In Sarah Hurlburt's June 2008 article"Defining Tools for a New Learning Space: Writing and Reading Class Blogs" she poses this important question about students bloggers:
"Are there other ways besides comment quotas to enforce student reading?"
Hurlburt answers this question:
"When a topic or assignment is directly connected to a larger assessment
exercise, such as an exam or a paper, students also read each others’ posts
as a way of studying the material through exposure to different approaches
and observations. Obviously, there is a risk that some of the material
posted will perpetuate incorrect information, but it must also be noted that
for a post to actually propagate a mistake, its errors must be indistinguishable to
the average reader. This is often not the case – in fact, the process of
identifying which material is useful and on target and
which material lacks the necessary substance significantly contributes to
the larger goal of developing critical thinking skills. Furthermore, as long
as the instructor comments, even if no one else from the course does, the
instructor can ask questions that will point both the original author and
any other readers in the right direction, without necessarily rejecting the
post out of hand."
As a teacher, I usually assign comment quotas to mys students, such as every student must read and comment on at least two other student blogs per week and follow up on any comments on their personal blog to earn full points for the week. If students are blogging about novels we are reading, they are usually blogging about personal connections they are having with the novel and answering discussions questions about the novel in their blogs. When students know that by reading other students' blogs, it will help them study for a final exam, they have a vested interest. Next year I will be working on a collaborative blog between my students and students from another state, NY. They will be working as groups to create blogs that can be considered "grass roots campaigns" for global development issues they feel strongly about. I predict that because they do not know these students at all, they will be scouring the blogs to find out what they "look" like virtually and to see if they have any shared interests. Since we won't be letting the students email, commenting by teachers and students is one of onnly 2 ways that they will be able to receive feedback (the other way will be a discussion board). Leaving comments will hopefully be at an all time high because I find students comment more on a blog when they don't know the person f2f, they are more comfortable commenting when there is anonymity and no assumptions based on physical appearance.