We had our class blog discussions today and I think they went pretty well. We definitely got into some heated conversations (check out some of the posts under "Girls Only"). Overall the response from the kids was overwhelmingly positive, and there was actually an audible groan when the bell rang after first block--students were asking me if we could come back to the discussions next time.
I think that for the most part the students really did engage the issues that I wanted them to think about and discuss. There are a lot of pretty insightful comments in there; I'm excited to wade through them all systematically.
I want to give my classes a survey about the discussion next time to get a sense of how productive they thought it was. I also want to ask them if they felt that they were truly anonymous while posting or if they felt that their classmates knew who they were. I think I'll also ask them how many of the other students' pseudonyms they were able to figure out. Previously on this blog we discussed whether students were really anonymous--we wondered if they could figure out who their classmates were even with the use of pseudonyms. I think they can in some cases, but overall I think they really are anonymous. Obviously they can figure out some of their friends' pseudonyms, but at several points I heard students saying "Who is that?" or "Who wrote that?" One student in particular mentioned to me as she left that she thought other students felt more comfortable being controversial and saying what they really believed because "no one knows who they are."
I am still convinced that the format itself is an advantage when trying to get students to address controversial or difficult issues. The feeling of anonymity combined with the reduced pressure (students don't have to raise a hand and speak in front of a group) make for a better environment for these kinds of conversations.
If you'd like to check it out for yourself, there are two different discussions, block 1 and block 2.