Has the blog post replaced the worksheet?

I find myself in a weird in-between sort of place. You know the one, where you are trying to implement a major shift in how you operate your classes but are effectively trying to not wear yourself out by reinventing everything you do. On the one hand I have a planbook that has scripts for lessons for my four preps that sure would be easy to follow for yet another year. But I also have a completely revamped assessment system based on standards and learning targets that demands that I find opportunities for students to meet the standards.

My compromise between the old and the new is to still assign some of the good-old activities (read that as worksheets, study guides, etc.) but to not give credit at all for their completion. Instead, I’m aiming higher and expecting students to earn grades in my class by using those lower-level activities as starting points for blog posts, or as we’ve started calling them in class, artifacts.

Artifacts is a term that I stole from my teacher ed. days when I had to put together a nasty, large (paper!) portfolio binder to prove how I met the teacher ed. standards even though I was doing an end-around the system via an alternative certification program. The teaching standards were specific so I could create “artifacts” to show that I met each standard.

We’ve got standards in my classes, too, so I’m having the kids create artifacts as well. They’ve set up their own blogs on Blogger and WordPress. We’re now in the process of turning simple blog posts into artifacts by learning to use some of the web 2.0 tools to embed media in our blogs to get beyond the limits of text-only posts.

So far I’m loving the blog-to-prove-you-know-it scheme. Student blog posts show up in my Reader and I evaluate them for the standards that each post is designed to address, including communication, self-reflection, and use of technology standards.  Not every student is on board with the system just yet, and certainly parents have had a few questions about the way that the standards-based system works, but overall I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from students.  I might even make a few teacher converts once I have some more experience with this whole standards-based thing.

So has the blog post replaced the worksheet in my classes? For the most part, yes, but there is obviously some value in helping students have a good solid grasp of basic concepts before asking them to write a post or create media showing what they know.  Some of the good-old activities are still good for that.

7 thoughts on “Has the blog post replaced the worksheet?

  1. Frank Noschese

    Chris, I know it’s still the start of the year, but, do you have any samples of student work you would be able to share? Are the students commenting on each others blogs? Thanks for sharing!

  2. jerrid kruse

    I hope the blog replaces the worksheet in the most important way. That instead of the student filling in blanks in response to your questions, the student expresses their own understanding of the topic. Instead of “here’s what you want to hear”, it becomes, “here’s what I know and can discuss about the topic”.

    Good luck. Don’t let the technology get in the way! Keep your eyes on the prize: increased student thinking and learning!

  3. 21stcenturychem

    Not directly related, but one of the sessions I attended at NSTA Philly was on managing a digital curriculum. The presenters taught physics at a public 1:1 mac school. The coolest thing was that the students created their own worksheets from photos. Meaning, the students took pictures of their experimental setup, and annotated them (with labels, measurements, data, etc) and demonstrated what they learned. All digitally. I thought it was pretty slick. Now that I think back, it was pretty SBG friendly approach, so I think I will contact those presenters.

    More directly, I think having students demonstrate their knowledge in their own form and format will result in more meaningful and lasting learning, compared to generic one-size-fits-most worksheets.

  4. Dalton McCurdy

    I completely relate to your post above. I feel like I am currently making the exact same transition. I have the old lesson plans that could easily allow me to coast through the year with much less daily planning and forethought, but I too have recently revamped my own approach to the material. 21st century learning requires an incorporation of more technology, collaboration, and independent creativity. My class just started putting together their own blogs as well and my plan is very similar to yours. Glad to hear your kids are (for the most part) on board….What grade students do you teach? I would be interested in hearing more about how the student blogging project goes.

  5. Chris Ludwig Post author

    @Frank- I’m still deciding whether or not to publish a list of my students’ blogs but I probably will once we are really up and running. So far there has not been too much commenting between students, but I hope that will change soon.

    @Jerrid- I shared your comment with classes today and saw some lightbulbs go on- that they could write about what they learned, not (just) what they thought I expected them to write. Hopefully they’ll be encouraged to be a bit more reflective in their posts.

    @21stcenturychem- I like the self-generated worksheet idea. We took some pictures of our separation of mixtures chemistry labs, but didn’t do a lot of labeling of the images. Might do that next time.

    @Dalton- Good luck to you, too, in changing your classroom practice. As for my classes, I tend to have 11th and 12th graders most of the time. I’ll try to keep posting about how the blogging is going.

  6. Dalton McCurdy

    @chris- setting up student blogs on blogger did you run into any issue getting around privacy issues. I was hoping that students could get away with just using first names and supplying minimal background info. Many of the students have had an issue signing on without going through a verification page where they need to provide a mobile phone number where they can receive a verification text. Is this something you had to deal with to? Any way to get around this?

  7. Chris Ludwig Post author

    @Dalton- I had some concerns about the privacy issue as well, but as far as I know, we did not run afoul of district policies. Some of the students had Blogger or WordPress accounts from other classes, so this has been done before by others at my school. In Blogger, at least, there is an option to have the verification sent to email rather than a phone. Overall, WordPress seemed the least invasive, if you have a choice. Blogger was better for those of my students who are in two of my classes since they can easily create separate blogs for each class.


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