What Will You Need?

The lesson works best if you can find a blog post that will prompt vigorous conversation about legitimacy or tone. I have placed a link below (in the "Resources" section) to the post I used in an 11th grade English classroom. You could use material that is age and subject appropriate for your purposes. I projected the blog post, so I did not need to make photocopies. Students each had a laptop.

Description of Project

I asked students to consider a blog post. I did not want them to question the content (which was inherently political). Instead, I asked them to consider how well written it was. Did the blogger set an appropriate tone? Did he provide evidence? Was his argument rational? Did he write in clean, fluid prose? While I read the blog post out loud, I asked students to keep their laptop lids closed. After I had read the post, I asked students to open their lids and begin to share their thoughts about the effectiveness of the blogger's work. The back channel allows everyone to contribute under low threat. After a few minutes, I asked students to lower their lids again. I explained the next part of the lesson, which was to review some of the comments on the post. I told the students that I wanted them to react -- to simply react -- but again, to the writing, not to the content. I made it clear that we were not engaging in a political debate. Students quickly realized that the data was not attributed to any legitimate research source, and that the blogger's tone and attitude were confrontational and abrasive. I did not lead them to this conclusion. In the back channel, they were quickly jumping on various decisions the blogger had made. I wrapped up the lesson with face-to-face discussion. At the end of the period, I asked students to makes guesses about the blogger's age, profession, etc. They were surprised to learn that the blogger (according to his word) was a middle-aged former scout leader with a management position. This lesson generated lively discussion about digital identity and research, and it was the perfect lead-in to our research unit.

Advanced Preparation

  • Make sure that TodaysMeet is not blocked, and set up the discussion room ahead of time.
  • If the original post includes expletives or other inappropriate content, you may need to make adaptations. Give credit to the original source.

Other Possible Tools

  • Moodle Forum
  • Edmodo
  • CoverItLive (website)
  • GoSoapbox.com
  • GDocs (in the document itself, or use the side chat)

Assessments, Rubrics, Guidelines

This was not graded work. If you wanted to assign a grade, I would encourage you to devise a rubric that clarifies intended behaviors, and use it to assess each student's contribution to the back channel and/or face-to-face discussion.

Project Timeline

The lesson took one 49 minute period. I think it would be possible to extend this lesson with a writing reflection (which could itself be a student blog post).

Resources

I transferred the text of the original blog post into a Google Doc so I could remove the expletives and limit the number of comments displayed. I believed this was well within the bounds of Fair Use. The original post can be accessed here.

DEMO