Although I’ve only been blogging semi-regularly for a few months now, I’ve been using blogs in the classroom for three years. At first I used in my Journalism classes as a means to bring current events to my students and later to introduce them to the power of bloggers in this new media environment. This year I have used them for writing instruction more than ever before. Manila (the software company we use at my school) has added a few new features that make this even more effective. Through access controls, each student can decide who gets to see each post. They can set it up so that all members of the site will see the post (which means everyone in our class) they can set it so that a cohort group (an assigned group of members or peers) can see it, or so that managing editors can see it (in this case just the student and teacher).
For me this has changed the way I respond to their writing and the way students respond to one another, and I have to say (despite some bugs that still need to be worked out), I’m very pleased with the results.
I don't collect rough drafts anymore. I have my students submit an introduction and body paragraphs (for an essay) and have them give each other feedback online at the same time I'm giving them feedback. The kids have found this to be a much more fluid and personal process. After they get this initial feedback, they can submit revisions and updates for feedback from me by creating a new post (this generates an e-mail that I receive). As you might imagine, not every student takes advantage of this, but over a recent four-day weekend I had one student post and revise her scene multiple times. This is the original writing assignment. Here is the student's original scene and here is my feedback. After this, she posted again (and I commented) and then she posted once more (and I commented).
To me this is responding to writing in a more realistic way. Yes, there's a deadline, but there is much more flexibility built into the process and I found it even less work intensive then carrying around a stack of papers to write on.