Sunday, February 17, 2008

Overcoming Commenting Problems with Learnerblogs

Last week our third graders published their first blog posts. Then they visited our blog pals site and started leaving comments. After I modeled how to leave a comment, they were very eager to begin, (and very intrigued with the need to type the code they saw in the comment box to prove that they are a human and not a spambot.)

Other years, with other classes on other blogging platforms, I had run into the issue of some blog sites not allowing very many consecutive posts from the same person within a short period of time. I assume that system is in place to prevent spambot attacks.

I had hoped to get around it by having my students used linked Gmail accounts as the address they used when posting comments. (If you aren't familiar with linked Gmail accounts, read Kim Cofinio's great post about them here.) However, after about 10 minutes, the students started receiving screens telling them to slow down on their commenting. The linked Gmail addresses weren't solving the problem.

Next, the teacher and I ran around entering first our school email addresses and then my personal address, but that didn't solve the problem. Evidentally, the system was tracking our domain or IP addresses, not the email address.

I don't know how to get around that, except to only have a few students comment per session. That makes it seem like commenting could best be done by a few children at a time in the classroom rather than the entire class in the computer lab.

Another solution is to have more than one class blog to visit. Fortunately, we are in position to use the latter solution. Since this blogpal project has begun, we have added classes in Pennsylvania, Florida and Wisconsin to our blog roll.

Another minor problem we encountered involved comment moderation. We have not paired up the students in this project. They don't have one blog pal; they are free to comment on posts by anyone in the other class. This avoids the problem of students not getting on well with their partner, or of prolific writers being paired with less enthusiastic writers. However, it leaves open the possibility of some children not receiving many responses. Our class decided that we would try, at least this first time, to make certain that every one of our blog pals received at least one comment.

It was a noble goal, but since both class blogs have enabled comment moderation, we couldn't tell which blogs had already been commented on by our class, so we quickly abandoned that strategy. Fortunately, before we had begun commenting, I pointed how how to navigate their blog using the category links and the calendar, so hopefully students whose post was no longer visible on the front page also received comments.

Now we just need to wait for their teacher to approve the comments, and for them to visit our blog.