“As academics, we might be more comfortable and familiar with notebook weblogs and filter-weblogs, but our students coming out of high school are likely to know the genre as an expressive and social space.”
Many have pointed to the great collection of writing about Weblogs at Into the Blogosphere, and I’m looking forward to reading as many of the 20 pieces as I can. The first one I was drawn to, however, was “Remediation, Genre, and Motivation: Key Concepts for Teaching with Weblogs.” The title obviously exudes relevance and one of the authors, Kevin Brooks is someone I have corresponded with on occasion to talk about blogs. There was a lot about the piece that I think is worth noting, in fact I copied out about two and a half pages of stuff that I want to think more about. But just a couple of the high points.
The web is remediating all media that has come before it (print, music, film, television, radio, paintings, email, etc.); therefore in our teaching we wanted to emphasize for our students that weblogging is not a radically new way of writing, but a repurposing of familiar (we hoped) print genres.
I agree, even though I think blogging as a genre of writing is certainly something a bit different from what we have asked kids to do in the past. We ask them to collect and synthesize and construct deeper or different truths when we teach research, but I still think the added quality of real audience changes the eventual output. Blogging is in many ways a collaborative undertaking; you take ideas, you give ideas and hope others take them, etc. That part of the process is certainly something we haven’t asked kids to do before.
We spent quite a bit of time offering guidelines, tips and examples, including an explicit definition of journal, notebook, and filter weblogging for our students. Our definitions were modifications on Rebecca Bloods’ definitions of:
• “blogs” (what we call journals): “short-form journals. The writer’s subject is his daily life, with links subordinate to the text,”
• notebooks: “Sometimes personal, sometimes focused on the outside world, notebooks are distinguished from blogs [journals] by their longer pieces of focused content,” and
• filters: “organized squarely around the link, maintained by an inveterate Web surfer, personal information strictly optional” (pp. 6-8).
I was really intrigued by these breakouts as they connected to something I wrote a while ago in attempting to clarify what is and is not blogging. I still think blogging is closer to what the authors call filtering than anything else.
Basically, the results of the study were positive:
But the generally positive response to weblogging that emerges despite these differences suggests that as the genres and motives for weblogging are understood more clearly, the practices has sufficient cultural and pedagogical appeal to encourage and motivate student writing even in a post-literate age.
…As students’ become more familiar with weblogging, our pedagogical emphasis on teaching weblog genres as remediations of print genres will likely give away to an emphasis on teaching academic and personal weblogging genres, and teaching weblogging genres as part of a system of online genres that have fairly porous boundaries.
Again, this makes me think about some ways that we might approach instruction in the genre. Should we move from personal to academic writing in the Weblog? Is there a comfort level students might attain from personal writing that will allow them more potential for success with a more thoughtful, scholarly style.
And, here’s the task for we here in the K-12 world:
In both semesters, our students preferred the journal weblog regardless of which course they were enrolled in, and as student awareness of weblogging increases, the personal, daily reflection seems likely to be the defining characteristic of weblogging. As academics, we might be more comfortable and familiar with notebook weblogs and filter-weblogs, but our students coming out of high school are likely to know the genre as an expressive and social space. (Emphasis mine.)
Which begs the question, if blogs become used more widely as learning tools in higher ed, shouldn’t we be pushing our students past the social space?
All around thought-provokingly good stuff.