Thoughts on "Blogs as a Tool for Teaching"

I’m guessing that at least some people coming to this blog for the first time are here because of an article I have in the June 24 Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Information Technology Supplement.” It kind of shows up in the back of that section, so I don’t know how many people have (or ever will) read it. But if you’re here because you did read it, thanks.

This was an interesting writing experience for me in a couple of different ways, so I thought I’d mention a few things about it here:

  • This came about because I was contacted by an editor at the CHE who either read or had heard of an article I had in the online academic journal Kairos called “When Blogging Goes Bad: A Cautionary Tale About Blogs, Email Lists, Discussion, and Interaction” and asked me if I wanted to write a piece about teaching with blogs. Considering the fact that the CHE has quite a broad reach and they were going to pay me, I of course agreed.
  • I thought the CHE folks were nice to work with, actually.
  • If I ever teach an undergraduate class at EMU about the “publishing process” as it really happens, I’ll show them the various drafts and the give-and-take with the editors. It’s interesting because where I started this essay months ago is not the same where I ended up. For the most part, that’s a good thing.
  • Regrets? A few, maybe. I (of course!) did not have a lot of space to work with, and there were a few places where the editor was asking me “to explain that more” and I really just couldn’t explain enough. I mean, these things are complicated. As a result, there are a few places where I think the piece reads a bit stiff to me.
  • I have no idea what the deal is with the “drummer boys” graphic on page B34.
  • I still basically agree with the points I think I am trying to make, though one thing I wish I had talked about more in this essay (and in the Kairos piece, for that matter) is the extent to which improving blogging tools make certain aspects of blogging, such as interaction, better than they were. Well, maybe that can be the next essay.

Oh yeah: there’s other essays in this issue, too.

I don’t have any use for it in a small writing class (at least I don’t think I do…), but these “clickers” that are surfacing in lecture hall classes are really interesting. It’s kind of a gimmick, sure, but I bet it really does keep students interested. Interestingly though, some of the other articles are talking about using technologies (video, for example) as a “hook” to keep students (the proverbial “MTV generation?”) interested.

There’s a piece called “Hold a Socratic Chair” that I thought was pretty interesting because I’m going to be teaching an all online class for the first time in the fall. It’s about a guy who teaches at Concord University School of Law, which offers a completely online degree. And then there’s a bunch of stuff I’ll need to read later, a piece by Janet Murray, an interestingly titled essay called “Why Many Faculty Members Aren’t Excited About Technology,” an article about course management tools that might come in handy for a different project, and some other things I’m not going to mention now.

Anyway, go buy it now. Good reading.

Update:
Jeff’s question in his comment prompted me to ask the folks at the CHE if I could reprint/repost my essay here. They said I could republish it anywhere I wanted as long as I acknowledged that it first appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education. So there ya go.

My scan of the article (saved as a PDF file)
is pretty bad, so if anyone has an electronic version of this from the CHE web site, I’d appreciate it if you could send it to me. Thanks in advance.