Resources for Developing Blog and Twitter Assignments

Deciding to incorporate blogs or Twitter into your course raises a number of questions that may seem daunting. How will you structure the assignment? How will you connect student work on Twitter or blogs to in-class discussions? As the professor, to what extent will you contribute to the blog or Twitter stream? How will you evaluate student work in these spaces – or will you grade it at all?

CNDLS Graduate Associate Susannah Nadler collected the following set of resources for developing assignments and evaluating student work on blogs and Twitter.  We hope you find it useful. Please let us know in the comments if you have any suggestions of your own to add.

Getting started with student blogs: how and why?

from XKCD (http://xkcd.com/741/)

This article on the Educause website is designed to help professors thinking about setting up blogs in their classrooms, answering questions such as “Will my work increase if I assign blogging in my courses?” and “Will the process of blogging actually change how students think and express their ideas?”

Hillary Miller of Baruch College posted “Lessons from a First-Time Course Blogger,” which contains good advice such as not forgetting about the blog and not assuming that all your students are tech-savvy.

Julie Maloney of ProfHacker writes about “Integrating, Evaluating, and Managing Blogging in the Classroom,” focusing on course planning and what to think about when integrating blogging into a syllabus.

Heidi Ashbaugh of Texas Women’s University writes an article on the Educause website discussing the first time she used student blogging in a course; Heidi explains that she quickly realized that students needed a rubric for how she would judge their blogs.

Getting started with twitter in the classroom: how and why?

Ryan Cordell, Assistant Professor of English at St. Norbert College, writes on ProfHacker about the basics of how (and why) to use twitter in the classroom. His article includes step-by-step instructions of how to get started, complete with screen shots.

In “A Framework for Teaching with Twitter,” Mark Sample of George Mason writes on ProfHacker about the many ways Twitter can be an effective tool both inside and outside the classroom. He also provides a matrix of twitter uses that can help professors think about the role that twitter can play in their course design.

In this follow-up post, Mark Sample provides information about practical implementation of these twitter uses, focusing on six aspects of twitter that professors should think about as they are planning a course: organization, access, frequency, substance, archiving, and assessment.

In his own blog, Mark Sample also writes about an unexpected use his students found for twitter as a “snark valve,” a use that he celebrates because it helps students to take an oppositional stance.

Grading blogs:

There is a large array of rubrics available for professors grading student blogs. Here are some of the good ideas out there:

Mark Sample has a basic 5-point rubric that primarily evaluates critical thinking and engagement. The scale ranks student blog posts as Exceptional, Satisfactory, Underdeveloped, Limited, and No Credit. Read the full rubric here.

Mark Sample also explains in more detail the pedagogy of his class blog. He grades blogs based on the rubric, but also comments regularly on student blogs and asks students to complete a meta-audit midway through, in which they blog about their blogging practices. Read that blog post here.

Serena Carpenter, an Assistant Professor of Newer Media at Arizona State, has a more detailed rubric that includes blog elements such as whether the paragraph/heading structure is “scannable” and whether the post uses keywords and tags. She also assesses the blog’s focus, creativity, and research content. Serena’s website, where she posted the rubric, is here.

An article on the Educause website provides a rubric that assesses student blogs on the following categories: Content, Accuracy, Visual Appearance, and Resource Links. The rubric is on the last page of the article, the rest of which describes methods for professors to assess how well blogging assignments are working within a course.

A lot of professors agreed that it was a best practice to share the grading rubric for blogs with students at the start of the class. One professor has students use the rubric to grade their own blogs before they submit them (the professor grades the blog as well).

Grading twitter use:

Karen Franker at the University of Wisconsin provides this rubric for grading student tweets, assigning number values to content, frequency, hyperlinks, mechanics, and content and contributions. Mark Sample finds this rubric too narrow, but it could be useful in helping professors clarify their pedagogy around twitter.

In this post on “The Difference between Thin and Thick Tweets,” David Silver of San Francisco State provides useful criteria for the kinds of tweets that students using twitter should be tweeting. “Thick” tweets provide two or more layers of information, usually including a hyperlink.

Larger discussions about evaluating student use of digital technology:

Jeff McClurken and Julie Meloney provide further discussion of grading student blogs in “‘How are you going to grade this?’: Evaluating Classroom Blogs.” They discuss their use of rubrics, and suggest the interesting idea of asking students to revise their two best posts and submit them for a separate grade.

On the HASTAC forum, three scholars host a discussion on “Grading 2.0: Evaluation in the Digital Age.” They list several ongoing projects that are addressing the question, “How to grade, assess, teach, learn and structure the learning experience for students in the digital age?”

Alternate grading pedagogies (or, reasons not to grade digital technology assignments):

Barbara Ganley, founder of the nonprofit Digital Explorations, argues here that in order for student blogs to emerge organically, they should not be treated like online portfolios—that is, professors should avoid formally evaluating student blogs.

In another post on grading partnerships in the classroom, Barbara Ganley shows how her class came up with their own grading rubric—a practice that could work for coming up with a rubric for grading blogs or twitter posts as well (although that isn’t what she advocates).

Cathy Davidson, a Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University, wrote a controversial post on the HASTAC forum about grading by contract and crowdsourcing the judgment process. Davidson argues that this grading system teaches students the skill, necessary in the Internet age, of responsibly judging the quality of others’ work and being responsive to feedback about their own work.

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