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. 

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About TCU Koehler Center

The Koehler Center is dedicated to facilitating ongoing, reflective discourse regarding teaching and learning, including working with faculty and teaching staff to help them design and implement meaningful learning opportunities for their students.

5 thoughts on “Guest Post: Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Blog in Your Classroom

  1. Pingback: Guest Post: What to Consider when Grading Blogs | Koehler Center for Teaching Excellence

  2. These are some great ideas. Thanks, Kassia and Christopher!

    I have one problem: you assume everyone has the same understanding of “blogging.” For you it means one person writes, others respond, and a conversation ensues. There is no guarantee of a “real audience,” though. On many blogs very few people respond to what is written. The blog’s stated purpose may actually be to share information. Lots of blogs have posts and pages that don’t allow comments.

    What you are writing about might be called a “discussion blog.” Online discussions were going strong thirty years ago. Blogs came along ten years later and Blogger began in 1999, providing a prettier way to discuss. All that is to say labeling the medium as “new” will not mean much to students. Blogging is a great vehicle for authentic writing; it doesn’t need novelty to be appealing.

    I hope this doesn’t sound like scolding. Please keep up the great work!

    • Chris,

      Thanks for reading our blog and commenting—that is exactly what I try to provide for my students. And it doesn’t sound like scolding at all.

      When we use the term new media, we are simply referring to digital writing (blogs, websites, videos, etc.) It’s the term we have adopted at TCU to talk about digital composing. I don’t think either of us think of blogging as “new,” but simply a writing genre that is certainly under-utilized in the classroom, especially on our campus. In our limited experience assigning blogs remains a “new” idea for lots of educators and our hope is they will consider these types of assignments in the future.

      I agree that we share a similar understanding of how blogs work and that might not hold true for everyone. Although, I would say I am less interested in students engaging in a sustained conversation–like in the discussion blogs you mention. My goal for blogging is to make students aware that their writing has an audience beyond the teacher who assigns a grade. Both of us spend much more time helping students understand the nuances of the genre—audience is only one of many things we want them to think about.

      I have always stressed the importance of audience in ALL my writing assignments, but I think blogging makes the concept of audience more tangible for students—whether its through commenting or hits. Very few of my students’ blogs receive comments and I have little interest in forcing the issue. I want my students to “promote” their blogs and try to garner an audience, because they are writing about current issues that matter to them (and hopefully their peers)–usually social justice topics. I want their idea to be heard because they are interesting, but I am fine with no comments ever being posted—no creepy treehouses in my classroom.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
      C. Foree

  3. Hi Chris,

    Thank you for reading and responding to our post. I echo everything my colleague has said about the term “new media” and the idea of engaging with audience no matter what the genre of writing. When students post their work to a blogsite, whether they get a response to their writing or not, they are aware that the work is now available to the public to read. Having the work displayed brings a new awareness of audience that merely turning in a paper to the teacher does not achieve. The possibility of multiple readers, including their peers, often incites a different type of writing stylistically.

    I would also add that I think you are absolutely right when you say that blogging can mean multiple things to multiple people. In fact, Chris and I don’t always view blogging the same way in our classrooms as we tried to highlight in this post and in our follow up post on “What to Consider When Grading Blogs.” I don’t think using blogging in the classroom is a one-size-fits-all assignment. How you use blogging depends on what you want your students to get out of it. I frequently use blogging as a free-writing assignment where one writer posts to the site, but Chris forms blog groups made up of several writers on a common topic.

    I appreciate your feedback, and I hope our posts help answer some of your concerns.

    Best,
    Kassia Waggoner

  4. Pingback: Guest Post: High Stakes vs. Low Stakes Writing | Koehler Center for Teaching Excellence

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