Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The blog interview

K. just finished up her third interview with me about my blogging practice; it's for a qualitative research class she's taking. Among other things, she asked me why I think no one (with a couple of exceptions) from last semester's grad class kept blogging. Although this didn't answer her question directly, I talked about how surprised I was that most people used their individual blogs as something more like a diary than a place to reflect on the course readings and how they might use what they were reading in their teaching. She wondered if that "misuse" was a function of lack of direction or of the blogging genre. So I looked to see what I said in my syllabus to make sure I had said what I meant. Here's what I wrote:

I would like each of you to keep an individual weblog in which you record responses and questions to each week’s readings. The individual weblog is mainly a space for you to talk to yourself: to think through ideas, puzzle over ideas, etc.

Please use your first entry in your blog to answer the following questions, ideally before you’ve read anything for class:

How would you currently characterize the function of a first-year composition class? What should it ask students to do, and why? What’s the role of the teacher? What does a teacher need to do so that the class functions as it should?

Then as you add responses each week, consider whether the readings are prompting you to think in new ways about the role of a composition class and the role of a composition teacher.

Marcia pointed out to me early on that I was saying something potentially untrue in saying that a weblog is a space primarily to talk to one's self, and that statement definitely reflects my own early misunderstanding of blogs as something like paper journals. So, given my own misunderstanding, it's little wonder that, despite my instructions to use the blogs as a space for pedagogical and scholarly reflection, they were most often used as something else: as a whatever space to write about whatever. Not that I want or wanted a blog to be only one thing, but I did want students to think of it primarily as a space for reflective thinking.

At any rate, one definite problem is that blog=journal analogy that is so easy to slip into and that really misses what makes blogs unique: the network that blogs enable. Margaret Ganley talks about that in a recent entry:
If we want to encourage our students to use blogging as a powerful communication tool, we have to teach them the difference between blogging as daily diary, and blogging as a way to dig deep into ideas and to grow communities of discourse, of knowledge and of action. So, of course it isn't simply a matter of handing blogs to students as they enter our institutions and saying, go ahead, write; you have to give students a chance to grow in this work within a learning community--the new wall-less classroom--and then turn them loose to develop their own blogging practices within a supported framework. The institution and its faculty must mentor and model this practice of reaching out in the world to discuss and share ideas, ask questions, and work collaboratively. In other words, it is in the second-wave blogging, the blogging that my juniors are doing out in the world as a way to express, explore and understand the world in which they have been thrust that will teach them huge lessons about the role of communication, of technology, of community in bringing about change in this stumbling world.
Ganley seems to be calling for something like blogging across the curriculum (with nods to Marcia), except that, because it's blogging, it's something else: not simply blogging as part of a class, but blogging as networked practice, as lived experience. Just go read Margaret's post. As usual, it's all good.

[Entry ends here; ignore the link at the bottom]

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