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What's better: work done in books or blogs?

For a couple of years I experimented with having a proportion of written homework done using student blogs. Y10-11 classes would write a composition piece about once every two weeks. I taught them how to set up a Blooger blog, encouraged them to personalise it and to read the blogs of other students. I would always read and comment on every homework done in this way.

Overall students seemed happy to do work in this way and I really should have got some empirical feedback, but I didn't.

On reflection there were a few disadvantages in having students work in this way.

Firstly, I always had the impression that typed work in a blog was less carefully done than it would have been in their exercise books. I am not certain why this was the case. Maybe there were simple typos. Maybe the blog format encouraged fluid writing at the expense of accuracy. Maybe typing encouraged some subtle use of copy-paste/ Google Translate (I never was aware of this at the time). Word-processing does allow for easier redrafting and editing, but may produce more inaccuracy.

Secondly, marking blogged work was less than perfect. I would write a grade and pick out a few corrections to comment on, but obviously could not deal adequately with minor error where I would have liked to. I also tended to be more generous with comments because blogs were public. Sometimes you need to be critical and direct to get the best work in future. (The Craig Revel-Horwood approach!)

Thirdly, with typed work it is harder to tell how hard a pupil tries. Neatness of handwriting is a big indicator of time and care taken. Generally, as I mentioned, blogged work came across as less careful.

Lastly, and this is a minor point, it was a bit harder to keep track of the punctuality of student work. When exercise books were handed in in lesson time students were very reluctant to meet with my disapproval if a book was not there. With blogs, on the other hand, delayed, online disapproval meant students were a little more likely to fail to meet deadlines.

On the positive side, a few students excelled even more using blogs and did take advantage of the presentational opportunities. Students did read other blogs, though less than I had hoped for. Students also got used to blogging in general.

To answer the question posed in the title of this post, I would suggest that hand-written work has the edge over the blog. I would even argue that hand-written still just about trumps word-processing.


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