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Blogs and the Bard March 3, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools, Students, Writing.

shakespeare   David Warlick wrote in a recent blog of his disappointment that so few teachers were using the technological affordances despite having early successes at incorporating the Internet into their teaching just a few years before. He is speaking generally about the use of blogs and their disappearance from the teaching scene. They simply have not caught on yet as a teaching tool. 

I wonder if there is some student resistance to being asked to write that makes it a little harder to implement blogs widely. I also wonder if it is the case that so few teachers have the writing habit that they are not able to convince their students that daily writing can benefit them. For me, the benefits show up every day. In addition to writing more clearly, I am able to gather my thoughts together more quickly and construct my arguments better. Writing on a daily basis can also produce some surprises in the product. 

Yesterday, a graduate student sat down with me to outline his ideas for a dissertation. As part of his qualifying examination, he wrote a very good paper about getting his AP students in English to write blog entries about Shakespeare, specifically comparisons between King Lear and Hamlet. The blogs were very well contained on a site operated by nicenet.com. The teacher encouraged his students to write freely without thought of having points deducted for poor grammar or strange sentence constructions. As a result, I read several of the blog entries that read like lunch hour conversations: 

Man, Cordleia must have freaked when she found out what Goneril did. 

This sort of writing, breathing like into Shakespeare with an honest to gosh high school senior’s reaction is wonderful. Of course, the teacher did have to ensure that the students knew what a substantial post was. What it was not was a series of “I agree with Jayne,” or “You dummy, that is so stupid.” Once he sorted that out, he did get some rather decent responses to his writing prompts. 

In my own class, the blog writing is coming in fits and start. I believe I am going to have to ratchet up the pressure a little to get regular writing out of them. Some, however, have been simply marvelous. 




1. Zs - March 4, 2006

I do enjoy the midterm on blog. I really do my students also :-)
It is much more reading for me, since along with the postings each student had to post 4 comments on other classmates’ blogs.

What I found interesting is that I gave them the two options (paper vs blog) and only 2 (two) choose to do the paper version.
Between those who did the blog I have some very poor (sould I say “free style”?), but some are really good and I am very pelased. I think the good ones would have a good paper also. Compared to the quality of written papers of last year I found that the blogs are much better quality. I asked them to post a minimum of 500words/topic (6 topics). They choose the blog because the APA style paper should have been 10-15 pages. They were afraid of the length of paper and the best blogs are way bejond the 20 pages of a APA style midterm.
Isn’t that something?

2. mcvey - March 4, 2006

That is certainly something. I wonder how many other people are experiencing that same reaction: a sharp increase in volume of writing over previous years. In my own class, I see many good quality blogs and students are writing more about technology than they ever have. It is a very good thing.

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