Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Blogging to Develop Honors Students' Writing

Academic journal article Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council

Blogging to Develop Honors Students' Writing

Article excerpt

"One should rule a great kingdom as one cooks a small fish"

--the Tao de Ching

After an exciting class discussion, you might want students to write conventional papers directed at you and focused ultimately on a grade, or you might prefer that they bring their further insights to their classmates, continuing and enriching the ongoing class collaboration. Blogging is an excellent way to implement the second option, continuing an exchange of ideas and providing students with another tool to improve their writing skills Student class blogging offers many benefits--for student and instructor alike--compared to assigning conventional papers directed only at the instructor. The collaborative writing and peer editing inherent in blogging offer challenges as well as benefits, so guidance in facilitating a meaningful exchange as well as navigating the nuts-and-bolts technicalities may be useful to honors faculty who are establishing a class blog. Ideas for class exercises, assignments, and evaluative expectations co-designed by an instructor and a team of honors students may also help bring out maximum creativity and collegiality in the honors blog.

BLOGGING BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS

Most teachers are inspired by new tools that can potentially enhance classroom pedagogy, but they may have reservations about implementing unfamiliar tools and technologies Blogs are relatively easy to integrate into the class experience, but one should prepare carefully before integrating it into class assignments With such preparation, establishing class blogs is easy and affordable, the benefits greatly outweigh the minor drawbacks, and ongoing maintenance is minimal. As composition instructor Joel Bloch makes clear in his helpful book on teaching and technology, "Blogs can be set up either by a teacher or a student, often at no cost, on a blogging service. Blogs can be set up for individual students, for a group of students, or for an entire class. ... [It is] a simple and low cost way of giving students access to publishing and distributing their writing on the Internet" (128). Given the many different ways to blog now, a teacher has nothing to lose by giving it a try.

Bloch also points out that logs are democratic: they allow everyone to publish their unique perspective, "free from traditional gatekeepers" (129). Another advocate claims that the way students learn on a blog is different from how they learn through traditional writing:

[Students write to each other in] virtually all of their course communications, expanding ideas of audience, purpose, and context each time they contribute to a message board, create a blog entry, or engage in an email-based peer review. The online format--by its very nature--requires students to learn to use writing to interact with others. (Warnock xi)

Blogs can facilitate "constructivist learning strategies such as self-directed, collaborative, and active learning" (Gresham et al. 44) as well as enhance digital literacy When blogging, students learn to explore topics that interest them. They can share their discoveries with their peers in a communal setting, where everyone's voice is valued. Blogs are especially effective at

   ... allowing students increased time and flexibility for
   student-to-student interaction, as well as student-to-teacher
   interaction, by expanding the range of resources available Students
   also have increased responsibility for their own learning, and an
   online component allows for the production of an individualized
   environment to suit students' different needs and learning styles."
   (Gresham et al. 44)

Finally, the "online environment is an ideal place for reflection, much more than the face-to-face environment where external factors can influence a student's ability to speak up" (Johnson 91). Blogs thus create a perfect opportunity to expand the conversation outside the class discussion and allow quieter students to have a voice. …

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