Sitting here this morning as students dive back into the project (their 3rd day being fully in charge of their teams, blogs, writing, design choices, research, analysis, etc), the following thoughts come to mind about the project as a whole:
1. Glad that I finally came up the strategy of this “Alice Project” highlight blog (rather than trying to analyze everything back on the “Chase the Rabbit” class blog.
This also allows me to conveniently share one link with colleagues to collections of student writing, rather than asking them to subscribe to (and keep track of) 13 blogs all at once.
This — by the way — was a very last minute, late-night decision yesterday as I struggled to figure out a simple way to share some great student writing (as various colleagues asked for recommendations on which of the 13 blogs to read) only 2 days into the project. Funny that such an obvious solution was right in front of my eyes the entire time.
2. The quality of student writing — overall — is far better than I hoped it would be so early.
While the obvious — ‘IM’-speak, punctuation, being consistent with the accurate title of Carroll’s classic story, and some basic formatting choices — always need editor attention, the way that their minds are engaging with The Annotated Alice (and all of the various idea ‘rabbits’ they’re beginning to chase) gives me a great deal of confidence.
3. Please to see that a few groups have asked for ‘administrator’ access to their WordPress blog to work on the design/layout of their blogs.
While it is not a necessary step at this point (since content & team processes should dominate their focus), I’m pleased to see kids really find their own visual style…and grasp how that might be a difference-maker when it comes to gathering an audience beyond the 4 walls of the classroom.
Simultaneously, I was thrilled to see one student realize that his early efforts to create a savvy design for his team’s blog could easily become a distraction over time. Such wisdom only comes through trial/error.
4. Comments between student entries — as well as cross-linking — have started showing up.
While the typical comment is to be expected, I’m pleased to see some of the students realize the strategic value (and ‘good will’) that occurs when you begin referencing each other’s blog posts (and ideas) in your own writing. This is the heart, I believe, of any legitimate Web 2.0 project. The tools are valuable, of course, as is the content.
The true game-changer, however, is when they begin to see the symbiotic/exponential impact of blogs linking to blogs linking to blogs (etc). Not only does Google and its algorithm love this sort of behavior when it comes to page ranking ‘cross the Internet, but it’s tremendous strategy for them as they shift to college and collaborative work in professional settings.
5. Process-wise, we seem to be in good shape.
The teams are functioning smoothly during class time (and only minor hints of tension have been mentioned, which is to be expected). Given all the develop-process/techniques focus that happens whenever any major project begins, the kids are looking really graceful and focused. The ‘editors’ are doing great work on behalf of their teams. Likewise, ‘contributors’ are really hitting their stride in terms of research/writing.
And any potential technology issues (laptops, classroom WiFi access, figuring out how to use WordPress, etc) seem to be minor at this point. In other words: so far, so good.