To Blog or not to Blog

In Composition Pedagogy, a pedagogy class I took as part of my M.A. in English here at Virginia Tech, our class often discussed how teachers might develop projects that gave student writing a meaningful, real-world audience.

While teaching writing I often had students write Letters to the Editor. But just changing the genre of an assignment — from persuasive essay to Letter to the Editor — doesn’t automatically give students a real-world audience or experience. I would frequently require students submit their letter to a local newspaper, making the assignment something that existed outside the classroom bubble.

A blog could offer the same kind of opportunity, but unless students can identify a real-world audience the blog would continue to be just another assignment. After all, just because a blog exists on the internet does not mean it will be read.

So how can a class assignment become a real-world blog for undergraduates? Students automatically have an audience of their peers and friends via social media, but I don’t expect students to share a school assignment unless it is something they are both passionate about and proud of. So, my question becomes: How can students become passionate about blogging? I’ve taught 200-level and 300-level literature courses. Generally, students in those courses are already excited about what we are learning. But can teachers help students get excited about introductory or required courses? Within the context of what we cover in the course, there must be enough freedom for students to find something that sparks their interest, and how they are directed to respond to the content must be permissive enough not to restrict their interest.

62 Comments

Filed under Contemporary Pedagogy GEDI Spring 2018

62 Responses to To Blog or not to Blog

  1. Kristin

    I really struggle to identify my audience as a blogger. The world wide web is just so… BIG. I have no idea who might actually trip on my blog and want to read it. For the GEDI class, I think my audience is a little more defined (e.g. the members of the class and those who may be interested in contemporary pedagogy), but if I want to continue blogging in my future career, I think defining my audience will help give me better focus in my posts and increase my interest in blogging.

  2. saloumeh

    I agree that finding your audience and keeping them interested in your blog could be challenging. Also, you need to decide whether you want to be more specific in your blog and have a small group of audience or you want to be general and grab the attention of a large number of people.
    And about the students, in my opinion, the more freedom students have on their blog posts, the higher is the chance that they become excited about both learning and posting on their blogs.

  3. CorlH

    I agree that students need freedom to blog freely while connecting their writings to course material. I think by offering students the opportunity for open-prompts it makes it a bit easier for them to develop their writing and communication skills.

  4. Stephen T-N

    As someone that is not big on blogging, I think having discussion topics that students would be interested in could help opening their minds to putting their thoughts on a blog. I also think again as a non-blogger you will just simply have students that don’t understand why this is something they are being asked to do as part of their class and even if they do post something on a blog, it probably won’t be as thought out because they just may not care about it as much.

  5. hlee28

    I appreciate you brought this question: “How can students become passionate about blogging?” I truly understand the importance of communicating and interacting with people around the world, so I tried to encourage my students to set up their website before. One thing I found is all students prefer different types of social media, including twitter, instagram or wordpress etc., based on their preferences and interests. Freedom on choosing the platform could be one way to encourage them, but still to me, the most important question is “how can students become passionate about communicating their thought/idea with other people.”

  6. baileyfood

    I agree. I do think that prompting other classmates to respond to student blog posts, as we do in this course, does provide a believable audience that may increase student interest. Possibly inviting outside faculty or experts (with regard to the topic) to comment on student blogs may also be another manageable idea to enhance interest and real world applicability.

  7. Robert H

    If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? I agree Sarah, that a blog unread is an assignment. Could the blog exercises be better facilitated with a live audience? The suggestion of faculty or experts would be helpful but could that also present a feel of captive audience? I think the experience of learning to blog is the important point here and then possibly discussion of how to reach a targeted or broad audience can facilitate the live release of our blogs. Thanks for this thought provoking post.

  8. Amy Hermundstad Nave

    Sarah – You bring up some really great points and the discussion has been wonderful! I really like some of the suggestions of having other students read and comment on posts as well as inviting some outside experts to engage in the discussion. One thing that I think is really interesting about incorporating blogging and using those blogs to facilitate discussion is that students don’t just turn in an assignment and forget about it (typically). They have to read comments from others and consider other perspectives. And, yes, sometimes students may not take the blog seriously or may not read and think about all the comments. But in my experience, it has been a great way for students to reflect and learn from not just the instructor but their peers as well. And like you said, keeping the guidelines broad can give students more flexibility to engage in topics that are interesting to them. Thanks for starting such a great discussion!

  9. Yes, thank you for kicking off this wonderful discussion! We can talk more about this during class, but I’ll just note here that I’ve had success with having undergrads “class source” much of the content for their course by posting research articles on their blogs and then having everyone comment on them. We also have curating process for identifying featured content that invests the whole class in the landing page of the website. We’re just getting going here: http://amynelson.net/soviethistorys18/

  10. psalmonsblog

    Hey Sarah,
    I agree that the excitement is gone in learning to some extent. How do we engage with one another is a goal of human interaction. But why blog? I believe that at least expressing yourself in some way can attribute to a richer learning experience for everyone. Who cares if they read you now, maybe one day everyone will read you. Like one of the videos demonstrated, it is a learning experience and it helps us as individuals work on something we may not be good at. But I agree with the classroom experience, how do we tell students it matters if it does not, perhaps that an ongoing discussion we should ask them every assignment we assign.
    Great post!

  11. Tom

    I agree that for blogging you really need an audience that will read your content or else it will be just like an assignment, but it is not necessary. I know some people who blog for fun even though their visits are too less. It’s just about enjoying it and having your own .com or .net feels nice.

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  43. As a blogger, I find it difficult to identify my audience. There are so many people on the internet. It is unknown who might actually stumble on my blog and want to read it. While my GEDI class audience is more defined (e.g. the members of the class and students interested in contemporary pedagogy), defining my audience for blogs in the future will help me better focus my posts and increase my interest in blogging.

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