I suspect that the blogging I used to have the students doing in previous iterations of this course probably saved a lot of student email. Students read each others blogs, asked questions and answered questions in them, and when they succeeded in a task they’d struggled with they blogged how they’d solved the problem.

The reason I haven’t had them blogging this year is that
a) Blogging was great with 30 students. I could track their blogs and I did a great job connecting the blogs and cross-linking and showing off good student posts and stuff. When the class grew to around 70 students I was overwhelmed – I don’t think it’s possible to keep track of such a large group. Even if you put a lot of extra time into genuinely following 70 blogs, I’m not sure you’d mentally be able to facilitate such a group in the way I think you need to do to get most students keen enough to put some effort into their blogs. Some students will get it instantly, of course. Others need more practice and experience to see what good it’ll do them. It’s helping them use their blogs to discuss and network that’s the challenge.
b) I’ve been very ambivalent to blogging in the last few months. I.e. blogging when you’re a slightly established academic rather than a grad student seems to be more about self-presentation than about communication. Maybe it always was in a way but it didn’t feel like it.

So maybe what I need to do is figure out a way of doing blogs – or something similar – in a large group. Perhaps there’d be a way of having students share the task of nurturing the network?

7 thoughts on “not doing student blogging

  1. Thomas

    Would group-blogs do the trick? I find publishing to a blog with others both helps me focus on the topic of the blog and the high rate of posting encourages me to post myself. At least it would be fewer blogs to monitor, but maybe not fewer posts… Problem still not solved.

    And then, maybe a wiki would do the trick for your students. One large course wiki would probably be better than scattered blogs.

  2. Shaded

    Sounds like a forum to this old school hacker.

    Blogs are nothing more than forums that authenticate one person and are search engine friendly.

  3. AndreSC

    Perhaps you are sensing the need for some renewal of perceptions and assumptions of what exactly blogging is, and isn’t about. What seems in short supply is intelligent ways of navigating all this stuff, some new augmented intelligence technology beyond basic aggregation. Having said that I’ve experienced similar frustrations down the line after trying to introduce design students to online community phenomenon like Deviant Art ñ but many of our difficulties have to do with trying to bridge the digital divide.

    Blogging is now past the early-adopters only phase, and blogging for blogging’s sake a bit last decade, what are the most exciting developments and properties of the new in hyper media? Just slapping 2.0 on blogging? What real impact can be had on the world?

    Agree with Shaded, and forums are nothing but bulletin boards, which in turn are not much more than cave-wall paintings, aren’t they? :- ) Blogging is about 200 000 years old then by my guestimate, no wonder the novelty wears off.

  4. Steve Shimanek

    AndreSC, I’m sure that you know more about this than I do, but I thought I would “testify” about ABDMom’s blog, which has given my wife and I insight into the whole procedure of looking for an academic post across the Atlantic. Were this painted on a cave, obviously we would have to first get on an oceanliner, buy a ticket to the cave and hope that a whole host of other people had done likewise so that we could get the additional value of ‘peer review’ from her reading community. I think you’re right that reflecting on new ways to navigate is worthwhile — an example might be flickr’s recent tweaking of their interestingness algorithm to be more than just a popularity contest weighted by user-input.

  5. Francois Lachance

    Jill, you might want to revisit the young person who wrote “most of the time I just relax and figure, fine, they’ll see I’m just a regular person, that’ll help them achieve what they want without thinking they need to be perfect. I’m so young a teacher anyway I figure I don’t have to prove my authority yet.” — your own comments to an entry on Weez Blog back in August of 03.
    http://weez.oyzon.com/archives/000115.html

    Behind the pedagogical impluse to inquire about group logistics and scales of blogging experience
    might be a wee bit of nostalgia. “For what?” you may ask. For a time when you thought you had time enough and world.

    Your research seems to be turning towards blogging as process rather than blog as product. Hence I suspect a wee bit of hesitation. I wonder if
    “Itís helping them use their blogs to discuss and network thatís the challenge.”
    could not be restated to “help them network and discuss” _tout court_ and thus evidence of blogging experience is but one of the criteria for students to demonstrate that they have indeed networked and discussed. i.e. with a larger number of students, stand back from the process and assess a selection of products that they have submitted in portfolio form to you as prof. The spin off value from such an approach is that students become responsible for their own personal archive (i.e. documenting their own interactions blog and otherwise) and such personal archives are vital for networking and discussion. It might be worth investing a little time in creating a portfolio of examples that students can review as they build their own.

    Such an approach doesn’t replace a sense of being there when they actually take those steps in their evolution as social and intellectual beings. But from a phenomenological perspective that was all it was, a sense of being there.

  6. Jill

    FranÁois, you’re amazing. Helping me reconnect with my previous self!? Thank you!

    I think one thing that happened between then and now is that I’ve become far more aware of those that have authority over me. I mean, now I have to attend all these meetings (well, OK, not that many, few enough that I’m still kind of scared of them) with The Professors who are all still twenty or thirty years older than me and far more experienced and published, and I have to – or I feel I have to – prove my seriousness to them.

    It’s not exactly that I feel like a fraud. There’s definitely a fragility though, a figure-out-what-I-am sort of going on.

  7. Niklas

    Perhaps you could pick a topic (let’s say blogging for instance) and make a group blogg about that topic, urging the students to post and be creative.

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