Writing in a journal is a fun kind of writing. In part, this is because a journal gives legitimacy to our own voice and frees us from the tyranny of formality. Most of us who are teachers now, probably wrote our journal entries in personal notebooks when we were college students. Today, most college students spend their creative, journal writing energy on social networking sites, writing in a much more public way. College professors assign journals to help students engage critically and creatively with course material and to practice writing. Last semester, we experimented with creating an assignment that makes use of the journal-like nature of a Blog and allows students to think critically about their writing that is also public.
Dr. Nathalie Kuroiwa-Lewis and I designed this assignment for a research and writing course - English 102:
1.Assign students to write a draft that can be used in a blog post. We asked students to document and describe an experience at a restaurant. See the full assignment here.
2.Have the students share their writing with one another. We use the course management system, Moodle at SMU and had students post their writing in a Moodle forum.
3.Sign up for a blogging service (we chose Blogger, which is very easy for beginners) and follow Blogger's prompts to setup a class blog. Then invite students to be authors on the class blog.
4. Remind students to accept the invitation (they will get an email from you) and sign up for the blog service before they come to class. Most students will have no problem doing this but they will need several reminders.
Have a Discussion
Discuss and establish guidelines for students going public with their writing. Suggested readings, A false wikipidea ‘biography’ by John Seigenthaler or a handout on online reporting and law and ethics from Tim Harrower's Inside Reporting .
Example discussion points:
1)Who is John Seigenthaler and why and how is his story problematic?
2)What do you know about the wikipidea and why is this a controversial site?
What issues does Seigenthaler raise about the wikipidea?
3)According to Harrower, what is a blog? How does he define it?
4)What’s our relationship to an audience and what are our rights?
5)According to Harrower, what should we consider when it comes to libel, copyright and privacy?
Discuss criteria for blogs. What makes a good blog?
1)Bring examples of effective and ineffective blogs to class. Here are some:
The very official best worst blog ever
Damn I’m cute
Pie of the tiger
silver in sf
my life in food
2)Ask students to study blogs in relation to the following:
Recap with students on fundamentals of blogging
1)Ask students to edit and then copy and paste their original blog drafts to the new class blog
2)Have students add images to their post
3)Show students how to add links to text
3)Discuss the virtues of tagging content for organization
4)Ask students to leave comments on the posts of their classmates
What we learned from the blog assignment
1. Strengths of the assignment
It created a focus to the writing assignment
It was a familiar medium, practical and relevant to students. Students got to think critically about writing publicly.
Students really enjoyed it
2. What we would do next time
Create more of an accountability system and build this into the assignment. The blog is collaborative and so everyone's post affects the collective blog. So, if the post is riddled with spelling errors or is not complete, we will remove it until it is finished.
Talk more about copyright issues and sites like creativecommons.org, where students can access content that is not copyrighted
This post was written in collaboration with Dr. Nathalie Kuroiwa-Lewis
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