Thoughts at the end…. (part 2, mostly about blogging)

One thing I am becoming increasingly convinced about: blogging doesn’t work that well as a teaching tool.

No, scratch that–

I haven’t figure out how to use blogging effectively in my own teaching. At least not quite yet.
I’m working on an essay that will hopefully come out soon that makes part of this argument, and I made another part of this argument in an essay that came out in Kairos last Fall called “When Blogging Goes Bad.” But basically, I just haven’t had that much luck in using blogs in my teaching, especially as a way of facilitating conversation among students in class. I think emailing lists do a much MUCH better job of fostering interaction and discussion, especially as it pertains to readings and class activities. Now, some of that has to do with the way that I’ve used emailing lists in the past and the sort of presumptions I have about what counts as “interaction.” I mean, just because my students post a lot of message on email doesn’t necessarily mean they “interact” more than they do on a blog.

Anyway, my efforts at using a blog collaboratively this semester was in my Writing for the World Wide Web class. Here’s a link to the class blog (which I’ll probably delete soon, btw). I thought it went okay– better than some collaborative experiences I’ve had before, not as well as I hoped (though again, maybe expectations were too high).

One thing that did work reasonably well were the student blogs in my tiny graduate course, Writing Research Theory and Practice. Students kept individual blogs about their “adventures” on the research trail, and while not all students were as diligent with their posting as I would have preferred, I wasn’t as diligent as making use of the blogs in my teaching as I would have preferred. It’s been a crazy semester. See yesterday’s post.

Anyway, I do think this use of blogs– individual student research journals– has some potential. I’m scheduled to teach a section of first year writing in spring term (which actually starts the first week of May), and I think I might try to incorporate an assignment like this into the class. I’ll probably be a bit more specific about what and when I want students to write, and I think I’ll build an “interactive” component into the assignment by requiring students to post comments and/or links to each others’ blogs. We’ll see how it turns out.

But regardless, I really REALLY missed having a class emailing list for these two classes this semester. Besides a lack of interaction (or at least my own perceived version of interaction), it just was kind of hard to get a hold of students on short notice. And there were a couple times this semester where I needed to get a hold of folks in these classes (and btw, these two classes only meet once a week) to inform them of important schedule changes and such. A crazy semester, like I said. See yesterday.

I could (and did) post schedule updates on web sites or blogs, but I wasn’t always confident that students got the information. With an emailing list, I felt a lot more confident (even positive?) that students knew what was going on because 9 out of 10 of my students check their email every day, or at least in a timely fashion before the class meets.

I’m thinking about some ways I can use blogs and other blog-like tools for an online class I’m teaching in the fall, but that’s another story. More end thoughts later.

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