In reaction to Oliver Wrede’s very interesting BlogTalk paper, Stephen Downes says:
…blogs make it a lot easier for those students who would write and to write publicly to do so. And blogging helps such students find each other. But for those students who find writing a chore, blogging is a chore. Those students who wouldn’t write a journal, or a news article, or a letter, won’t write a blog. If we have to convince people to blog, to in some way grade them or mark them, then in so doing we lose what is essential to blogging.
What I find most interesting about this is that it makes me realize how little opportunity I’ve really given my kids to do unstructured blogging, and what the effects of doing so might be. My student Web logs are basically filing cabinets, with some reflective portfolio work done at the end. Am I losing what is essential to blogging in not encouraging more personal posts?
At the beginning of this quarter when I was introducing Web logs, one of my students asked if she could do personal writing in the space. I remember the question because I really didn’t have an answer I liked. On the one hand, personal writing might be best done in some other space on some other server…Blogger for instance. Yet, as Oliver points out, “Without student weblogs I would not know many extremly valuable details (for instance which cultural background some students have).” I told her that she could, but I never really encouraged her, and subsequently she hasn’t. I think most of my students like the Web log, but I really don’t know if they would keep a personal, reflective journal given the opportunity. And I guess I’m not sure whether it’s appropriate for me to ask them to at this level.
This does tie into this personal/private conversation we’ve been having. David Baylys has been helping me (with not much success) to set up an access control plug-in for Manila that might help with this. If there is anyone else out there already using it, let me know.