My relationship with student blog posts started as all positive. I loved reading student's reflections on process and looking at images of their artistic journey. I based a huge chunk of my grades on these posts, which made total sense: the questions I asked students to write about were growth-oriented and related to the development of conceptual thinking. It seemed perfect, until I noticed it wasn't. At least not for everyone.
The first thing I noticed was that blogging wasn't the best fit for all my students - especially those with special needs (IEP official and otherwise). Writing, photographing and posting was a barrier to some of these students, so I modified assignments on an individual basis.
Next I noticed that some students just seemed blog-adverse. When I questioned them about their very apparent lack of timely blogging they said things like:
"We have to write in every other class."
"I hate doing blogs."
"I just forget about it."
Whiners, I thought. They're just being lazy. Then I really thought about it and I decided this; what I value in blog posts isn't the physical product, it's the thinking. I realized that some other form of reflection might work better for my students, so I decided to look for a range of reflection options.
I came up with two: conferences and presentations. I've tried both over the course of first semester. Both types have the same content as blog post but are public to different degrees. I've asked students to present by sharing their work in front of the class or with their table groups. What I like about these options is that they provide the student with immediate feedback from me and from their peers. The reflection about the work unfolds organically, through the give and take of conversation and it benefits everyone in the group, not just the artist. I'm also able to grade them as they happen, which is nice. Conferences are similar, but just involve me and the student. I like conferences because they're very personal, which is very conducive to sharing meaningful feedback and getting to know students better.
The main thing I've learned by opening up reflection in my classroom is something I already knew; choice is inclusive. My students responded positively to being given a choice about how to present their learning and are able to pick what works best for them. Blogs are a great option for reflection but having other choices available in addition is what I'll do in the future.
I'm an high school art teacher who's really interested in student choice and creating opportunities for self expression. I'm also a writer for The Art of Education and co-author of The Open Art Room.