Blog Project: 2013

So I’m doing the blog project in one section of Calculus for Life Science I, and so far, the students seems to really be embracing it.

I had five students transfer into the class after they heard that there was going to be a huge project worth 50% of the course grade, and that exams were going to be worth a total of 35%.  I spoke to each of them, and made sure they were aware that this didn’t mean the class would be easier, and they would probably have to do more work rather than less.  They still joined our class.  (We also had two students who transferred out, one because he didn’t have the prerequisite).

So I have a lovely class of 17 students, most of whom seem enthusiastic about the blogging project, and at least for now, none of whom are resisting the idea of this nontraditional math assessment.

The blog project will be graded three times, at week 5, week 10, and week 15. I’m calling these “checkpoints” for lack of a better name. For the first checkpoint, students have to schedule a meeting with me to go over their blog. They have to have six posts by then, and they’ll have until the Monday of week 6 to make changes to improve their grade. So next week, I’ve got a bunch of student meetings to look forward to.

The grading scheme for this class is:
Blog Project Checkpoint 1   10%
Blog Project Checkpoint 2   15%
Blog Project Checkpoint 3   25%
Daily Grade Average     15%
Exam Average     25%
Final Exam     10%

One of the things that surprised me with the first time I did the blog project was how much students objected to getting letter grades for the project.  So numerical grades it is.  Not that I feel obligated to give them everything they prefer, but when I’m asking them to come this far out of their comfort zone, I can keep the superficials familiar.

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Standards Based Blogging

It’s an idea that just popped into my head… also Siobhan Curious wrote about how she plans to give her (English) students monthly blog grades.  And in the comments, someone suggested having a separate grade for comments.

So maybe I have some list of blogging standards.  Maybe they include things like content standards, as well technology-mastery standards.  Maybe positive community participation is a standard that can be met by commenting on other students blogs, or by writing response posts (and then you’d get the pingback, so it shows up with the comments).

I don’t think I actually want to call them standards.  This is something different.  Maybe.  Don’t know yet.

I had been thinking about having a midterm blog grade, but I like the idea of splitting the semester into thirds, and having a meeting each time for feedback.

On making changes…

I’ve decided that I just need to start using this blog to get thoughts down quickly, and expand on them as I have time.  For some reason, it’s nerve-wracking to hit publish on a rough idea, but with the crazy state that my life has entered, I’m never going to write anything if I wait till I have time to polish it.

So… I will definitely be doing the blog project again.  I will only be able to do it for one class a semester, because there is no way I can keep up with more than 40 student blogs.  But there are definitely some changes that I will make.  (And, in the spirit of the way I’m changing my blogging style, I’m not going to try to list all the changes I want to make at once!)

First, I will make the blogging project worth 50% of the grade.  It’s a lot of work, and that work should be valued.  And I’ll abandon the weird double-table approach I had last time.  It just confused the students. When I was asking them to do something so far out of their comfort zone as writing about math, I should have recognized that keeping as much as possible familiar would make the students happier.

Stay tuned for other changes!  And here’s a gratuitous picture of my baby:

malcolm