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.