My Most Recent Thoughts About Student Blogging

I have spent the last few months processing this temptation to integrate student blogging into my instructional practice. I have some medium-rare ideas. And some Iron Chef colleagues who do a nice job of focusing my thoughts and cooking medium-rare ideas. Like this very evening in a conversation with two such colleagues:

 

 

Like… bingo. That’s it.

 

So, here’s are my goals. Here’s what I’d like to accomplish:

A. I want to give the students a meaningful way to explore math topics, or think mathematically when they aren’t in my classroom. I don’t trust traditional homework problems to achieve this goal. I think there is value in understanding that in class we spend an hour exploring thoughts and ideas that have real value during that hour and the other 23 hours of the day. I’d like to create SOME mechanism that enforces that.

B. I want to give the students a chance to develop their own voice when talking, writing, and reasoning mathematically. Too often, I use gimmicky phrases, memorized lingo, and rigid vocabulary to guide student language. There are wonderful reasons for this. But, I want them to develop their own voice, too. I’d like to see them develop their own ability to verbalize a mathematical idea and…

C. I want to open the students’ ideas up to each other and to the greater math and educational community. I feel like this will offer a level of authenticity that simply having the students submit their work to me wouldn’t. Also, I want them to be able to think about the mathematical statements of another student and respond. I want to break away from this idea that the students produce work simply for my review. A mathematical statement isn’t good and valuable simply because I say so.

I think blogging can do that. I am sure other things can do that. Perhaps other things that are easier. Or less risky. Or have undergone better battle-testing. Or…

 

And as for the second question. The evidence would be a gradual improvement in the math discourse in class. More people talking, and talking better. Explorations becoming richer. Questions becoming an increasingly regular occurrence. Students trusting each other, and themselves, and not looking at me as the lone mathematical authority in the room. We would begin to talk and explore together, and sense-making would become a bigger and bigger part of what we do.

I told you. Medium-rare ideas.

I’m hoping that some more of my Iron Chef colleagues will take my ideas, season them, finish cooking them, and help me turn them into an action plan.

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7 thoughts on “My Most Recent Thoughts About Student Blogging

  1. To me what it sounds like you are looking for is not actually blogging but writing, communicating, and reflecting in mathematics. Only C is directly addressing blogging; the other two can be achieved just as well by incorporating math reports into your curriculum. Our students are already used to writing lab reports for their science classes; I think it is actually good reinforcement for them to also write math reports. You can create homework assignments and actual reports for them to write where they have to show their communication, including using a logical structure, multiple forms of representation, and proper mathematical representation.

    Here is a small example of a report that students did in my class last year: http://inpursuitofnerdiness.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/des-man-and-the-best-report-ever/

    I have many examples and would be happy to share if you think you want more ideas regarding report writing in math. 🙂

    • I really like the DesMan idea. I’m also intrigued by the reporting process you described. This may have been in there and I just missed it, but is there any expectation that the students will read (and react in some way) to each other’s reports?

      • i haven’t explicitly done that, but it is certainly something i could incorporate. sometimes my students write reallllly long reports though — the last report of the year i had a bunch of 15-pagers! that was sort of torture to grade, haha. still some of the reports were so impressive i couldn’t complain too much.

        but certainly smaller pieces of writing it would be a great idea to have students assess each other; they can even use my rubric perhaps. that is actually a really nice idea for formative assessment. i do formative writing assignments as well, to prepare them for summative assessment writing assignments. maybe an idea is to have them critique each other’s writing for formative assignments.

        in the past, i’ve given tips about writing using examples from actual student reports. here’s an example that i gave to the students after their first summative report in 10th grade: http://www.scribd.com/doc/237413174/What-Makes-a-Good-Criterion-C?secret_password=uFQ36XboYulpsARYPHYm

        it’s a good idea for me in the future to have students nominate things from other student’s papers, explain why they nominated that section, and then create a document like this based on great formative assessment work, and give this to them before the summative assessment.

        thanks for making me think even more about this!

  2. One thing I’m doing this year is asking the students to write for the newspaper, either public or school paper, detailing the results of a survey or explaining the ways in which they’ve thought about a topic, perhaps the solution to a puzzle. Since they aren’t writing for themselves but for an audience that is simultaneously better or worse at math, they will have to re-phrase and paraphrase and diagram. Similar to a Numberphile or Veritasium video.

    • I like the way you put that. “Simultaneously better or worse at math…”

      Consideration of audience is a big deal. I get a lot students who want to gloss over unclear writing with “Well, geez… you know what I mean.” For them to have to write to an audience that they can’t count on to “know what they mean” requires a better attention to detail. It’s like when I had the students make instructional video. You could see the students perception of the task change when they realized that the primary audience of an instructional video is a confused person.

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