Aww, man, we gotta blog?!?

For those of my readers interested in the development of my iSearch course, this is the introductory post at my 1320 course blog, which attempts to describe to my students “the point” of the individual blogs I’m asking them to keep.

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So, right now it’s likely that you’re sitting there thinking aww, man, we gotta blog?!?

Yes. And No.

Yes, in that you are going to regularly (daily, for the most part) post to what is technically known as a blog: “a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video.”

No, in that I’m not really asking you to become “a blogger.” (talk about your vague abstractions…)

What I’m really interested in is pretty well summed up by Alex Reid here:

For the novice writer, perhaps the most important quality of the blog is its invitation to a regular writing practice. Nothing is more important to the development of a writer than a daily writing practice. A close second though is the opportunity a blog provides to build an audience and purpose for one’s writing. In choosing to write about one’s area of professional or academic interest and connecting with an audience, one has the ability to engage current and important issues in one’s field. This provides an opportunity for students to articulate the relevance of their studies for themselves.

I’m interested in you starting to think about what it means to be a writer, and a writer thinking, caring, and writing about important things in a larger community of people who also think, care, and write about important things. A lot of times we make this claim in writing classrooms, setting down grand manifestos about how “everyone in the class is your reader,” or something along those lines–when really, I, as THE TEACHER am often the only real, responsive reader you ever get, and your peers merely serve as fellow comma-hunters (and sometimes not very good ones at that!)

Blogging doesn’t dramatize the presence of an audience and doesn’t dramatize the process of publication–it provides the Real Thing. I’m hoping that the act of presenting your (often unfinished) thoughts to a real, live audience (who will comment back and everything) will make the artifice of “writing for class” a little less artificial.

So what’s really “the point” of keeping these blogs? What are we going to do with them? Here’s the short list of basic things you can expect:

  • Invention: I’d like you NOT to think of your blog as a place to post final, finished, polished products. Instead, it will be a place for invention–for drafts, for unfinished thoughts, for works in progress, for exploratory writing that is attempting to get at the developed idea, rather than at the polished, perfectly punctuated sentence. I’ll help you with this by providing assignments (not necessarily writing assignments) and short writing prompts that you’ll briefly respond to, all of which will have something to do with the major project that we’ll spend the course working on. You might think of it as a digital writer’s notebook–a place to work things out for yourself and–most importantly–a place to practice writing.
  • Collaboration: I’d like you to think of this as a collaborative space. Writing (any use of language) is not a solitary activity, and neither is thinking–in community we are inspired, refined, exalted, rebutted, and even sometimes cut down, but we can’t know if what we’re working on is worth a damn if we don’t share. You’ll not only be writing your own blogs, but you’ll also be expected to comment on the blogs of others in the class, forming a digital side of our classroom community.
  • Iteration: Writing is messy, and rarely comes out right the first time–your blog will be a place for you to quickly make a mess so you can get some feedback for the next iteration, the next step in the complex process we call writing.
  • Introspection: At some point, we’ve gotta be meta–we’ve got to look inward and see where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. This blog will give you an opportunity to do a little public introspecting–which sounds scary, but I promise you that sharing your failures along with your successes will more quickly develop the sense of community that’ll be vital to success in this course. Transparency is good–for all of us.

I’ll use this main blog to do a number of things: provide updates, link to course readings and resources, post assignments and writing prompts, and provide a bit of commentary (and transparency) of my own for the course. I’ll also have the “master list” of all of your blogs–it’ll be a kind of portal for those of you who wish to use it as such.

And it could be more.

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4 thoughts on “Aww, man, we gotta blog?!?

  1. Crap. This is a great justification. So great that now I’m thinking about adding it to my 1302 course this summer just to find out what might “happen.” It’d be kind of fun.

    I completely and totally agree with the quotation about the necessity of writing for practice. As you remember, I’ve “practiced” out many a paper on my myspace/blogger blog (many of which I never even published) because the “space” seemed so much more inviting and less threatening than a Word document.

    If you’re interested in doing a panel on “blogging,” I’d be interested in doing something with you on my experiences blogging my way through comprehensive exams and my papers/dissertation. Maybe contribute a paper/presentation on blogging for graduate students… something we might could think about. 4C’s or Computers and Writing would certainly be a good forum for this sort of dialogue.

    I’m off to think more about adding a blog component to my courses…

    1. I tell you what, blogging for my course last semester had a MAJOR impact, not only on the course (working through ideas, getting feedback from colleagues) but also on my process for putting together the final paper. My Online Publishing paper was probably one of the most absurdly over-invented papers I’ve ever written!!

      Blogging for grad students? I’d definitely be interested in putting together a panel, and I know plenty of people in my program that are making use of blogs–either as a coursework space (sometimes assigned, sometimes not) or as a space to work through/out their quals/dissertations.

      Go to it! I’m going to be using this in other courses in the fall, in one way or another.

      1. I still get emails from classmates wanting the address for my comps blog–2 years after the fact. There’s something about that level of disclosure in a public forum that I think helped establish my ethos with my professors before I even took the exams. “Look how hard I’ve been studying for the past 6 months. Here are all the books, with summaries and critiques/thoughts, that I’ve read.” My adviser emailed me two days before the exam and told me to stop studying. I was done. I was ready. Whew, what I load off my mind that was.

        I’ll look into Computers and Writing or 4C’s and see what kind of panel we might propose next May. Then, I’ll get back to you. I say this would be freakin’ awesome.

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