Blogging in My Classroom

A few weeks ago, I read The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging. They make a wonderful point about exigency that’s very relevant to this post:

a bunch of OK posts is probably better than a perfect post that took so long to compose the event was old news by the time you hit ‘submit’

I had what I’m pretty sure were a bunch of thoughts as I was reading the book about how it relates to what I’m doing with blogging in my classroom. And now, several weeks later, all I have to go on to try to construct that blog post are some sketchy notes I took that barely make sense to me now.

Writing quickly is a challenge for me. I like lengthy, essay-like blog posts that I write and rewrite over a period of a few days. That’s anathema to the HPCGtB folks.  (More HPCGtB advice: if you can’t say it in 800 words, break it into two posts.)

I use blogging as a way to think, and that’s also one way I want my students to explore blogging. And sometimes thinking takes time. I appreciate this advice:

a good blog errs on the side of being strong. Don’t couch your voice in qualifiers. Writing is a risk. You’re putting your ideas out there to see what will happen.

But at the same time, exploratory thinking may be mired in qualifiers, and that’s ok. I don’t believe it’s necessary to make outrageous statements that you may not even fully agree with yourself just in order “to see what will happen.”

I decided to read this book after I saw it was required reading in Sean Michael Morris’s Digital Composition course at Marylhurst University.  I’m thinking about revising my freshman comp course to focus more on digital composition for fall, and Morris’s syllabus and course really inspire me.

I don’t think I would require this book in my course, but there are things in it that I’d like to share with my students:

Rules like “Blog often” and “Perfect is the enemy of done”

Gretchen Rubin’s checklist for writing posts:

  • Am I being funny?
  • Am I giving smart information?
  • Am I revealing my character?
  • Am I telling stories?
  • Am I giving a picture of what it’s like to live in New York City?
  • Am I linking to other bloggers?

The suggestion to find an ideal reader: “think about blogging as writing an email to a friend. Better yet, an email to a really cool, clever friend with whom you have a great and witty rapport.”

I often think about my friend Elizabeth when I’m writing blog posts. She is one of the smartest and wittiest people I’ve ever met, and I write everything better when I have her in mind as a reader.

But some of their other advice doesn’t really fit how I blog or how some of my favorite bloggers blog.

I do want to tweak the blogging assignments for my classes this fall. I made several mistakes in spring, mostly centered around assuming that students were already at least familiar with blogging and that they would take the time to explore what blogging is all about and check out my “recommended but not required” online blogging resources before they jumped in and started blogging themselves.

Some reflections from last semester’s mixed blogging results:

I need to revise course requirements to incorporate more frequent and lower-stakes blogging. Once a week isn’t enough for courses where the blog is the center of learning and our main activity. Students in those courses ended up writing HUGE posts that probably should have been broken into 3-4 different posts.

I need to be more explicit about teaching blogging as a genre. Many of my students aren’t blog readers, so it’s a new and unfamiliar genre for them. The students who read and enjoy blogs outside of school turned out to be the best bloggers because they had a much better understanding of the genre and some interesting ideas for what they wanted to do with their blogs. They had successful models in mind. I need to curate a blog collection for my students to read, study, discuss before they begin blogging.

I need to show how hyperlinks, images, tags, and formatting enhance posts.

I need to teach my students about copyright and the ethical and legal use of other people’s images and words. There really is this sense that if it’s on the internet, it’s ok to copy and paste it to another site, and that’s just not the case.

I need to require comments. I resisted requiring comments last semester because I think that too many requirements and too much structure defeats the purpose of blogging as an authentic activity. But the purpose of blogging—as opposed to writing papers to be delivered only to the teacher—is to build community, to share ideas, to read and comment on what others think. Commenting therefore seems to me to be an essential part of what blogging is all about. (Linking is essential for similar reasons.)

I also intended for my blog to be more of a hub for class activity than it ended up being. I myself didn’t have the regular blogging habit that I want my students to develop, and I didn’t write as many posts responding to and reflecting on their posts as I intended to. Now that I’m finishing up a thirty-day blog challenge, I have to agree with what Gretchen Rubin  says in The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging:

Weirdly, it’s easier to blog every day than it is to blog three or four times a week. You get in a rhythm, you don’t procrastinate, you load content into your blog, you loosen up, you’ll be taken more seriously by readers, and you stay engaged with your subject and with what’s happening on your blog.

One response to “Blogging in My Classroom”

  1. Thanks for the shout out, Elisabeth! I’m flattered! I too often think of you as a reader when I write blog entries (and not just because I think you and perhaps your mother are some of the few readers of my blog who are not related to me!) And when I think of you as a reader, I tend to cut a lot of sentences out. Apparently in my head you are a reader who doesn’t like extraneous words. Huh. 🙂

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