I last wrote that we were trying to use the assignment module as a tool for the ongoing journaling between each student and myself. I liked the privacy and that the text fields didn't become increasing narrow as the replies nested. Unfortunately, even when I selected the options for my comments to be in-line, it didn't work. My comments would not intersperse between their comments and the children found the whole venture very confusing.
Thankfully, pdzone left me a comment to my earlier post, suggesting I try the wiki module for my journals. I set it up with each student having their own wiki. The wikis are private; only the student and I can see or edit the wiki.
The students were glad we were abandoning the assignment-style journals and they loved the term wiki-wiki, so they were game to give it a try. Thus far, the wiki seem to be working. Students were a bit confused at first about how to add to the journal- the edit button wasn't an obvious choice, since in their minds, they weren't editing.
Students were also confused by what they saw after hitting the edit button. The cause of the problem is that to make the journals easier to read, I make my replies italic and blue-- the students are using an older web browser that doesn't give them formatting options. Since my text is formatted, when students click the edit button, my posts are encased in html coding. However, I showed them how to just click at the top of the edit box, add a few blank rows, and type their response, and they quickly adapted.
Our only real difficulty came last weekend when I went to make my first replies. I was using Firefox version 18.104.22.168. It appears that this new version doesn't play well with the Moodle wiki. I could start new wikis using it, but if I tried to edit an existing wiki, my additions disappeared when I hit the save button. After a frustrating ten minutes, I thought to switch to Netscape. This solved the problem.
I am excited that the wiki option is working because it is quicker; I spend less time waiting for Moodle pages to load. It seems to meet all our needs and since the pages don't fill as quickly, I won't need to keep switching us to a fresh set up. This is important since my students want to continue journaling after the school year is over. I love the idea, but don't want to spend a lot of time on upkeep. Now the challenge is to see if edit notification is available via email or RSS.