Blogging for the sake of…?

This post is a reply to an excellent post from a student in our Presidential Leadership Academy, “Metabloging, pt. 2.” Students who are enrolled in this three year program have one continuous assignment, to blog once a week during the fall and spring semesters. The goal, as you will gather from my comments, is to encourage the students to think reflectively, critically, and in a public forum (thus my willingness to post this discussion here). The vast majority of my readers at Targuman are not only bloggers, but also teaching faculty so I am keen to read your thoughts on the matter.

Thank you August! You may have heard that I talked a good bit about your blog and how we should approach blogging, the assignments, etc. last night in class. I am largely in agreement with your frustrations here, but I would like to step back to gain a bit of perspective.

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As I mentioned at dinner the other night, if we think of the assignment as simply turning in a 1-2 page reflection paper each week I wonder if we would have the same complaints. Last semester most of the junior class did not blog more than 5 times the entire semester and some did not blog at all. Put simply this is unacceptable. Students tell us that they have no incentive to post because they feel no one is reading their blog. Would they have the same response if they were turning in the assignments on paper?

Of course one of the reasons for going to the blogging platform was to encourage engagement with one another’s ideas. But we had not required that. We do require the weekly blog posts with the fundamental goal of getting students to think reflectively and critically about their life, their academics, and the world around them. The ideal of class interaction via comments has not come to fruition as I had hoped, but that should not have been a valid excuse for students not posting. 

All of that being said, we have sought to respond to this concern by creating the rotating system where students comment on three blogs for one week out of the month. Commentating is now a requirement and hopefully will generate further discussion. But as you, August, have pointed out this can be terribly tedious since most students are commenting on the same topic each week. I appreciate your suggestion of a class blog, but a collective forum is not the goal of the blogging project. It is intended to foster personal thought and reflection within an open context. I believe there is a difference (it requires greater discipline and thought on the part of the individual). The wiki is an excellent suggestion for the class project and several students in the current 301H class are considering doing just that. If a few will be curators I think it should work (although as I thought, some were already feeling intimidated by the blogs and the thought of another bit of tech was quite frightening). The point here is that we need different tools for different contexts and goals. The blogs retain an individual element and require a considerable amount of “ownership” while allowing public engagement with author’s ideas. The wiki is a collaborative tool well suited for the group project.

So I come to your concluding comment, citing the article about blogging that we assigned.

As Reid observes in the assigned article, “the nearly inescapable carrots and sticks of the classroom can serve as an impediment to creative thinking” (310).

This is certainly true! I would love to not need carrots and sticks and that was our great hope with the PLA. You were all chosen not only for your academic ability but because you showed yourselves to be leaders and self-motivated. I assumed the relatively simple assignment of a weekly blog would be the easiest of tasks and would require little incentive from us. Unfortunately it seems that we must have carrots and sticks in order to get consistent performance. I would love to be proven wrong.

 

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