What Students Think About Blogging

A few months ago I taught the blogging unit, TechnoBlog, to several Grade 7 and 8 classes. After the unit was complete I designed a survey to gain student feedback. Some of the questions had a list of choices, while others were open ended. The results were interesting – so I thought I would share them with you.

blogging survey

Student responses to a blogging unit.

Students and Commenting

I noticed at the beginning of the blogging unit students struggled to write meaningful, polite comments. During the first commenting lesson on peers’ blog posts common responses were limited to #yolo or hey. This was surprising because these comments were typed immediately after I lead a class discussion about Commenting Guidelines and had modelled how to comment appropriately on a post. Once students realized they needed to write a meaningful comment, many shifted to typing generic statements such as “I like it” or “That is good”. It took time, but slowly students were able to develop their communication skills. By the end of the unit, discussions were taking place among authors and fellow readers in the Comment section of a post. The change was astounding!

I was interested to know what students found the most challenging and easiest part of commenting. There were two questions: When commenting on posts what did you find the most challenging? When commenting on posts what did you find the easiest? Each question had the same six choices: Saying something meaningful, Being polite, Writing comments that reflect you in a positive way, Staying on topic, Avoiding sarcasm, and Clearly stating ideas.

Here are their responses:

When commenting on posts what did you find the most challenging?

  • 28% stated that “Saying something meaningful” was the most challenging.
  • 25% stated that “Avoiding sarcasm” was the most challenging.
  • 15% stated that “Clearly stating ideas” was the most challenging.
  • 13% stated that “Staying on topic” was the most challenging.
  • 11% stated that “Being polite” was the most challenging.
  • 9% stated that “Writing comments that reflect you in a positive way” was the most challenging.

When commenting on posts what did you find the easiest?

  • 24% stated that “Staying on topic” was the easiest.
  • 21% stated that “Being polite” was the easiest.
  • 15% stated that “Clearly stating ideas” was the easiest.
  • 15% stated that “Saying something meaningful” was the easiest.
  • 14% stated that “Writing comments that reflect you in a positive way” was the easiest.
  • 11% stated that “Avoiding sarcasm” was the easiest.

I found that student responses to the two questions supported my observations. I had noticed during the unit, that the comments that had to be edited (or sometimes deleted) were most often sarcastic comments. These comments could easily be interpreted by others as cruel or mean. Students had to learn that there is a difference in meaning when the same words are typed or spoken. When a person speaks to someone the tone of voice, body language, and facial expression help a person understand the meaning of the words. However, when typing those cues are absent and the same words can easily be misconstrued. Even when LOL is added after the statement, the comment can still be misinterpreted. It took time to develop this understanding.

I was not surprised by the fact that students reported that staying on topic was the easiest part of commenting. During the unit, I never had to request a student edit or delete a comment because it was unrelated to the post. All comments written by students related to the topic of the post.

Students and Blogging

There was a shift in students’ attitude towards writing blog posts and an increase in how much they wrote over the course of the unit. The majority of students wrote three sentences in their first blog post. Many sighed (or groaned aloud) when they were encouraged to write more. However, with each new post, students were found to write longer posts. I noticed that several students began to finish their posts at home, while other students even started to create their own posts.

I was interested to know what students found the most challenging and easiest part of blogging. There were two questions: When writing a post what did you find the most challenging? When writing a post what did you find the easiest? Each question had the same nine choices: Coming up with an idea, Sharing personal experiences, Being polite yet honest, Maintaining the privacy of others, Writing something interesting, Using an attention grabbing title, Spelling and grammar errors, Formatting the post, and Tagging the post. Students could select more than one choice.

Here are their responses:

When writing a post what did you find the most challenging?

  • 16% stated that “Coming up with an idea” was the most challenging.
  • 14% stated that “Writing something interesting” was the most challenging.
  • 14% stated that “Spelling and grammar errors” was the most challenging.
  • 12% stated that “Sharing personal experiences” was the most challenging.
  • 10% stated that “Using an attention grabbing title” was the most challenging.
  • 10% stated that “Being polite yet honest” was the most challenging.
  • 9% stated that “Tagging the post” was the most challenging.
  • 10% stated that “Formatting the post” was the most challenging.
  • 4% stated that “Maintaining the privacy of others” was the most challenging.

When writing a post what did you find the easiest?

  • 17% stated that “Coming up with an idea” was the easiest.
  • 11% stated that “Tagging the post” was the easiest.
  • 11% stated that “Maintaining the privacy of others” was the easiest.
  • 11% stated that “Writing something interesting” was the easiest.
  • 10% stated that “Sharing personal experiences” was the easiest.
  • 10% stated that “Using an attention grabbing title” was the most challenging.
  • 10% stated that “Being polite yet honest” was the easiest.
  • 10% stated that “Spelling and grammar errors” was the easiest.
  • 9% stated that “Formatting the post” was the easiest.

The blogging responses do not reveal one particular area of strength or weakness. Instead, how students respond to writing seems to be unique. Where one person finds coming up with an idea difficult, another person finds that easy. Where one person struggles with spelling and grammar errors, another finds the mechanics of writing simple. I suspect that this would be true of any writing assignment – not just blogging.

Advice to Bloggers

I had evaluated students’ blog posts at the end of the unit – which was one way to assess learning. However, I wanted to extend my understanding of what students had learned from the unit. For this reason I asked the question, “What advice would you give to a blogger to help them write good posts and comment?” I thought this type of question would emphasize what students thought was important and also indicate which message they had taken away from the blogging lessons. I have posted some of the responses to show the range.

What advice would you give to a blogger to help them write good posts and comment?

  • Be creative and blog about something you love.
  • Write about things you love, not what your friends love. You may think you’re the only one interested in a certain topic, but there will always be at least a few other people who share a common interest with you.
  • Think about what you want to post about before you start your blog!
  • Be honest, have fun, and let the words flow.
  • Make sure you read over your comments and posts before sharing them<./li>
  • Make sure you have a good attention grabbing title that will interest the reader instantly.
  • Format your posts so the reader can skim through it, yet find all the information they need.
  • Be nice and don’t swear or be mean.
  • When you comment make sure it’s short, polite, and meaningful. If you can’t say think of anything nice to say, DON’T SAY ANYTHING.
  • Stay on task.

As a teacher, I was pleased to see that students had learned something about digital citizenship and the writing process.

There were three more open ended questions on the survey. I will post their responses in my next blog post.

Christa Love

About Christa Love

Christa Love, Vice President - Christa Love has a passion for education and technology. A graduate from Brock University she has an Honors Bachelor of Arts in Child Development, Bachelor of Education in Primary and Junior divisions, and Masters of Education in the area of Curriculum Studies. Her work at TechnoKids Inc. began more than ten years ago as an instructor at a local learning center. Since that time she has operated the summer camp program, taught at the research and development center at John Knox Christian School, trained educators throughout the province on issues related to technology integration, and overseen the curriculum development of hundreds of technology projects. In recent years, Christa has become the vice president of TechnoKids Inc.