This semester, for the first time, I experimented with blogging in one of my seminar courses. I asked the students to post at least one blog entry every other week and to feel free to post additional entries and/or comment on their classmates’ posts. I opted to count their blogging as part of their participation grades for the course. After twelve weeks of blogging, I thought I would briefly share my takeaways from the experience:
- Only Minor Technical Issues—I am pleased to report that there were only minor technical issues in setting up the blog and introducing the students to the technology. If I opt to blog with my students again next year, I think those technical issues would likely fade (although not entirely disappear because the technology may continue to be foreign to the new students).
- “Prior Restraints”—I opted to require my preapproval before blog posts could be “published” on the blog because I wanted to ensure that the students were respectful of each other and any potential readers. Looking back, my law students were well behaved, and I probably did not need to take the precaution.
- Early Connection Between Classroom Discussion and Outside World—I think blogging was effective in encouraging my students to connect our classroom discussions to the outside world more quickly and effectively than would otherwise have been the case. My guess is that this helped them to come up with more interesting, exciting, and timely paper topics at an earlier point in the semester, which is a positive.
- Integrating Blogging into the Classroom Discussion—If I were to do it over again, I might have further cut down the volume of outside reading assignments and instead allowed the blog to act as a good portion of the assigned reading. The risk of this is that the students would be less exposed to the authorities in the field and instead would bat around their own self-generated ideas and those of their classmates. Finding the right balance was a real struggle for me. I had hoped to integrate the blog posts into the classroom discussions, but we regularly ran out of time because the comments and ideas that the outside reading generated were more than enough to fill our mere two hours of discussion during each class period.
- Early Assessment of Writing Abilities—One incredibly useful aspect of the blog is that it allowed me to gauge the students’ writing abilities very early in the semester. Emphasizing the importance of careful writing, I even printed out one of each student’s blog posts in an early class period and asked each student to edit what he or she had previously posted on the blog. I believe that nearly every single student—or perhaps even every single one of them—found a silly error that he or she should have caught before making the blog posting public. I hope that this was effective in training the students to not make similar errors in the final versions of their papers that they will turn in to me at the end of the semester.
The verdict is still out on whether I will engage in this experiment again when I next teach this seminar. At the beginning of the semester, I informed my students that this was an experiment and that they should let me know their thoughts on it as we progress. I imagine that I may hear something about the experiment on my student evaluation forms. Until then, I am withholding judgment.
For those of you who think blogging may enhance your classroom experiences, I recommend visiting the CTE resources on blogging, which I found incredibly helpful. Also, I found WordPress to be the easiest platform for me to use as a blogging newcomer.