In the movie, The Hunt For Red October, the captain of the Soviet submarine, making sure of his defection, recalled a story of when Cortez reached the new world, he burned his ships, and as a result his men were well motived to suceed. I am not ready to start burning ships, or bridges, but moving forward is the only direction.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how versatile and adaptable that weblogs can really be, and took time to reflect on how to utilize them in my classroom. While I appreciate the comments and critiques that can be a big part of blogging, I think that the most productive and largest potential for a class weblog is that of an information repository, growing into an interactive resource.
My intent is to set up and use a weblog in two phases. The first phase is for students to be able to retrieve daily notes, practice assessments, and other information about their mathematics class, grade team, and AVID program. If a student is absent or cannot participate, they can pull up notes and agendas in order to keep up with the class while they were out. This keeps the students as observers and users, similar to the Web 1.0.
Secondly, there will need to be rules and expectations set up, understood, and committed to by the students, fellow teachers, parents, and other users. I want to avoid chaos in the weblog, and absolutely will not accept any form of cyber-bullying as part of the weblog. Students can use this to ask questions, collaborate to get answers and procedures to get answers, and share ideas among all the participants.
There are several potential downsides to the weblog. First and most obvious is making sure that all students have access to the weblog. Given that many students and their families do not have a computer or internet access, there needs to be a venue for these students to gain access and therefore, benefit from the weblog.
Second, there have been incidents where teacher founded weblogs have been used to discuss people in a negative manner, and there have been severe repercussions to these teachers. In some instances, the consequences, in my opinion, were just, and in others there was an over-reaction. The blog will not be used to discuss individuals at any time, thus avoiding these situations.
Lastly, the weblog needs to be able to incorporate fun, which will prompt all kinds of visitors to the site. A problem of the week (or day), common questions about the work in class, quotes from famous people, this day in the history of mathematics, homework solutions, and test help should all be incorporated as well. The weblog needs to be promoted and talked about frequently, so that the users will see it as a real resource and a benefit for their learning.
Stay tuned - this should be fun!