I’ve come across a couple of posts recently that speak once again to the difficulty of making blogs work in academia.
Crawford Killian–My students, with a few exceptions, continue to avoid posting in their course blogs. My faculty colleagues are even more reticent. The blogs I left up last semester have been deserted by the students they were created for. So as a means of voluntary interaction, they leave a lot to be desired.
I’d have to agree. I’ve tried a number of different ways to get students and teachers to continue blogging after class or workshop is over with little success. It’s frustrating that they can’t share in the rewards that I find from blogging. Here’s another:
Aaron Campbell–We spent most of the time in class today discussing the difficulties of posting to our websites. Much of the recent inactivity on learner sites seemed to have stemmed from an uncertainty as to what was appropriate. One learner felt intimidated and confused about what to post. Another thought it was necessary to keep her posts academic and was spending ‘three days editing’ before posting. This led back to a discussion of what blogging was all about: process, not finished products and artifacts. The importance of engagement with the medium and what that entailed followed. It was postulated that consistent (meaning daily or every other day) reading, reflecting, posting, and commenting was important for generating the kind of cognitive momentum and conversational flow necessary for the greatest benefits to arise. The analogy of starting a fire by rubbing a wooden stick back and forth between the hands was used. If you operate in a stop and start mode, you’ll never generate the friction needed to bring flames into being. This is similar to the practice of vicara (a Pali/Sanskrit word) for sharpening concentration. As with what we’re trying to do, only by consistent and focused effort can one successfully incorporate blogging into our daily habits so that it becomes a part of the conscious mind and the benefits can follow. It only seems natural that in order for dialogue, conversation, online interaction, or ‘wierd debate’ (as James put it) to flourish, it needs consistent attention, energy, food. So it was recommended that these learners attempt to create a habit of posting daily or every other day, even if it be a just a sentence, an off-hand thought, or a link to another site. Eventually thoughts will flow and a greater level of comfort and ease with the new meduim should come about.
Another issue raised was that of public exposure. One learner stated that he was uncomfortable with how much to reveal about himself. The future consequences being ‘too exposed’ could be detrimental to his employement or releationships down the line. He found himself struggling with ‘self-censorship’, as he described it. This is really a dilemma, for what we think and say when we’re twenty-one-years old might differ significantly from what we will be ten years later. Yet to worry too much about the image we are creating when we publish online, stiffles our creativity and voice. There are no answers, other than to be as honest and sincere as we can. Each person has to find her balance with that.
I was especially struck by the “As with what we’re trying to do, only by consistent and focused effort can one successfully incorporate blogging into our daily habits so that it becomes a part of the conscious mind and the benefits can follow” line. I think maybe I need to articulate more clearly the benefits I’ve experienced…I don’t often go there with students. But as I’ve said before, and as Anne so clearly states here, blogging is work.
This makes me think about all the different blogging styles of our community. One of the reasons I started blogging was to improve my own writing. I’ve never really thought of myself as an especially good writer and it always takes me more time than I wish it would. I don’t just get an idea and then have the ability to quickly write about it. I have to think about it, read more, reflect again, and then write. Then I reread and am never really sure if I got it down how I meant it. I figured if I wrote more, I’d get better and surely I would be able to do it faster. I’d like to think my writing has improved (although I think I’m still too wordy) and I don’t think I am much quicker (and I would still love to have that skill!).
Peter Nguyen says
I’ve had the same problems. Don’t know what to do about it yet.
Jay Rosen says
Hi, Will and crew. Instead of trying to get students and teachers to keep blogging after they do it in class, try having students and teachers begin doing, in class, a weblog they might want to keep at. Flip it.
Will R. says
That is the answer, I know, because the only reason I keep up this space is my true interest in it. It’s always a struggle to ask for blogging that’s not for a contrived purposed given the restrictions in a K-12 environment. I’d love to teach a blogging class…now that would be the real answer!
Do you find blogging improves the quality of writing?