Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Blogging is like an avocado

Me: I don't like avocado.
Mom: How do you know? Have you ever had avocado?
Me: No. But I don't like it.

Now, my mother is a smart woman. She knew she loved avocados, and she knew they were expensive. So she never forced us to eat any on those rare occasions when she bought one. Why waste it on us kids? More for her.

This came back to mind when I read Barbara Ganley and her post Trouble in Blog Paradise. In it she reflects on the amount of freedom that student bloggers should have. See, she has one class that won't blog. Should she force them to blog by evaluating their blogging? Should she guide the blogging process in that reluctant class? She discusses the problem and some related issues and then finally comes to her conlusion - at least for the time being:

Perhaps I let my students flail about too much. Perhaps I should make it easier for them, on them. And so I have a choice here. I can require my students to blog, or I can abandon the blog, or I can keep working with them to see the value of informal discourse, of conversation, of thinking out loud, of writing for this medium as well as for the page. And of course, that's what I'll do-- keep working on ways to put the responsibility in their hands, saying: you blog, you benefit. Simple? We'll see.

She isn't forcing them to eat the avocado, but she is going to continue to offer it to them and to enjoy eating it in their presence.

I think she is right. If we make blogging too prescribed, students will not be as likely to take ownership of blogging. It will be an assignment like all their other assignments. I think, though, that we have to come up with some way to engage them in blogging long enough for them to make a real decision about blogging. We don't want a knee-jerk negative reaction to anything new to keep students from even checking it out.

I think Dennis Jerz takes it a little further than I would want to in terms of rigidity, but I can see value in requiring blogging and letting students know exactly what I expected of them in that regard. The trick, I think, would be to find the impetus for them to want to blog over and above some basic requirements. As I have said earlier, I think students need some structure in order to be able to develop the habit of blogging. So I guess I would opt for a semi-structured approach in the beginning. But there has to come a time when they decide to blog for themselves.

I didn't learn to eat avocados until I was an adult. I honestly don't remember when I first tried them again, but I remember that I loved them. Let's hope that our students will come to appreciate blogging sooner or later. Or if that is not possible, let them at least know enough to know why they don't like it.

1 comment:

Dennis G. Jerz said...

I wrote that list because students in some of my gen-ed classes were clamoring to know how I would evaluate their blogging. You're right -- the students who get the most out of blogging aren't the ones who stop writing when they've met the criteria.

So the rubric I posted is more instructional/formative (helping the student get the most out of blogging) than it is descriptive/evaluative (helping me to evaluate).

In my freshman comp class, students are only asked to blog an agenda item and then post three responses on peer blogs. In my American Lit class, students are required to do something similar in order to meet minimal requirements, and they are expected to interact at greater length with their peers at least occasionally, but many have gone far beyond the requirements. In my Intro to Literary Study, several students blogged regularly during spring break, purely for their own benefit -- but that class is packed with English majors who enjoy writing anyway.

So any rubric has to be flexible. Because I don't give word counts or frequency requirements (beyond, say, asking students to post SOMETHING on every major text we discuss), I like to think that my rubric is flexible enough to encourage the devoted blogger to put in extra time.