Blogging and Writing Pedagogy

Today the director of the Center for Writing asked me to give a brief talk on weblogs in writing pedagogy as part of a panel presentation in the Teaching With Writing series. I agreed, of course, but with several questions about the proper approach to take. The talk is only about 10 minutes, and they want me to offer practical ways the instructors in the audience can integrate blogging into their writing courses (or other courses that incorporate writing), which is of course an understandable request, but here's what frustrates me: So often these workshops only scratch the surface. It ends up being a 90-minute discussion of what a weblog is. I'd rather talk about the many issues involved in teaching with weblogs, some of which have been addressed in impressive detail on the Blogging SIG list, including:

  • Having students keep individual blogs v. one community blog for the class, or several small-group blogs: advantages and disadvantages of each
  • Privacy for the students (if real names are used, people can find the students via Google)
  • Requiring weblog posts, or offering the option of keeping a print journal instead
  • The possible feeling on the part of the instructor of being "exposed" if students complain about the class on the blog
  • Outside participation: the fact that anyone outside the class can read the blog and leave comments (and they do)
  • Assessing weblog posts
  • Creating weblog post prompts (and the question of whether there should be prompts, or if the students should have the option to deviate from the prompt topic to a topic of his or her choice)
  • Avoiding "forced blogging"
  • Integrating the weblog into class discussion

Sigh. There's no way I'll be able to cover all of that. It's too bad there can't be workshops for intermediate to advanced techies with some experience using the particular technology on which the workshop centers. I'm one of those people who goes to every workshop I possibly can -- offered through the Center for Writing, my department, or the Center for Teaching and Learning Services, especially the workshops on instructional technology, but others too, and the ones on technology are always the same: the most basic preliminary definition and exploration of a new technology. I leave not knowing anything I didn't already know. I realize it's necessary to make sure no one is lost or confused, and there's not enough time to get into major issues, but I'd still like to see it happen. So, any suggestions for me as I prepare this talk? If you were composing such a talk, what would you cover? If you're new to blogging as it intersects with writing pedagogy, what do you want to know? If it's old hat to you, what would you have appreciated hearing as a newbie?


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helping the blogging neonate

Since this is day 1 of my blog-life, I think I can offer some newbie feedback. If I attended such a talk, I'd like to receive a hard copy of the list of issues you give above, with directions for accessing the details in the Blogging Sig List you mention. During the talk itself, I'd like to hear you address at least a couple of the listed issues. Personally, I'd like the hear the pros and cons of individual vs. group blogs and your opinion on the advisability of using post prompts. I would think that an experienced instructor would be able to integrate the weblog into discussion, but if your experience is that it can be more complicated than it seems, some words of wisdom on that issue would also be appreciated.

additional ideas

I would want to know the components of a good weblog post, for assignment and assessment purposes, as well as where I could go for additional information. Providing a takeaway as Stuart suggested is a good idea. You could list additional resources/research that would be of interest to advanced users, suggestions of where people could go to connect with others in their field, or instructions for how to find them. Oh, what about a blogging taxonomy -- that could be useful to someone who is just starting out.


I went to an online teleconference in blogging through Academic Impressions and realized that I was not a newbie anymore--I would agree with the others about a handout--paper or electronic as well as a list of blogs to read, depending on the course. Will the attendees be able to sit at a computer and read a blog(s) for part of it? Can you give them 15 minutes of blogreading while you stroll the classroom, responding to questions? I always prefer the hands -on approach, especially when technology is involved. Can you set them up on Blogger and talk them through creating a blog themselves (even if they choose to dismantle it later). This may be enough suggestions for several workshops, not a 10 -minute talk--hope it helps. Joanna

This helps SO MUCH!

Thanks, you guys! You're right, Stuart, about integrating the weblog into class discussion, and I'm relieved to be able to cross that off the list. I will definitely do a take-away on this; I'll post it here using Drupal's collaborative book module, and that way I can print out the printer-friendly version for the audience members, and they can come to my blog to access the links I'll provide (and anyone else can access it too, and add comments, which will be good).

I heard from the writing center director today, and she wants me to frame it in terms of objectives, as there will be faculty in many different disciplines in attendance. She suggested a series of statements like, "If your objective is _______, weblogs and/or wikis can help fulfill it by doing ______________."

Lots to do! This talk is only a little over a week away.

subjective objectives

I'm sure that you've already thought of this (or done it), Clancy, but just in case: how about chatting with some people you know in other departments/disciplines about what their objectives would be if they used weblogs? I can imagine what people in the humanities or social sciences might say, but when it comes to microbiologists, well,...

Off the wall question: if this talk is going to be recorded, is there any chance of you putting the audio on the site so we can hear what you came up with? :)


Approach the handout with the attitude that they can process it outside of the session. I've been to a lot of similar workshops where there are great handouts, but all the presenter does is work through them, which often defeats (or at least undermines) the purpose. There are 2 takeaways: your handout and the notes they take. So there'll be some unavoidable crossover, but keep it to a minimum, and they'll get twice as much info as they otherwise would have.

And I'm a big fan of the "if your objective is X, then..." kind of approach. In ten minutes, I think that the best thing you can do is to give them distinctions and the criteria for deciding among them...


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