Working on a blog with my 5th graders (www.clc5.edublogs.org), I found that students needed a chance to get past the Facebook-ing phase of creating a digital education community.
In overcoming this obstacle, I employed an old hands-on science trick: Let them mess around (explore) before trying to do anything serious. At first students treated the blog like instant messaging, or just another place for their socialization to continue. After the initial play around time, we started posting more serious assignments, and I encouraged students to be more “professional” with their comments.
One assignment was to make 2 comments over a period of several days. Students were encouraged to expand on the ideas of the author, find and include links that supplement the author’s post, give feedback using the sandwich method (bun, meat, bun), and/or offer some other connection the post helped the reader make.
Also, two of the class jobs are to be bloggers, whose responsibility it is to write posts, comment on other’s posts, and develop ideas for categories and such. I work with them on a one on one basis to help them develop their ideas and generate content. Students take their jobs very seriously and it translates to how they approach the “professionalism” of their work in the digital community. So, when the class has computer time to create a post, the culture has already been created partially by the people who are blogging daily.