Some re-occuring questions with blogs are why do you blog? Why do people blog about themselves; after all, who cares?
I was thinking about how much my knowledge of blogs has changed. I have had my blogger account for many years. It started as a simple account when I was teaching in Arizona so I could post directions for a definition-based assigment (a short hyperlinked essay). I gave directions for the assignment and a brief definition of “blog.” It was rough as most of my students did not even use email then. Each semester, though, I linked to past students’ essays as a model for the project.
When I moved back to Minnesota, I knew I still wanted to use blogs but I started slowly, using the blog for the same assignment. Though I invited students to post other writings, no-one took me up on that.
Then, as a probationary faculty who had to have goals and a professional development plan, I made it a goal to expand the use of blogs in my classes. I started using team blog for College Writing I first. The first assignment (after an overview of the rhetorical modes):
Pay attention to the world around you. Write about what you see, hear, experience. Then, write down how these could turn into essay topics for this course.
The ongoing assignment after that:
Five times during the semester, post a 100-150 word reactions to the class discussions, readings and/or assignments. Write about what you didn’t understand, what excited you, what made you nervous, or how it ties into other classes you are taking. In short, react to what we’re working on and talking about.
Again, it’s more of a journal. I get a lot more feedback on who “gets it.” I can also direct them back to these posts for topic ideas when they are needed.
This semester, I am also requiring my 1102 students to post to a team blog. They write short journal reactions to stories before we discuss them in class. Then, periodically through-out the semester, students are required to write a post-class-discussion entry to the blog. The purpose is to record any changes in their interpretations or to react to the discussion overall. I’m really excited about this approach because they are writing more (it is a writing class, after all), there is a before-and-after snapshot of their comprehension, and it (can be) great practice for building up to a literary analysis paper.
This move to team blogs for each section allowed me to convert my original blog into a journal where I can react to class discussions and assignments as well as put some personal information. I didn’t decide to do that simply to write about myself. Two events contributed to this decision:
First, at a conference I attended last summer, the facilitators really pushed for faculty to be accessible in ways that appealed to students: Facebook, Myspace, and blogs. I joined, and I am glad I did only because I have re-connected with some high school and college friends. However, I don’t go on the page much, I don’t go looking for my students, nor do I add folks I do not know personally. I then was invited to join ”friend” two Facebook pages (as part of a Phi Theta Kappa project and an MSCTC initiative to get students more connected). I joined but, again, I never go to the site. However, I do not know how much students care to find instructors on these sites. I never looked for mine there, but these were not applications we had back then. Thus, I decided that the blog is the best place for me to reveal any personal info with the class I decide to share. Since I link to that blog on my team blogs, my students can easily access it. This is especially important for the online students so they can, if they so choose, find out more about the instructor they never see face-to-face.
2. I guess I’m a little tired of the misconceptions I’ve encountered in the last year. Where do students get the idea that all instructors listen to is NPR, Enya, and Beethoven? No, I do not read grammar guides for fun when I get home from work. No, I do not watch PBS on a nightly basis. No, I will not live on my email on the weekends to answer questions about assignments. Yes, I went to see Nickelback last year and Seether/Three Days Grace/Breaking Benjamin/Skillet last fall. Oh, I’m going to Bon Jovi for the fifth time (or is it sixth?). Yes, I do play video games (by the way, I forgot to mention that Condemned: Criminal Origins was the a game I could not play at night in the dark).
Writing about myself on my blog allows me to let my students see that I am a person with diverse interests; a couple have left or emailed me comments on posts that related to THEIR life, so I also learn even more about them than I might in class. I don’t share it all, I try not to be as snarky as I probably really am, and I hope I present a balance of work and personal information (I’ll have to check now that I’m thinking about it).
And wouldn’t you just know it? Someone else writes about this same topic (as I just discovered in a quick google search after I wrote this whole spiel). It figures.