For the second semester running, I have not succeeded in getting my students enthused about blogging. Let’s be frank: most of them hate it, only a very few of them actually post assignments on time and only the guy who already was an active blogger uses it as I’d intended. And this is in a course where the topic of the first half of the course is blogging, where they have to include two blog posts in their portfolios at the end of the semester, thus contributing to their grade, and where I’ve worked hard to make sure there are interesting assignments, we’ve blogged in class, I’ve posted feedback, asked them to give each other feedback etc etc etc.

Basically they just ignore it all. And they’re smart interested students. Who are bizarrely enough writing papers about blogging while saying they don’t really understand blogging. Because you’ve only posted three posts to your own blog, I tell them, tearing my hair out.

Kara Dawson thinks the initial novelty of blogs, that made students enjoy them a few years ago, has simply worn off:

Sure, blogs have changed the face of communication, and brought new opportunities, new relationships, new forms of recognition, and even new earning potential to many people. But not to everyone.

Certainly not to my two classes of graduate students who ended the fall semester blogged down and blogged out. In the past, when I had required students to write blog postings in my courses, the assignment was at least a novelty. But last semester, it just seemed a snore.

To my surprise, after our American and Canadian exchange students showed the class FaceBook, most of them signed up and are using it quite actively. Perhaps simply because it still has that novelty?

35 thoughts on “the novelty of blogs is wearing off?

  1. Torger ?ge Sinnes


    Just wanted to say that from my point of view, your teaching methods sounds like they’re really innovative, challenging and up-to-date. My experience from taking a course in IT here at H¯gskulen i Volda, is that the teacher doesn’t manage to stay on top of the development within the subject she’s teaching. The technical solutions that where chosen to deliver the assignments were also not particulary good. (ftp-servers for uploading websites that the teacher didn’t know the address of, complaints from the teacher when I delivered assignments in .pdf or .odt format, instead of .doc….)

    It’s a shame that you’re not going to teach the next year (or are you?), or else I’d considered taking one of your courses if they were available to attend over the net.

    But keep up what you’re doing! 🙂 Hopefully your students will be enlightened and realize what they’re missing out on!

    Torger ?ge Sinnes

  2. Jill

    Torger, I’m glad I sound innovative and cool, but you know, I’ve been caught out not knowing how to upload stuff to the student server (because the IT setup for students is quite different to my own and so it’s a different server, different deal, different permissions), and I don’t know whether I’d be able to open an .odt file, not having tried it, and I have absolutely no idea how the PayPrint or whatever thing works for students or what exactly they have to do to find their grades. “Ask the secretary!” I say. No doubt some of my students swear and leave comments about it on other blogs 😉

    But thanks anyway!


  3. Ali

    I still find that I struggle with the problem that the notion of blogs is *too* innovative for most of my students. This may be a quirk of historians, as opposed to other disciplines, but I fiond students to be remarkably resistant to the concept of blogging. Some deny that they know what blogs are (which I sincerley doubt), while others see them as the domain of the technologically inclined.

    I’m teaching a seminar on internet research later today in a history theroy and practice course – I’ll see whether I can shed any further light on students’ thoughts during that time.

  4. » in response to; » -sindre-almost-

    […] Jill wrote […]

  5. PART

    Digital natives don’t blog?…

    There’s an interesting post over on jill/txt where she wonders if students are losing interesting in blogging due to the novelty having worn off. She writes “Basically they just ignore it all. And they?re smart interested students. Who are bizarrely….

  6. Torger ?ge Sinnes

    I stumbled upon this today.

  7. i1277

    Four years ago you taught a class I was in about blogging and I was one of those enthusiastic students. This winter I’m a seminarleder for students that are supposed to use blogs, and I’m struck by the absence of enthusiasm. They aren’t really saying much about what they think (except “do we HAVE to do this” and “does our grade depend on it”) but their mostly empty blogs speak for themselves. I’m not sure I can blame them, students come from an educational system that trains them to be result oriented rather than process oriented and that doesn’t reward curiosity. I’d probably react the same way if I was told to do blogging now that the pioneering momentum is gone.

    When a student said that “blogs are boring” I tried to explain that it’s not really about blogs or other of yesteryears buzzwords but about communication and reflection, and that they could benefit from engaging beyond the minimum requirements. Perhaps they are channeling their web involvement elsewehere – not in social bookmarking and feeds and blogs, but in their MySpaces and Facebooks and Blinks.

  8. Linn

    Oddly enough, I kinda understand why. I don’t think blogging is loosing its novelty, I just think that it might be hard to be introduced to blogging and THEN become enthusiastic about something to write about. I think you need to have some kind of subject material that you really want to discuss and share in order to become an enthusiastic blogger. Being forced to blogg must be gruesome. And trying to lighten the curiosity of students must also be hard. I know I wouldn’t have started blogging unless I had so much on my mind and so many wonderful things that I found and wanted to share with whoever was interested in reading. I think the key is to find that certain interest amongst the students – but I have no idea how! I’m one of those terribly naive people who doesn’t understand people who aren’t absolutely fascinated by what I’m fascinated by. Anyways – I believe there has to be a desire to share some form of information in order to enjoy blogging – and I don’t think that’s very easy to find – specially when it comes to academia – you don’t always want to share with the world things that you’re having trouble understanding yourself!

  9. i1277

    Good point, Linn. Reminds me of my mother saying something like “I don’t get it, what’s so special about this internet thing”, probably after having opened an empty mail box and a few news sites.

    A tool in itself is never enough, just providing the technology won’t generate enthusiasm (unless it’s novel or the audience has a special interest in technology, which come to think of it the students in the class I mentioned should have…) The starting point has to be an interest of some kind, a willingness to share or explore something. I suspect this is more of a problem than blog-fright – a lot of students seem to lack a passion for what they study. And anyway, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg-thing, because one has to go through the initial familiarisation-with-blogs-stage before it feels natural to express those interests.

  10. […] jill/txt is discussing whether the novelty of blogs is wearing off: For the second semester running, I have not succeeded in getting my students enthused about blogging. […] And they’re smart interested students. Who are bizarrely enough writing papers about blogging while saying they don’t really understand blogging. Because you’ve only posted three posts to your own blog, I tell them, tearing my hair out. […]

  11. Karin

    I believe I’m in the line of thinking with Linn here, it could have something to do with the compulsory aspect of blogging in a class situation. I started out as a blogger two years ago in Jill’s web design course, and at first I didn’t like it all. But as I usually do what I’m told to do, I dutifully posted to the blog every week. Although it was only after I gained exclusive ownership of my blog I really started to enjoy it. Now I consider it place where I can put into words more or less involuntary outbursts of opinions and ideas.

    Maybe the students need some time to play around with design and layout, and time to be familiar with the concept before they are “forced” to have a public opinion? And writing for a known audience is also difficult; knowing that the rest of the class is supposed to read and criticize your writing might be a little intimidating.

    It is said here that blogging might have lost its novelty, and maybe there’s some truth in that. But what might be important than, it’s not the loss of novelty but the consequence of it, namely the experts that follows when a subject is being dealt with. And they could be intimidating to an insecure student…

  12. Geoff Cain

    I think whether a technology is a novelty or not should quickly become irrelevant in the classroom. I taught a couple of composition courses in community colleges in rural towns in California. These were with students who were mostly the children of migrant farmworkers. Most of them had e-mail accounts and a limited knowledge of word processing or computers. The usual thinking (in these community colleges I worked for) is that these students should be shielded from technology. I felt that it was critical to get these students involved as soon as possible. Blogs are a way for the students to practice writing anywhere, store and share their research, and foster community outside of the classroom. I prepared a detailed instruction sheet on how to use (that also included a posting rubric and some notes on the etiquette of posting to other blogs), spent one class session getting everyone up and running, and paired those who self-identified as “more comfortable with technology” with those who felt “less comfortable with technology.” I created a central blog that was a class roster that linked to all the students blogs. Then each week I gave a problem or research question. They were asked to write a substantial paragraph or two and then go to two other blogs to comment on the work of others. A substantial posting was one that applied the student’s previous experience or knowledge, accounted for class reading or discussion, and a link to another supporting article or resource. This kind of use of blogs is typically done in a learning management system like Blackboard but that level of technology is beyond the budget of these colleges. A few of the benefits included an increased participation of the shy students, a deeper, more reflective discussion of the issues, and a strengthening of the class community. The students got to know one another better and I routinely overheard students say “I can’t wait to read Robert’s response to this article on the blog.” or if a student was late in posting, students would ask him or her in class when they intended on posting. I don’t expect my students to get enthused — that is a hard thing to measure and adequately assess. I expect them to gain the skills needed to become proficient using this tool just as I would expect them to become proficient researchers. I am part of the generation that made the transition from type writer (no monitor!) to word processing software. No one expected me to appreciate how cool it was — that was my business. But yes, I thought it was very cool.

  13. Leif Harboe

    Interesting discussion, it reminds me when I some 4 years ago did my master (cand. polit) in pedagogics and we were forced to do some “mappe-pedagogikk” which we tried to do after the book because we were told but without great enthusiasm. I teach at Bryne vgs (upper sec.) and recently “forced” my graduate students to blog just for one month while they were doing a special study. During these weeks they could for most of the time work at home so the blog was our communication channel and this was how I could give them feedback on their work. I posted some 70 responses during that time.
    I have read quite a few student blogs, and much of the time it is so obvious that this is something they do because they are told to. I am very interested in the subject, and would really like to read more experiences with school blogging.

  14. Geoff Cain

    There will always be students who feel they are “forced” to do something. Fortunately, there will always be students who will take your assignments and tools to the next level and create something meaningful. An instructor has to make room for both kinds of students. I think it is important to make these web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, and podcasts) a part of the curriculum that is integrated and assessed just as we would assess a paper. Papers are used as evidence of learning, why shouldn’t this other media? If they are non-assessed, tacked on assignments, most students won’t and shouldn’t care.

  15. Anne

    Well… blog has changed the function itself so it is much more than just a blog.
    Many more people are blogging for others instead of blogging alone…
    Students always want fun so is blogging for themselves fun anymore?

  16. Mads

    Before I attended your class in spring 2004 I didn’t know what a blog was, while students I know these days have had a lot more input on it. Perhaps some base their opinions on prejudice? That said, I can see why using blogs in teaching nowadays probably could come off as being a little outdated or “slow” to some students, even though you’ve been doing it since 2003.

  17. Andrew

    I think you have a very good point Jill. I have noticed, and am soon to blog about it, that the bloggers that really got me interested in web design and web standards are no longer talking about in depth techniques and many blog much less frequently than they used to.

    These bloggers really got me enthused about web design again. but that was when blogs were fairly new, and importantly the subject they were blogging on really needed evanglists. Although they are still passionate there is now less to write about; they already said most of it.

    The same is true of Robert Scoble. I still read and enjoy his blog but now he has left Microsoft, and is no longer giving an insight into a world no one really knew about his blog has lost its uniqueness. He really is just another blogger now. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but he has moved closer to the “pictures of my cat” situation that new bloggers, and your students, probably associate with blogging far more than they associate the content of Scoble’s book – ‘Naked Conversations’. They already know about that side of it, probably from myspace, and see little commercial or intellectual, value in it.

    These are examples of how blogging has moved on. The people that really made blogging new and exciting are still there, but have so much less to say about blogging itself. It isn’t new any more. They are not special any more. Anyone can sign up for a free wordpress, spaces, myspace, blogger, account and so on and make a blog and most are not good. If it wasn’t for the initial few that really excited me about web design, taught me new things, and showed me how I could do the same for others, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. Indeed several other blogs of mine on other subjects have withered and died; it was nice to be able to say my piece but I didn’t actually have that much to say in the end.

  18. Matthew

    I’m with Linn and Karin. At least in the case of students, I don’t think it’s necessarily that the novelty has worn off. Am I benefiting from blogging, is it doing me any good? I think a lot of people have not experienced how cathartic it is to vent through writing, generally speaking. So why write, why bother? In fact, just the other day I wrote a long comment about a matter that really upset me but due to a technical error the comment never made it online. I didn’t care, though, because I felt all better.

    I’ve done blogging, I’ve done small websites and huge/popular websites. The result was the same for all projects. I loved it in the beginning and for a while on, the designing/writing/updating, everything about it. But the charm faded a bit too quickly each time (no, I don’t have ADHD). I lost interest, everything lost its appeal and it wasn’t fun after a while, it became a chore. What I came to understand during Jill’s class two years ago is that in order to want to keep up something like a blog you need a rather clear voice. Back then I knew what my voice would be but I had to wait for it, I didn’t have access to that particular voice at the time. So the blog did quite alright but did not survive past the class.

    I don’t remember it being very different two years ago, when the blogging phenomenon was quite established but still hot and growing. About two students had their own blogs already, a few created blogs during the course and also used them actively while the rest only cared about passing the class. Because a lot of students seem indeed to lack a passion for what they study, benefiting from engaging beyond the minimum requirements seems like a common thread.

    Jill, for what it’s worth, even though your class may not produce wonderful and active blogs, you’re giving students a good insight into what blogging is all about. They may not care about it today but they will know what to do once they realize they do have a voice they want to share.

  19. ][mez][

    just 2 x.tract + jump outwards from a few points 4rm the comment_mass:

    -the models just don’t fit: giving students the ability 2 use a largely int[ially]rospectively-based forum in which 2 [ie blogging] then m.posing “but by the way this’ll b used 2 ascertain grades in some way” results in a type of conflict that hi-lights the potential non-hierarchical aspects of soc_net software as opposed 2 linear/pedagogical academe-couched learning.

    -performance anxiety: x.posing + revealing thoughts [no matter how banal, abstract or general] in such an x.pository format may b daunting 4 some. framing blogging as an open communication based arena n.tended 2 open up interaction rather than stream_line it in2 oblivion is great; getting students who r consistently jostled against 1 another in a comp[etitive]arison situation 2 project past this subtly-combative mode + use blogging in an open-ended way may be [catch-22ly] difficult.

  20. Elinesca

    I’ve been bored with blogging for just about over two years now… luckily, I do feel there is a change in the air. Perhaps students hesitate to blog since the consequences of publishing online is now much more severe than what it felt like in the past when having a blog really just meant you were mastering new technology and it was quite exciting to figure out how far you could take it?

    Strangely, to me blogging today suddenly feels more like a space where you’re less connected than you should be… it’s too individual, too separated… I don’t think the next big thing has hit us just yet, but one example of where we’re heading might be JPG magazine, which has taken the best of Flickr features and created a place where people can contribute stories. You can write all kinds of stories – personal, articles, tutorials, news, etc – and publish them for all to see. You’ve got your own profile, so it’s still a space for YOU, but when you publish, your writing becomes part of a story stream much like Flickr photo streams, although you can’t fave or comment yet. I’m facinated by this. JPG magazine is really for photographers, but you should have a look at the way they push writing now – I am quite convinced that this is where things are heading, also for bloggers.

  21. Jill

    Interesting, Elin – I do think that while a lot of what is in blogging will definitely stay with us for many years (social writing, open-endedness, cumulative, web, participatory, dialogic) blogs as such may well change or morph or become something else. Sites like Myspace and Facebook are one way things might flow, perhaps JPG mag is another… though still it’s going toward a traditional “elitist” publicatoin which I don’t think seems quite what the web is wanting… Though who knows? interesting anywa, thank you.

  22. Francois Lachance

    blogging as a daily discipline is a commitment. maybe if teachers raised the ante from two or three posts to a series of consecutive posts (say two weeks worth). And used the power of peer review to encourage the comment side of blogging.

    Other ways to help develop the discipline of practice: set a set of themes or keywords for the postings to help get over the what-will-i-write hurdle. Alternatively set “formal” exercises in the meme genre (a list with some reasons why).

    Introduce the notion of a commonplace book: the blog becomes a memory place.

    In short, given a stub of a what students will produce and eventually be self-motivated to engaging in their own record keeping/making.

  23. Jill

    The thing is, Francois, I think I’ve done those things. And they haven’t worked in the last rounds of doing them.

  24. Francois Lachance

    Pity. Maybe they will understand or appreciate the opportunity at some later point in time. Keep the faith. They may not be doing what you want them to do — demonstrating some engagement with blogging — but they are certainly learning something (just how much effort is required to get the grade). I would not underestimate the importance of the effort extended lesson. Or the even greater lesson of understanding gratification.

    Success may not be in uptake of a teacher’s favoured practice. Success may be in translating the passion and discipline to other practices. You have exposed them to a model. They may be complimenting you immensing by not aping the model. No?

  25. Jill

    Good point, FranÁois. I’m going to have to think that one over.

  26. […] According to jill/txt, the novelty of blogs is wearing off…. in formal education: this is in a course where the topic of the first half of the course is blogging, where they have to include two blog posts in their portfolios […]

  27. Ina

    I took one of Jill’s classes two years ago and got addicted to blogging. I still keep it up although I don’t write as much anymore, partly because of what Elin said I think: it’s too separated. Facebook, flickr etc. connects, and are more “chill out” places where it’s ok to simply goof around and say “hey what’s up.” You’re more free when it comes to how much you want to read and write, and you don’t have to bring in anything new and fresh. I still like to write, but don’t have the time and facebook is such a brilliant way to keep in touch with friends from all over the world. I hardly ever e-mail these people anymore. Simply post on their walls and comment on their pictures. It’s an easier, simpler and faster way of keeping track of everyone. Maybe it’s like… fastfood online socializing?

    I think people are gonna keep using facebook for quite some time. Most of my american friends have been on facebook since winter 2005, that’s TWO years! They still use it frequently, most of them check their facebook accounts before checking their inbox. Facebook is interesting as long as you keep finding and reconnecting with old friends, AND all these other people use it too. When people first get bored, (assuming they will, I can’t see myself on facebook at 85, no matter how many new features they get, although it would be amusing) it’s a done deal. Then it’ll be like running around ghost town whenever you log on to check for recent activity.

    Before my american friends got facebook profiles the blog community xanga was a big hit. When everyone went over to facebook, xanga was abandoned because people didn’t update their blogs there anymore. As so many are on facebook now I doubt people are gonna move to some other community instead/as well. It’s good to have everyone in one place. You get tired of updating 8-9 profiles and blogs everyday. I don’t even remeber my xanga password anymore.

    I am indeed gonna check out JPG magazine though. This world keeps surprising me.

  28. joseph duemer

    I’m coming late to this discussion, but have found it very useful. I’m blogging two literature classes with mostly non-majors this semester. All I’m asking them to do is post comments on the class blog. I put up lots of open threads & a post for each reading assignment, along with interesting & useful links. Though I teach at a technical school where most students are not afraid of computers, neither are they very verbal & it can be hard to get them to engage the material. One of the pieces of feedback I’ve gotten is that they would prefer a threaded discussion tool rather than the sequential comments provided by WordPress at the Edublogs site.

    I’m getting pretty good participation because I bring the blog up on the projector at the beginning of most classes & I will often begin our class discussion by highlighting a couple of student comments on the blog & asking for responses. I’ve found you have to push it every day & explain transparently that you are using blogs because they require active not passive learning.

  29. […] I read this earlier on Jill/txt but didn’t decide to link to it until I realized how many insightful comments were left there. And after all the reading I did today about the uses of blogs, this post reminds me of the reasons why I haven’t always used blogs in the writing courses I teach and why I enjoy the scholarship on the medium so much–it’s always evolving! […]

  30. Earl M.

    I began bloging a few months ago, and I found I get a lot of satisfaction from making comments on other peoples sites, as it feels more like I am communicating with someone in particular, instead of just a vague abstract audience. It helps keep my mind more focused. The hardest thing to do for me on my blog is to go back and edit, and in sending comments, once you post, well, thats it!!

    I come from an era where I had to buy books, simply because I love to write comments in the margins,Highlite, annotate, and if necessary, add a signature for an extra chapter. I called it a living growing book, with each person you lend it out to. Now, theres wikipedia and a knockoff that works in simular way, and I have some hope that technology will really help us integrate into a kind of groupthink. That’s wonderful, as eventually we can dispense with dictionaries too!

    For years, I have been working in telempathic communication, and we take a lot of shortcuts to get points across some great divides that would be energetically prohibitive, if we were not able to engage multidimensionally, and I would love to be able to teach this, but it would be a very difficult process indeed. I can remember practice sessions where I would be given crossword puzzels, and when finished, no matter which way they were read, they formed complete threads and made sense, in reality perhaps three lines of reasoning contained in the same puzzle. I could not make this stuff up by myself in a million years!! Any way, do keep up the good work Jill.

  31. Geoff Cain

    I find this conversation really humorous. First, it is taking place on a blog. Second, whenever someone writes about blogs, there is never any question about assessment — just how long they blogged and how many postings. Students are bored with writing papers, reading textbooks, and going to lectures. Hey, why not chuck all that too? Let’s measure everything we do by the students’ levels of titlillation. This is the entertainment culture invading academia. Learning is a practice and a discipline; let’s not lose sight of that. It is not easy. Yes, it can sometimes be fun; it can even be a game, but learning is also work. Any practice is worth doing when there is learning involved. The really interesting part of the conversation of blogs, wikis, and podcasts is getting academia up to speed in looking at these modes as part of assessment.

  32. Jill

    Geoff, this blog is very different from a student blog – most importantly, I chose to write it, and of course, I’m not being assessed on it. My students will select two of their blog posts and submit them as part of their portfolio, and so their blogs do affect their final grade. The way they’ve been going so far most of them do not have blog posts that would get them more than a C at most, and several have no blog posts that would receive a pass grade. Obviously they still have half the semester to work at this in, and I fully expect them to do well.

    As for entertainment: no, this isn’t about entertainment, it’s about learning. People learn best when they’re actively engaged in something. If I’m unable to engage them in blogs, they’re not going to learn much from it. Yes, I’ll assess their blogs, but the main point of them is that the students LEARN during the semester.

  33. […] I’m interested in when and why things don’t work or don’t have take up with faculty as well as when they do but I also get really excited when I see places actually trying completely new approaches. My opinions do differ from some people in that I do think formal learning of one sort or another has a place for a long time still. There’s likely to be a general increase in the amount of informal learning happening but I think not all sorts of learning will be easily possible completely and some things are too important to rely on people learning them informally. Both creating environments that encourage informal learning and trying to improve formal learning directly are worthwhile pursuits. […]

  34. Ana

    Indeed… it is a pity, but it seems other sites like Facebook are taking over the blogs… still, I believe that for some, who prioritize the writing part, blogs will remain.
    So we hope!
    Brazilian Cheers,

  35. The novelty of blogs is wearing off

    […] According to jill/txt, the novelty of blogs is wearing off…. in formal education: this is in a course where the topic of the first half of the course is blogging, where they have to include two blog posts in their portfolios […]

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