I’ve written numerous posts about how I use blogging in my classes including why I love it and how I’ve launched a multi-authored blog in a course this semester. But now I’m hitting on something new – what happens to blogs when they get used within and across a program.
Last fall, I had the students in my masters course start their own blogs. These were teachers and librarians, and I saw having their own personal blog as being potentially more useful than having a single multi-authored class blog (which, honestly, I didn’t even realize I could do at the time). But I thought that some of the students in that course might enjoy blogging and want to keep their blog going beyond the course itself. Having your blog allows for that to be an option..
I’m not sure that anyone blogged between the time my course ended in December and the next one in the program started up in January. However, before the semester was over in December I told them all to make sure they kept their blogs. I explained that one of their instructors in the spring might want them to continue on with it. And that’s what happened.
So the teachers have picked back up with their blogging – at a minimum it’s required of them. I was aware this would be happening, but at first I didn’t give it much thought. Then, one day, one of the teacher’s blogs popped up in my wordpress reader alerting me to her newest post. So I read it. Then I realized – because apparently I am slow – that I could go in and read any of the blogs from my students last semester. We had maintained a listing of all the blogs for the class so I just accessed that document and started randomly clicking through it.
It was interesting on a few levels.
First, I don’t think the blogging assignment is as spot on as it could be (sorry to the person who made the assignment; I know it’s your first time doing it). The teachers appear to be blogging about two books they are reading. As I understand the directions, they are using the blogs as a sort of written/reflective response to the course texts.
I think it’s fine to blog about texts you read. Texts inspire us and push us and it’s great to share our reflections on them. My critique is that I think the instructions are too narrow. But this is not the interesting stuff. Here’s the interesting stuff….
Despite the fact that the assignment seems to be to blog about texts, the posts I have read so far are written in a way that connect with a wider audience. So it’s not, “I read Chapter 1 in the book, and it was good,” kinda stuff. Anyone could go and read it. In fact, you should go read one right now. The teachers do a great job of helping their audience connect with the bigger ideas in the text, and they give you what you need to know to understand their posts even if you haven’t read the books they are talking about. So I am loving the fact that they are blogging in a way that connects to a larger audience.
As an instructor, I struggled to help my students understand how to think about writing for an audience beyond their peers in the class they were in. It’s something I’ve been working on for a couple of years. And if you look at the directions I give my students, I think you can see how I’ve crafted them to try to get at this issue (note that while the link in this sentence is for a different class at the undergraduate level, the directions are largely the same across classes).
The other things that I find interesting is how I can continue to see the work of my students after they have left my class. I can continue to interact with them if/how I want to. I loved reading about what they were up to and how they were thinking about the ideas they were getting exposed to. I will likely teach them one more time (it’s a two year program) and so maintaining this connection with them is great. From an instructor perspective, I can keep up with where they are and use what I glean from their blogs to inform the next time I have them in class.
The class I am doing the multi-authored blog in this semester is a one time deal for these students. I likely won’t teach them again once class is over, but the blog itself can be continued on by future sections. It has its own benefits in terms of being self-contained to a specific class. However, at the program level having someone pick up and continue on with blogging is going to, I think, be beneficial. It’s not really possible to get a blog going in a short time frame of two-three months. Having extra time allows for the teachers to really develop their blogs further. I think we may want to consider keeping it over the duration of the program. That remains to be seen of course, but what I want to communicate here is the value I am seeing is using blogging that extends beyond the time I am the instructor for the course.