Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Feedback from the Researchers

Right before the holiday break I collected research papers from my 11th and 12th grade students.  I’ve blogged about the process we used in earlier posts here, here, and here.  As our students munched on doughnuts on the last day of class, I asked them to respond to the research process.  Here are some of their comments:

On Using RSS Feeds and Furl to keep up with News Articles:
“I felt like the furl was a critical tool for my research paper.  Normally, if I were to try to save a link from one of the electronic resources provided by the school, it would not work when I would try to visit it at a later date.  When that happens I have to start all over again, which is very frustrating.  Furl not only saved my link and kept it working; it also gave the option for me to rate my source and leave a mental note about it.”
If I was taking notes on books then it would be hard for me to go back to the book and find more information.  With the links I could go right back to the article and get all the information I could out of my sources.”
“Let it be known that I despise research papers in every way, shape, and form, so my opinion is fairly slanted.  However, compared to other research papers, this one wasn't so bad.  I liked using Furl and Bloglines to collect and catalogue the information; it was much better than reading through tons of really boring books.”
“I thought that researching through bloglines and furl was a new but better and easier way to research. I especially liked using furl because it was better to save the information and have access to it later without having to look for it again. I thought that the whole process of learning how to do this was kind of fun in its own way. This method was very easy to learn and use you should definitely continue to use this.”
“I think Furl and Bloglines were both very useful to me. It was easy to find new information with Bloglines then save it to the list with Furl.”
“Finding information on bloglines and furl was amazing.  It made it so much easier to do it that way.  With bloglines you could just type something in and it would find articles for you.  Furl was great too, all you did was "furl it" by clicking the furl button, and it saved the web address, and let you label it, it was so much more organized and easier to do than any another method.”

On Using Blog Posts Rather Than Note Cards:
I used blog posts instead of note cards, as much as I didn't like doing this in the end it was worth it because it helped me organize my outline which helped me organize my paper.”
I really liked the blog posts.  It was a good way to get your ideas together and it forced you to write instead of just putting down quotes.  For my final draft I pretty much used all my blog posts and revised my paper and wrote an intro and conclusion.  It took me no more than an hour.  It made writing the paper really easy because all the work was broken up in the course of a week.”
At first, I really wasn't sure how we were supposed to write the blogs, so that was a bit frustrating, but other than that, it wasn't too bad.  It also helped later on because I was able to just copy and paste a few sections from the blogs directly into the paper.”
“The blog posts were very easy to use once you were ready to actually write the paper. Since they were categorized into five categories that covered what the paper should contain all you really had to do was transfer the information from the blog posts and put it in the paper.”
“Blog posting was excellent. I practically had my whole paper written by the 5th post. It was a lot more effective for me to do this kind of note taking rather than write on notecards, which I have always hated to do. Plus, blogging made it easier to express my opinion and write out exactly what I wanted to say than write a summary of the article I was reading.”
“I had never done something like a blog post before as a form of research. I thought it worked well. It was better than taking notes on note cards that seemed kind of pointless and boring to me.”
“I found the blog post to be easier and more convenient, with blog post you don’t have to worry about losing it because its posted and its always there if you need to reference to it or change it.  You can access it form home and you don’t have to wait for a teacher to give it back to you.”

On Getting Feedback During the Drafting Process through the Weblog:
“The feedback was very useful, it is better when feedback is given during the writing process rather than after.  By being given feedback during the writing process I was able to fix the paper as I went along, rather then go back to it after I was finished.”
“The only thing I would change is to not schedule it during the last week before break. This was possible the worst week ever in terms of free time.”
“I didn’t receive much feedback through the weblog at all, so I prefer to make a rough draft and have feedback written all over my paper instead.  There is usually more feedback on a rough draft than the weblog and more feedback helps me write a better research paper.”
“I think that the feedback through the weblogs was much more effective than the other method of handing in rough drafts. I am glad that we used this instead that way you don't have to look at more papers.”
“I like being able to post then get the feedback online. It's easier to read for one, and it’s usually instant so we know how to improve it/what to change right away.”
“I like using the weblogs and posting. Feedback is crucial for me to complete a paper properly. By gradually getting feedback my papers can be even better. I can make changes easily and get feedback quickly too. Having the weblog was definitely the most helpful tool for writing the research paper.”
“The feedback was good, especially on the blog post; I could access it anytime and see what people or teachers had to say.  I got some good advice as to what I should do to make my paper better.”

And General Advice:
I enjoyed the paper but thought that it may have been more useful if we concentrated a little more on the first blog about the topic.  Students should be aware that the blog should be taken seriously because if they find that they are not passionate about a topic early on, they will be able to change it which will make the process a lot easier. “

Summary and Reflection:  Generally, students seem to find using Furl and the RSS Box on their individual weblogs to be an extremely useful tool.  The use of a news aggregator (we used Bloglines) seemed to be more of a mixed bag.  I think it was more useful for students who had topics that were very current and generating news updates almost daily (for instance this one and this one).  Not all of the students chose to use blog posts as a form of note taking, but those that did were very pleased with the results.  Next time, I’ll spend a little more time having everyone practice doing blog posts by getting them familiar with reading them, writing them, and using the rubric.
A couple of students weren’t happy with getting feedback via the weblog as opposed to a full printed rough draft, but overall students seemed to find this method more useful and I certainly found that I had a better handle on what they were writing about and that I could more easily address problems as they occurred.
Finally, I learned that outlines for research papers are a waste of time for both me and the students and I will no longer require them.  By giving them feedback as they write, I can identify organizational problems as they occur.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Research Blogging-The Early Returns are In

About two thirds of my students opted to complete blog posts rather than note cards for the research process.  The results of these posts were uneven as I expected.  Grading the first posts even caused me to make a couple of revisions to the rubric which can be viewed here.  Unfortunately, too many didn’t include much of an opinion or analysis of the material they were presenting.  This is understandable since they are used to doing academic writing where the source material and not their own voice is usually emphasized.
What excites me is when I read a first post like this one which I highlighted as a model for the class.  I’m hoping my students are going to be able to maintain this passion and that it translates into research papers with voice and character.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Blogging the Research Process: A Blog Post Rubric

As mentioned in an earlier post, I'm trying to incorporate blogging in the research process in the hope that it will result in a better final product. I'm thinking that by requiring students to invest more in the note taking process through blogging, that they will be better informed and feel more confident when writing their drafts.
My students spent last week gathering articles on a topic of their choosing that deals with a problem in society. They displayed these articles on their individual weblogs through an RSS box. This week they are being given the choice between using traditional note cards, or incorporating their research into five blogs. I have given them a sample article to blog about, but the directions are coming from me on this and not them.

For the next step, they will have to choose the direction their blog posts will take. This will obviously be based on the articles they have gathered. I will also be presenting a rubric to them that I hope I can use in other situations as well. You are welcome to use and adapt this rubric (I've adapted some of the language from the New Jersey HSPA Language Arts Rubric). All I ask is that you give me some feedback on what worked and what didn't so that we all can develop an evaluation instrument that might prove useful in the classroom.