Semester Begins: Overcoming Tech Obstacles

Welcome to new STJ bloggers. No doubt you are learning new skills very quickly, but take your time to figure it all out, depend on each other, and ask questions of your teacher.

Grade 9 bloggers overcame a snag in the STJ email server(again!). The server simply stopped sending email until our division techies fixed the clog(again!). Emails sent out at 9:15AM Thursday did not get to their inboxes until Friday morning. I was able to sign-up bloggers manually but bloggers need to now edit their user profiles to set their password and website URL, … a task handled by the auto-magic email registration/confirmation before. I see a couple duplicate users/blogs now as students responded to late arriving emails, so I’ll be sorting that out right away.

Grade 10 bloggers for the most part were already registered but hit a snag of a different sort. The topology of the STJ LAN has all school workstations accessing the Internet through a single IP address, a common scenario. This requires me to make sure that the IP address of the STJ outgoing server is entered into the firewall of the stjschool.org incoming server so it doesn’t ban our IP for exceeding the limit on simultaneous connections. Our division techies changed our outgoing IP in December, … stjschool.org firewall now has the correct IP to bypass. Coincidentally, a major failure in the mediterranean undersea Internet cable caused higher loads on many router/server farms so diagnosing the problem had some sluggish “trace-routes” as well. Did you know you can monitor the health of the Internet in real time?

The “tens” are sharing their first posts and comments as well, but we’ll soon be in the regular classroom continuing our study of Julius Caesar. Blogging about Shakespeare, an anachronism that is not so out of place.

I wonder what challenges this week will bring?

Now, the “niners” are adding friends to their RSS aggregators and blogrolls. And sharing their first posts/comments with each other.

I’d like Grade 9s to trackback their first post here.

Bloggiest start to the bloggiest year ever.

What a funny word, “bloggiest”. Should I say it is a “most bloggy” start to the year? Does correct English matter in a blog?

All students I teach have begun a blog, of sorts. For the most part, I’ve insisted the content of the blog must be school or course related, the myriad responses to Macbeth fit this category. Other responses are more like “snowflakes”, snowflakes is my term to describe the phenomena of no two responses to the same prompt being identical.

I aggregate(not related to the term aggravate) RSS feeds from each class to aid in tracking down assigned work. Each student has a spreadsheet I term the Data Collector that averages rubric scores and totals moderated comment feeds, too. I then collect the Data Collectors periodically to determine scores to enter into GradeLogic. The data collectors serve a dual purpose, a foundation to build a grade obviously, but a powerful device to bring a landslide of peer pressure and collaborative assistance on the lazy, slower, or reluctant bloggers. Those that finish first have always shown a willingness to “share their secrets” with others.

Students are also instructed to collect and deposit appropriate comments on each other’s blogs, too. It is proving to be a fine art to learn to comment. Last year I found the aspect of commenting to be more valuable than the creation of the posts. Comments must contain evidence of critical thinking, I said, not simply “gladhanding”. If you troll the blogs you’ll notice the biggest difference right now between a veteran blogger and a newbie is the quality/quantity of appropriate comments. Students complete work earlier to benefit from positive/any attention from peer “commentors”. Any student who doesn’t get their blog post done on time, gets punished by receiving low or no rubric scores from their peers. However, unlike class discussions, the very nature of blogging allows anyone to catch up at any time. The students themselves seem to have an unofficial pecking order for who writes the best comments. They have internalized their own standards for what they will accept as a comment on their blog and are very persuasive at convincing each other to measure up. A few students are positively verbose and comment on all they can. Others choose fewer responses yet measure their words very carefully. Those that finish writing a post early, are left to hustle remaining students.

The grade 10s are shifting their attention to Keyboarding modules for a while, although I keep prodding them about “Turing Tests”. iGod is our most recent fascination.

The grade 9s get their prompts from Mrs. Fraser’s class then I help them become a bit more tech savvy.

The Grade 11s are in the midst of Macbeth and may see no reprieve for at least 2 more weeks, I figure. The more traditional assignments I’ve used for the last 14 years are as appropriate in a blog as they have ever been in my class. Doing it with blogs is just so cool!