Community is more than 'cliques and comments'
I've only been blogging all on my little own for one week now and I probably should be down in the dumps that no-one, not even my mother, has left a comment. But I'm not. Having run blogs in schools for 18 months now I know that the most important thing is not the number of comments but the number of people who read your work and talk about it.
Take for example, the Musselburgh Grammar Auschwitz blog. This was something that students were reluctant to take to straight away. In fact, the number of entries on the blog that were written by students was high but most of these were being posted by teachers, as "time was precious" and students had "so many assessments that learning how to blog was the least of their worries" - ach, another post on this blog altogether for that one!
Well, that blog is one of the best I have ever seen in terms of what it resulted in:
1: An American school, South Cobb High in Georgia, had an inspired teacher in Carol Fuller who got her kids reading the blog, leaving comments (that were, it has to be said, rarely answered) and creating two plays based on what they had read and seen through a trip blog to the concentration camp.
2: Carol and I have become frequent email buddies, exchanging tips and future project ideas, giving each other the enthusiasm to go one better.
3: The written work created on the trip has been made into a book that will be given and sold (a few hundred copies). However, the blog presence of that work will have been read by over 10,000 by the end of the year. The pupils who know this are blown away by the impact their work is obviously having.
I do get frustrated, though, when students are still not being made aware of the impact of their work because of some kind of 'information control' their teachers have had: not making pupils aware defeats the whole purpose.
Unfortuantely, the stats in the case of the Auschwitz blog are known to few in the student body who participated in the projects. They look at the number of comments and, seeing they are relatively low (180), the students rate the success of the blog accordingly.
In retrospect, I wish I had pushed the issue further - difficult when it's not your class or group of pupils. I hope that one day very soon I will be able to help teachers and students have the ray of understanding that students have had according to the Canadian Blog of Proximal Development:
"That little number in brackets beside the “Comments” hyperlink grew, and sometimes it didn’t. The most important thing is that they all realized that communities are not built on the number of comments one receives on one’s blog but on the quality of engagement with topics that are personally relevant. (In fact, most commented on the work of their peers in their blog entries and not by writing comments, but that’s another entry.) It helped them realize, to use a grade eight student’s words, “how much can happen when you work with others.”