Teaching the Blog

Sarah Jane Sloane, “Blog is My Co-Pilot: Blogs in a Graduate Classroom.”
Cynthia Cox, “Blogging and the First-Year Composition Classroom”
Bonne Smith, “All Along the Blogwatch Tower”
Lisa Langstraat, respondent: “In Blog We Trust”Teaching the Blog (CCCC 2004)

I wasn’t able to meet Sarah Jane Sloan, whose dissertation on interactive fiction, Interactive Fiction, Virtual Realities, and the Reading-Writing Relationship, is a tremendously valuable resource for the study of text adventure games as narratives. Sloane wasn’t actually here — she was arriving at the conference late, so Langstraat read Sloane’s paper.

Sloane identified the start of the weblog culture with the 1996 Geocities offer of free home pages, and then credited Jorn Barger with the term “weblogging” in 1997. There’s a great deal of difference between a Geocities home page and a blog; as far as describing the development of personal online publishing, the chronology makes sense, but the format of the blog was being used by the authors of the earliest web pages. And Barger didn’t exactly coin the term “weblogging” — in a Dec. 1997 newsgroup posting, he announced that he was going to start a log of his daily web readings, and the name of the file where he placed this log ended with “weblog.htm”. His post didn’t actually use the word “weblog” in its present sense, and he credits Frontier and Scripting News for the form.

All three presenters treated weblogging as experimental, all three were blogging in writing classes (two of which were, I believe, freshman composition, and one graduate writing course), and the latter two particularly followed at format of “what I thought I was going to do with blogs” followed by “what actually happened”.

Of the 60 or people in the audience, only a few raised their hands when one presenter asked how many of them were bloggers; I was a little surprised to see that, when the presenter asked how many people use blogs to teach, more hands went up — instructors who don’t actually identify themselves as bloggers are requiring their students to blog. I don’t make this observation as part of an argument that only bloggers should be allowed to teach with blogs, but because it seems that teaching with blogs is not enough to make some people feel that they are “really” bloggers. This is directly analogous to the observation that students who blog only because their instructor tells them to are missing out on the benefits that those of us who are excited about blogs tend to observe.

Cox observed that, despite her explanation of what she expected in terms of the length, frequency, and content of student blogging, students tended to find their own values for the online writing that they did.

[Whoops, the next session is about to start… this blog is unfinished, but I’d better post it now.]