Teaching with Blogs: Children Commenting

After each child posted to his/her blog, we invited them to comment on each others’ blogs. They had some idea of this already from the comments most had received on their amazon reviews (thanks, Chris!), they had written them in their journals, and so I felt confident that they would write them thoughtfully and sensitively.

But a different problem arose almost immediately — the social dynamics of the classroom being replicated in the commenting. That is, some children were getting multiple comments while others were getting none. As soon as I noticed this, I wrote each child a comment and arranged for each to comment on three other blogs; thus, each child will eventually have at least four comments on their first post.

This made me think about this interesting tension between our desire to give the children more freedom to write when and as they wish while also needing to be aware that by doing so we also give them the freedom to exclude by simply commenting on some blogs and not others. The children are aware of how to write the comments, they are kind and supportive. But this lifelong issue of inclusion and exclusion is much trickier, one I’m sure I’ll be grappling many times as I explore blogs in my classroom.

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12 responses to “Teaching with Blogs: Children Commenting

  1. This is an interesting issue. I have been thinking about the social issues of blogging. For kids, this is how they are growing up. I wonder how this plays out when the blogs go public and the already established social groups are not there because the boundaries are lifted? I would think kids who would not get comments from classmates would get them from the outside world. I am very curious about how this whole social/blog/internet thing will play out for our kids who grow up like this. Will the exclusion issue be part of the blog commuity too? Sorry to babble but we were just talking about issues related to this at school today.

  2. Monica, I have seen a version of this in my son’s second-grade class when the class made a math workbook with word problems that they created themselves. Certain children’s names appeared over and over like this: 1. Ralph saw 6 bugs on the ground, and 1 more came along. How many bugs were there in all? 2. Ralph bought 3 Giants shirts at the store, and his dad gave him 2 more. How many shirts did Ralph have? By reading the math workbook, I could see some of the social dynamics. As a parent–and not Ralph’s mom–it made me kind of sad.

    I see something mentioned about the blogs’ going public. The Internet can be great and it can be so, so mean. I know this is something you’ve thought about very carefully.

  3. Chris

    Only most- darn. I thought I got them all. If you tell me who I missed I’ll make sure to go back and pick them up.

  4. Chris

    Never mind- I found the updated list. Oh and you might want to take a look at the comments on Maxine’s review of Drift House. I feel like a snitch- but she may have used her real name and I don’t know if you were aware of that.

  5. Very interesting! As Franki said, I would think that the dynamic would change some if the boundaries were lifted. It seems in the blogosphere like people commenting on each other’s blogs is still a function of popularity, but at least it’s a popularity based on quality of content. What I’ve also found happens is that each of us has our “fans”, people who like our writing style or our content, and hence comment on our blogs. Often that fan-dom is mutual, but not always. Of course, part of what sparks popularity is seeing that a lot of other people commented on something, so I would think that it would take a wile for the in class popularity thing to filter out.

  6. It’s funny, because I was just talking with someone about how comments are not a good indication of readership; yet gosh darn it, as an adult who should know better I get very pleased at long lists of comments on my blog and sometimes a wee bit jealous of others…

    I find I’m following instinct to comment more (but since I read primaily via bloglines, it’s a two step process and then to remain in a conversation I have to remember where I commented.)

    And then there are the other things — stats, rate on technorati, etc.

    So if this is what the adults are doing — what about kids and what it means? I’m reminded of when I was a kid and there were no “one valentine for every person in the class” rule and how they were counted (who gave to whom, how many, what kind of valentine, etc.)

  7. It is hard to anticipate how folks of all ages may be excluded and marginalized. With my students and their blogs I figure I’ll continue to monitor and try to strike some sort of balance. I can’t, after all, completely protect them from the fact that some may get more comments than others once we open them to the public.

    But then I don’t anticipate great masses of comments on their blogs once we make them public. Some other teachers out there have suggested their kids might comment and some adults will I’m sure, but enough to make a difference? Can’t see it!

    Thanks for all the great comments — I’m feeling very included right now:)

  8. And isn’t part of what we do in school CIVILIZING children? That’s why I think it’s essential that you are monitoring the commenting and even forcing equality (like the “one Valentine for each person in the class, or none at all” rule). How else will they learn to include all, and then have even a ghost of a chance of applying it in their life outside school?

  9. Chris

    Hey Alice (for want of a better name). You’ve got my home e-mail attached to my comment, but I wanted you to know that I really am not some kind of crazy. I didn’t want Maxine’s latest comment on Amazon to go unanswered, but was a bit uncomfortable communicating without a teacher or parent knowing. If you shoot me an e-mail at home to the above e-dress ,without “sales07″, I’ll be glad to give you RL info so as assuage any concerns.

  10. Chris

    oops try my name @ turrisfortis.org

  11. Indeed world hunger has to be solved. ,

  12. Who is conducting the investigation? ,

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