One last question to mull over: Do blogs offer up a new way to teach the same skills we’ve already been targeting, or do they represent a new skill set that we need to be incorporating?.
Bud says that his gut reaction is a mixed one - yes and no. He says
Blogging as I am beginning to understand it asks a writer to take ideas and weave them together — a little of this, a little of that, add some critical analysis and you’ve got a good piece of writing. That’s no different than any other writing that I ask my students to do. I want them to think critically.He goes on to say he isn't content with his answer but that it is a start.
But blogging, because it involves hypertext and the entire Internet to draw from, adds a layer. Students linking and cross linking can get, well, complicated. as you say, a blog can help to make clear a “conversation occurring in slow motion,” which is precisely what a good piece of writing is — it speaks to the pieces that came before and it hints at those to come.
My own initial response is that blogging finally makes all those old skills we have taught forever relevant. It gives students an audience. It provides almost immediate feedback - not from the teacher, who is most likely going to say "Nice job!" and then point out all the errors, but rather from people who are much more likely to comment on the substance of the post than on the mechanics of it. There is a need, as Bud points out, to teach students how to link to other posts. It is not all that different really from asking students to synthesize information from various sources, but the techinical part of it must be taught.
I think that blogging should be taught without much reference to "regular" writing skills. There are too many people who have a hard time putting pen to paper. Let them think that blogging is something unrelated to writing. I think we can interest a whole new group of people in blogging if we don't turn them off before they get started.