I really appreciate Warnock’s Guideline 9: which basically says that when it comes to technology less is more. Keep it simple, especially when you are just starting to teach online and use a table (p. 20-21) to be strategic about what you will begin with and get the right mix—then expand later, as you develop your courses. This was super useful advice.
A few years ago I chucked the course management system altogether and experimented with a course done entirely on blogs. I was teaching at a school that had a clunky course management system and clunky faculty support to go with it. I think it was Blackboard, yet there were always issues and there were just endless clicks to get anything done so out of frustration with the school’s course management system and also out of excitement about the pedagogical use of blogs, I did a whole course using linked blogs.
The course was called Redefining America and all of the course content, syllabus, readings, daily agenda/homework was posted on a blog by that name. The class was held in a room where each student had access to a laptop. At the beginning of the class, we read a few articles about the importance of developing your digital literacy skills: how our “information age” requires new literacies; how successful participation in new media culture is the new hidden curriculum (Jenkins); and via Elizabeth Clark, how we needed to “reshape our pedagogy with new uses of the technologies that are changing our personal and professional lives?” (28). We also spent two days settings up our blogs and linking them or following each other.
I had discovered blogs and blogging and the world just looked and smelled sweeterJ I read everything I could find on using blogs in the writing class: Charles Tyson, Elizabeth Clark, Richardson’s definition of blog as a genre. I wanted to know the pedagogical potential of using blogs and blogging in the composition classroom?
According to Richardson “blogs facilitate what I think is a new form of genre that could be called “connective writing,” a form that forces those who do it to read carefully and critically, that demands clarity and cogency in its construction, that is done for a wide audience, and that links to the sources of the ideas expressed.” The interactivity in blogs facilitates collaboration and social writing. How cool is that! He even mapped out the differences between traditional writing and blogging:
writing stops blogging continues
(is an ongoing process)
writing is inside blogging is outside
writing is monologue blogging is conversation
writing is thesis writing is conversation
Write what you know Write to think through what to state truth/facts you know—to question and explore it
Following Charles Tyson I was going to use blogs to create “engaged citizenship” where “students were no longer passive observers but participants in a larger conversation that extended well beyond the walls of the composition classroom” (Tyson 131). My students were also going to understand the power of literacy and why writing matters, like Clark, who writes that her students “are immersed in the immediacy of writing, their power as authors, and their ability to comment publicly in the sphere of intellectual exchange” (34). And finally via Benson and Reyman using blogs in the writing class was going to help me develop audience awareness, genre awareness, and social engagement (the ability to make real-life connections). Oh, and did I mention that putting all the readings as pdfs on the course blog meant this was a zero textbook cost class?
Folks writing about the pedagogical value of blogs in the composition class emphasize the idea that you use blogs to do other things, non-conventional, non-traditional kinds of tasks, you don’t set up a blog to do the same things you do on paper without blogs, you use blogs to encourage different kinds of reading, writing, and thinking¾different “habits of thought.” So did I succeed here? Hm….not sure, I suppose you can check out some of the blogs my students produced are they redefining America? They are linked to the Redefining America course blog. Braden Young, a Chinese-American student from San Francisco’s Chinatown used his final project to help us rethink Chinatown in new ways.
From my experience, here are the benefits of using blogs in our writing classes:
1. Teach students the new literacies they need
2. Expand the walls of the classroom
3. Archive the learning that teachers and students do—provide a place for metacognitive reflection
4. Support different student learning styles
5. Helps students develop rhetorical sensitivity and practice rhetorical analysis
6. Help students engage in ongoing conversations and enact their power as authors
7. Teach students that writing matters i.e. change how students think of themselves in relation to writing
I look forward to reading your posts and if you’ve tried using blogs let me know how it went for you