Guest Post: Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Blog in Your Classroom

This post is the second in our series of guest blog posts by graduate instructors Kassia Waggoner and Christopher Foreé about the ways they use blogs in their classes. Kassia is an English PhD student who studies rhetorical approaches to 20th Century American Literature. Christopher is an English PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition researching civic literacy in the classroom and the civic mission of the university. His blog and links to his students’ blogs can be found at tcucivicliteracy.wordpress.com.

1. Blogging is a less formal writing style familiar to many students.
Students are taught how to write in college to meet the demands of the academy, but teaching students to blog in a sophisticated manner may better serve the students in the long run. Students may never write another formal essay after college, but they may create their own blogs or approximate the less-formal style of writing. Thus, teaching them to blog and incorporating it into the classroom helps encourage lifelong writing habits.

2. Students understand writing in this capacity.
Many students already have their own blogsites, and may be posting on a normal basis. Furthermore, students are receiving the news from popular sites like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post, which present the information in blog form. Students are accustomed to reading and writing in this type of forum, so writing in this style seems natural to them, and when presented in this manner, is a transferable life skill that they can use beyond college. Because students already consume this genre of writing, they often understand the specific needs or desires of the audience—a key part of any successful piece of writing.

3. Blogging exposes students to ideas of voice.
Blogging teaches students to cultivate their own unique writing voice rather than to formalize their writing with professional jargon. Students need to know how to communicate within their fields, but they also need to know how to address the public that may or may not understand certain professional terms. Blogging teaches students how to address a broader based community, and because blogging is so popular, students need to cultivate a voice that attracts and maintains the interest of the public in order to gain traffic to the site.

4. Blogging allows students to engage with new media.
Technology is changing the way students write and work with language in general. Infographics, memes, and gifs are becoming popular forms of creating arguments. Students need to learn how to use these tools in order to keep up with growing trends. Many students may be entering fields where this technology will be of benefit to them and their employers, especially during presentations. Students should be equipped with up to date skills, which will only enhance their marketability. We often take for granted that students have “expertise” with these technologies, but this is often not the case and working with new media allows the students to truly develop these marketable skills.

5. Blogging helps students develop a more conscience (or thoughtful) online presence.
Creating an online presence has never been more important. Employers are now looking at sites such as Twitter and Facebook before making decisions about who to hire. If a student has practiced cultivating online skills in the class through blogging, employers are sure to take notice. If an employer does a google search online, he or she might stumble upon the blogsite, allowing him or her to get a better idea about the student. Thus, by introducing blogging into our classrooms, we are effectively teaching students to be responsible with their online image and allowing them to create a persona that extends beyond their Facebook page and status updates.

6. Blogging allows students to get feedback from a real audience.
We talk about audience in the classroom: how to write for specific audiences, how writing changes depending on the audience, and how audience perception of a work cannot be ignored. However, blogging allows us to practice what we preach. When students blog, they are not merely writing to us as the teachers, they are writing to a larger community of readers on the internet. These outside readers have the ability to comment, critique, or converse with the student writers making the writing interactive.

7. Blogging encourages creative thinking through design, tone, style, etc.
Students often become tethered to formulas or models when constructing traditional writing. Being required to follow specific guidelines often results in students reproducing writing styles that have worked in the past. Blogging requires students to think about the act of composing beyond words on the page. The freedom to incorporate graphics, video, or audio often encourages students to rethink the way they want to approach a given subject. When students are asked to consider design, style, and tone within their writing in the same way we teach format for written compositions, then they are often required to engage in both creative and critical thinking to achieve the appropriate rhetorical stance.

8. Blogging positions writing as activism, service, criticism, or engagement.
Because blogging incorporates a real audience for our student writers, we can offer generate assignments that have real world consequences. A student may write a paper on homelessness and have an enlightening or moving experience, but the inclusion of other media and an audience often changes the way a student might choose to blog about homelessness. The immediacy of blogging implies a desire for the writer to spur the readers to think, do, or believe something, therefore giving students a sense of agency not found in more traditional assignments. The nature of blogging makes it the ideal vehicle to ask students to think about issues of activism, service, and social justice.

9. Blogging helps build classroom communities.
Writing is meant to be shared, and we frequently teach our students that writing affords them the opportunity to have their voices heard. Blogging allows the students to read and comment on each other’s work in a shared space. When students are able to read each others’ posts they are learning from each other as well as from the instructor. They are also able to see a variety of perspectives, which can prompt or encourage further class discussion over a topic. Students report that sharing a blog is “less scary” than sharing an essay. Sharing the writing with one another helps the class feel more united and takes the classroom discussion beyond the class itself.

10. Blogging can be used in almost any classroom for a variety of purposes.
Professors can choose to use either a classroom blog site where all students post their blogs, have students create their own individual blogsites, or have groups of students create different blogsites centered on a common interest. For examples, please see Goinggothic.blogspot.com, studentskeepitreel.blogspot.com, or the student Blogroll at tcucivicliteracy.wordpress.com. Professors may choose to provide blogging prompts as guides or they may allow students to use the blogs as a free-writing space. Please stay tuned for our future posting about how to grade blogs.

Next up: How Kassia and Chris address the mechanics of blog use in their classes. 

Why we use Blogs in the Classroom

This post kicks off a series of guest blog posts by graduate instructors Kassia Waggoner and Christopher Foreé about the ways they use blogs in their classes. Kassia is an English PhD student who studies rhetorical approaches to 20th Century American Literature. Christopher is an English PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition researching civic literacy in the classroom and the civic mission of the university. His blog and links to his students’ blogs can be found at tcucivicliteracy.wordpress.com.

Why we choose to blog

As a writing instructor, I ultimately want my students to leave my class with a lifelong love of writing. It is my hope that students will find writing enjoyable rather than burdensome or tedious. I find that assigning blogs in the classroom along with more traditional writing assignments, like a research paper, helps students to see how they can take the writing skills they have acquired in my class beyond college. The truth is students may not think of themselves as writers, but they are writing everyday on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media. They may never see themselves as novelists or journalists, but they can easily see themselves as bloggers. It is our responsibility to expose students to multiple modes of writing, and incorporating blogging into the curriculum is one way to push students to think about writing both inside and outside the classroom.

–Kassia Waggoner

I believe students often view writing as both a solitary activity and a private one. I use blogging in the classroom to disrupt this view of writing. I contend that all written communication is a dialogic—there is always an intended reader (even if it is author him- or herself) and we use writing to make our ideas clear. Blogging makes the dialogical process very real and tangible for students. The ability to write something and allow others to read it and possibly comment on their writing awakens a more nuanced understanding of audience. I would also suggest blogging has the potential to demonstrate the power of writing to students who often see the production of texts as a task or chore. In my previous life in “Corporate America,” I often experienced writing as collaborative exercise—putting together a presentation or co-authoring a report with a team. I want my students to acquire skills in the writing classroom that I think could be transferable, therefore I construct blog assignments that are collaborative in nature. My students work in teams to create a blog and must work together to make sure all the individual postings represent a cohesive theme and tone for the reader. They must read, edit, and contribute to each other’s postings to achieve this goal. I hope these experiences will help redefine their concept of writing outside the classroom.

–Christopher Foreé

Stay tuned for more of their blogging insights in the coming weeks!

Social Media for Teaching and Learning

Nearly 8,000 professors were surveyed about their own social media habits, their use of social media as an instructional tool, and their perceptions about the way their students use social media. Pearson* and the Babson Survey Research Group conducted the survey, and Edudemic has posted the results and the infographic below.

Looking the results and thinking about my own experiences, I have a couple of questions.

First, I’d love to know more about how professors are using social media, not just which forms of social media are being used most frequently. In particular, I’m wondering about the intensity of use. Sure, Facebook can be a teaching tool if you accept friend requests from your students; but if you’re holding Facebook chat hours and supervising a class Facebook page where your students are also posting, well, then, you’re really using Facebook as a teaching tool.

As an aside, I’ll share that I recently ran into a professor who joined LinkedIn primarily to connect with alumni of her current institution. Her goal was to find participants for a career panel in order to demonstrate how her department’s major can lead to a variety of exciting careers. Social media: it’s not just for teaching, it’s also for mentoring.

Second, regarding students and social media, this survey hits on something that I’ve been mulling over lately: the tension between the benefit of having students write for a larger audience and the cost in terms of a loss of privacy for the students. It does strike me as reasonable that if we are asking students to wrestle with big ideas, we ought to also allow for the protections that privacy affords as students refine their thoughts. And yet, research demonstrates that writing for an audience beyond the classroom has clear advantages. I’m interested in hearing what others think about this issue.

(click to enlarge)

social media statistics - faculty us climbing, conerns about privacy remain.Source: http://www.edudemic.com/social-media-in-education/

*While Pearson is the company behind LearningStudio (which we use here at TCU), there’s no larger connection between Pearson and this blog post.