Why I Love Blogging as a Teaching Tool

I have been using blogging in my masters level classes for some time now. I can’t even count how many classes have had to blog as part of their experience. This current class is at least my fourth class doing it and possibly my fifth. I lost count a long time ago.

Doesn’t really matter.

What you might expect though is that I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing how to use blogging in my courses, and I like to think that I have. I’ve tweaked the directions enough, and even collected and analyzed data on it, to know what works, where people seem to struggle, and how to construct the assignment in a way to hopefully offset some of those struggles.

But this post isn’t about how to set up blogging assignments in your courses. I have an entire book coming out about that soon if you’re interested so stay tuned!

Today I’m here to tell you why I love using blogging as a teaching tool, and why I think you’ll love it too.

Reason #1: Conversations Beyond the Class

conversationOne of the best things about blogging is that it allows my students and I to continue talking after class has ended. For a college class that meets once a week this is fantastic. I spent 45 minutes the other day reading and commenting on blogs.  I learned a whole bunch about what my students were grappling with since the last time I saw them. I also learned about the cool things they were doing that we should be talking about in class! I likely would never learn this much about my students from just a traditional class setting or through traditional assignments. Those things simply don’t support these kinds of discussions or sustained involvement.

And guess what? This isn’t about me going in and responding to every little thing on their blogs. That’s not the point. They respond to each other (yes, it’s required, but I imagine some people go beyond the basic requirements). They help each other. They push and inspire each other. So their conversations continue with each other too. As a result, connections are made between people that might otherwise not happen. New relationships are formed. It’s so cool to watch. This is no longer about them doing an assignment, me writing comments on it, and then giving them a grade. This is way more collaborative, and I hope, meaningful.

Reason #2: Classes Are Better

Maybe it’s just my opinion, but I think my classes are a whole lot better because of blogging. All that time I spend reading students’ blogs gives me insight into their thinking. I can then use that insight to structure my classes in ways that supports them. The blogs are all written on topics connected to the class so this loop naturally gets created. I can connect what we do in class to questions/issues/etc…that are relevant to my students and that extend and apply the ideas from the readings in ways that might not have happened otherwise.

Reason #3: Knowledge is Public

I am a big proponent of making knowledge/knowledge development public. I greatly dislike the standard student/teacher interaction/assessment model. You know the one…you write the paper, I read the paper, I grade it, and we’re done. Who else gets to see your great work? Who else gets to know your struggles?knowledge

See….often we are not comfortable sharing our struggles, but I think that’s what makes class so great! I hope my students share their questions and struggles on their blogs. Not just so I can try to help them but often times other students have great resources for them. I am not the be all end all of everything here. I don’t know everything, and I can’t be everything to everyone. Additionally, others are often struggling with the exact same thing. People will connect over struggles and work on them beyond class.

At any rate, I hope I’ve given you some inspiration for thinking about how you might use blogging as a teaching tool. It can seem overwhelming to implement because there are lots of details to sort out, but I will soon have some tools out to help you get it rolling.

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10 thoughts on “Why I Love Blogging as a Teaching Tool

  1. lisamlangford September 23, 2014 / 9:28 pm

    Thanks Leigh! I really enjoyed reading this post! I completely agree with the sentiments you expressed in my own developing experience of blogging in a graduate school class. I’m wondering – have you noticed trends across multiple years that emerge as concerns, developments, or general wonderings? This is my fourth year teaching and I know that each year is different but it is interesting to hear some of the same struggles and excitements that people long before me have also experienced. Education seems in some ways to be changing completely but in other ways cycling back to things tried once before meshed with new insights.

    • leighahall September 24, 2014 / 1:00 pm

      Of course in the beginning I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about blogging or how much I needed to do to help students blog well. Experience has helped here! The year I formally analyzed the blogs, I found some of the struggles to be: (a) lack of collaboration – even when two or more people shared an issue, (b) blogging being used to justify/reinforce existing beliefs (as opposed to exploring them), and (c) comments were very underdeveloped.

      I’ve worked to address this by learning more about what constitutes a good comment and trying to help you all know what to do with comments as well as how to give useful ones. I already see that happening which is great! The things I listed above as concerns that I have seen before I am not seeing now. This is also my first time requiring students to be on wordpress, and I wonder if the authentic nature of it helps everything to be better.

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