools .. but the mindset...and subsequently habits of mind that are what really become the tipping point.

      So much to think about... thanks for the 'deep thoughts' this chilly Sunday morning:)

    3. This isn't me questioning the value of modeling or even requiring specific student activities. Instead it is a question of are we lying to ourselves? It sounds great when we say our students write because they have authentic audiences, I just question if that is really true.

    4. I think if we chalk it up solely to providing an authentic audience we taking away for the learning...

      It is almost as if a new post is being explored...

      What does it mean to be authentic?

      Thank you... for always being willing to ask the deep questions and challenge the process...need to go away and think some more:)

  2. I'm with you. My issue is that students in my room just want to write posts and get comments - but DON'T WANT TO WRITE COMMENTS on other students' posts! My 7th graders don't see the "pay it forward" idea, and haven't figured out (even though I keep saying it) that if they comment on someone's post and include a link to their own, they can get more visitors and comments that way, too. Thanks for this post - I need to incorporate so much time in class for kids to do what we're asking them to do... I'll keep modeling by leaving posts and tweeting them to teacher followers, but I need to afford time in class for them to read others and those on the hashtag too...

    1. I look at blog writing as a pretty niche thing. We really shouldn't be surprised that many students don't want to do it or see any real value. The thing is, it is still better than just writing for the teacher.