student and blogs
I’ve made blogs for the Digital Media Aesthetics students, with a mothership linking to the others, where I’m going to try to connect the threads in what they write, hoping to foster conversational blogging and an appreciation of trackbacks. Last semester (in a class on web design and web aesthetics) student’s weblogs counted for 40% of their final grade; this semester the main part of the grade depends on an essay or other sustained project (one pair are planning to build a game) that we’ll be working on through the semester. I’m planning to set aside time for blogging in each class and giving the students very specific tasks in their blogging time, because I want them to have enough experience with this way of writing and working that they can find out whether it’s helpful to them.
Based on my experience last year, I’d say that there are three ways of responding to classroom blogging:
1. You see it, get it instantly, love it and blossom with it. (I’m one of these people)
2. You see it, don’t quite see the point, perhaps you’re quite sceptical, but if you do it for a while you come to find it valuable.
3. You see it, hate it, try it reluctantly and continue to hate it.
The first category is an utter joy to have in the classroom. All you have to do is let them know that blogs exist and they’re off. Nils had redesigned his blog half an hour after I’d set them up – and this was in the evening! I don’t know whether he’ll enjoy writing, of course, but that kind of enthusiasm would thrill any teacher! I was lucky enough to have an enthusiastic blogger from last semester in this semester’s class too, and it was brilliant seeing her explain the pleasures and the usefulness of blogging to other students. She pointed out one advantage in student blogs I hadn’t thought of: she types her lecture notes and so on straight into MoveableType leaving them as drafts rather than publishing them. That way, she has all her notes always available from uni or from home, and they’re searchable.
The second category is definitely the largest, and it’s for this category you need to devise specific blogging tasks and actually spend class time blogging. I’ll post more on what we actually do and what exercises seem to work best as I go.
I’m not quite sure what to do about the third category. There definitely are people who don’t get much out of blogging. But then, there are people who hate written exams or oral presentations, there are people who learn best from discussions with friends and others who learn best from reading or doing. Exposing students to more different ways of learning and thinking and expressing oneself can only be a good thing. There should be a point at which they can opt out of the ones that don’t work for them, though.