On my last post about comments, Comments on Commenting, Charles Nelson left a comment and stated,
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 should explain a little more about the context in which I blog with students first. Of course, I would love to have students post well-thought out posts on their own blogs; however, so far I have only used class blogs with students. Last year, I wrote the posts and students and guests wrote comments; this year the students are writing all the posts and then interacting with each other and guests via comments.
This semester's blogging project is a Book and Literature Circle Blog. The students are reading The Little Prince and discussing it in literature circles. Because the students can't hear what has happened in the other groups' discussions, I ask the groups to collaboratively write a post for the blog after finishing their discussion. They usually highlight the most interesting aspect(s) of their discussion and ask other students for their opinions.
After the first week of the Book and Literature Circle Blog, I found that students wrote short comments, and there was no flow between contributions in the comment area. During the second week (this week), I specifically asked students to think about how they could connect their comments to previous ones and build up a conversation.
Thinking about participating in academic discussions, and synthesizing sources in academic writing assignments, I think that by challenging students to make connections between their comments and their classmates' comments, they are learning a valuable communication skill that they may be able to apply to other types of assignments. In his blog post, Charles Nelson made an excellent point:
"But for those of us who are educators, I would say that we need to be careful about being sidetracked by the social contagion of commenting and instead keep the goal of learning in the foreground of our blogging and of our students' blogging."
In conclusion, even though students are interacting through blog comments, I have tried to keep the focus on student learning. Your comments on other ways to keep commenting focused on learning are most welcome!