Pedagogy of Blogging
With some trepidation this semester, I created a public blog to be used for assignments in my seminary courses at Drew Theological School. Assigning blogging within the seminary context is still fairly rare. Even more so, is the use of a public blog site, shared between courses at different seminaries. Such pedagogy raises questions about whether one can require students to make their work public, whether everyone has the technology skills (or can be taught), and how on earth do we grade blogs? My answers to these questions are what led me to create 4classesandmasses.
Let’s begin with the last question first, how on earth do we grade blogs? That for me was the easiest question to answer: like any other writing assignment that is meant to be concise and precise. In the discipline of social ethics, I look for clarity and quality of the theo-ethical argument, engagement with course discussion and readings, and attention to writing and formatting. Similar to a traditional paper, grammar, spelling, paragraph formation, thesis statement, and layout are important! With a blog, there is one added criteria, integration of blog format possibilities (e.g. hyperlinks, images). But this pertains to the second question.
Is it far to require students who are not technologically savvy to post a blog as an assignment? Yes. First, posting a blog is as simple as logging into email, selecting compose, and typing. Frankly, if students can manage Blackboard, Classes V.2, or Moodle to submit papers and post forum discussion topics, they can blog! I have found that a simple “how-to” for the blog software is sufficient. Even the student who declared, “I won’t be able to do that” successfully posted her blog without my assistance and opted for creating a blog series as her final project in the course. At this stage, students can post, but how creative they are with the blog is up to them. They may choose to communicate using only words, or expand their post using hyperlinks, images, or even video.
Can we require students to make their work public? Yes, and the work can be public without making the author public. Blogging is a qualitatively different form of knowledge production from the written paper exchanged between the student and professor. It calls for a different form of communication that is often shorter; it can free students to integrate more than just words in how they communicate; it begs the question of audience.
I find students, and I myself once did this, write for the audience called “my professor.” Blogging, especially when public, calls for a different type of language, an interpreting of insider terms, a requirement for current relevancy, and the ability to share one’s thoughts and thereby engage others outside the classroom. Students chose their “author name” and so long as I can link the author name with the student, no one else on the internet needs to know!
Like any new form of writing, blogging takes practice. Using a blog as an assignment is “a pedagogical experiment in thought, technology, and expression.”