Saturday, May 17, 2008

Comments on Commenting

Right now the Comment Challenge is in full swing! I have to admit that although I haven't been doing the daily challenges, I have tried to be just a little more active by reading, writing, and commenting on blogs. Thank you to everyone who has commented on my blog lately, especially new commenters on my blog, Sue and Ines.

The issue of commenting came up during the SMiELT session earlier this year when the blogging group considered the value of comments. I posted a message to the forum of the group, in response to some questions. I am going to repost my answers below, adding a bit of context to each of them. If you're a member of SMiELT, you can view the entire thread here.

Do you think commenting is an important part of blogging or not?

As a co-moderator of Blogging4Educators, I was busy making comments on participants blogs. I found that this was a really meaningful way to engage in conversations with others. After I started using coComment, I noticed my comments were showing up on blogs via the coComment widgets, and this seemed to be a powerful way to make connections and to discover new blogs. As a result, I posted my opinion to the discussion forum:

Yes, commenting is an important part of blogging! Blogging is all about making connections and continuing conversations. The interaction through commenting makes blogging really fun! Recently, I started using coComment which allows you to save, track, and tag all of the conversations you are commenting on around the web. Displaying a coComment widget with your current comments may be just one of the ways we can encourage commenting.

If you do, what can we as teachers do to encourage commenting?

With one of my classes, we had one blog where students continued interacting with each other outside of class, and we were often visited by people outside of the class. Through online communities of practice, many teachers and students from around the world dropped by our blog and left comments. This really seemed to pique students' interest and to motivate them to use and to visit the blog. Therefore, I thought that one great way to encourage commenting was to invite people outside the class to get involved too, so I wrote these ideas in the SMiELT discussion forum:

I think Gabriela had a good idea when she said that teachers could ask for other teachers and students with more blogging experience to comment on the blog too. As teachers, we can encourage commenting by modeling the types of comments that we expect from students. If students have been reading blogs, then they will have a better idea about commenting too.

Also, commenting is a skill that students need some guidance on. For instance, as part of this SMiELT course, we watched the video about using comments to start conversations, and then we had a task to practice what we learned from it. Another useful resource about commenting is How to Comment Like a King or Queen by Vicki Davis. Just like anything else, we can’t expect that students already know how to do it; we should provide some information to them.

Assignment ideas:

One way to encourage commenting might be to have a mystery guest on the blog, or a guest who could be interviewed via the blog. Then, students can read the post, and add comments and questions. Here is an example of an interview with a wedding cake designer. Of course the comments could have been deeper, and we could have gotten more into the cultural differences, but we all have to start somewhere!

Thanks for reading my reflections on commenting. Even though comments are important, they aren't everything -- they are just one piece of the blogging puzzle. So, what do you think -- are comments important? If so, how can we encourage commenting? Do you have any ideas on encouraging students to comment?


Kevin said...

I am following the thread of Three Links Out from the Comment Challenge and return to your wonderful blog.
I think one of the challenges for anyone using blogs with students is how to create a culture of thoughtful comments. It's not easy.
They think it is over with: This is cool. Or Good job.
I will have to read the Vicki article.

Charles Nelson said...

Hi Mary,

I concur with Kevin that it's not easy, and I agree with you that commenting is something that students need guidance on. But I would ask, Why have students commenting on each other's blog when they can post a more thoughtful response on their own blog? I wrote a little more about this at

Claire Thompson said...

Hi Mary,
I enjoyed reading your reflections on commenting and I like this line from your last paragraph; Even though comments are important, they aren't everything -- they are just one piece of the blogging puzzle." I'm all for comments, but as you allude to, there has to be a balance. Thoughtful posts are an important part of blogging too. I've posted my thoughts on commenting here. P.S. I found my way here from Charles Nelson's post.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia Ora Mary.

Hey, I just dropped in to say hello.

Some good things happening on your blog. I am impressed with your array of useful links - especially the one on how to blog like a King or Queen. I'll check it out.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Mary H said...

Thank you fellow Comment Challengers Kevin, Charles, Claire, and Blogger in Middle Earth for your comments! I hope to write a follow-up post based on your comments because you all gave me some interesting things to reflect on.