Blog Overload [in the Chronicle]

You should all read what Kara M. Dawson has to say about using blogs in her teaching. I agree with much of it; in fact, I'm using Moodle instead of blogs in my classes this semester for some of these same reasons. I'm particularly interested in others' responses to the article, and I'll keep an eye on Technorati for posts about it. How about this passage (her very first recommendation for teaching with blogs):

Keep a Blog Yourself

I have a blog. I just don't use it. I am too busy reading other people's blogs, responding to student postings, and writing for outlets that may one day secure me a full professorship. How can I expect my students to devote time to something that I don't find important enough to do myself? So if you're going to require students to create a blog, you should probably have an active one, too.

Why is it that a lot of us have been thinking and saying this for years, but back in 2004 it was controversial, shaming, alienating, what have you? (Blogging is a clique!, etc.) Yet it sounds so sensible when Dawson says it here. Of course, I thought it was sensible in 2004 too, so maybe I'm biased, but I am interested to see how this statement goes over now.

Oh, and this is simple brilliance: "All students were responsible for demonstrating their interaction with class content from week to week and sharing the results." They could do this, she argues, with concept mapping, podcasting, blogging, digital video, or who knows how else. I like this plan.


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Have to disagree

I think it makes good sense for teachers to keep a blog of their own for a time if they plan to use blogs in the classroom so that they have a better idea of what they are asking of their students. But there are so many assignments we have students do in our writing classes that we don't do ourselves on a regular basis. How many FYW teachers regularly write the kinds of papers they require of their students? Why do blogs have to be different?

Still, I tend to agree with what Dawson has to say about the blog hope that has flowed through pedagogy. I use blogs not because I have great expectations of "their potential for communication, for creating global connections, for expressing oneself, for extending face-to-face discussions, and for building community in online environments," but simply because I find them a better tool for sharing and responding to writing in the classroom than Blackboard or WebCT forums. And there is something to be said for that little nudge that should be at the back of students minds that they are writing for a potential public audience whether anyone outside of the class reads them or not.

So before buying into the "blog not hope" Clancy, if you do have students engage in electronic discourse, I recommend just considering whether you like blog space or discussion forums better :-)

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