What does it mean to “build on a post”?

Where Scott Warnock (Teaching Writing Online: How and Why) discusses his “Rewards and Penalties for Originality and Participation” in online discussion boards, what exactly does he mean when he says that his students’ posts “should contribute to the overall conversation”? (88). His guidelines seem to imply that the generation of similar types of responses (by students) is undesirable. He dings students for what he admittedly calls “good posts” if they respond in too “similar” a “fashion” as other students. And yet he doesn’t seem to question the role the phrasing of a prompt necessarily plays in framing (or even dictating) how students will respond. Particularly if multiple students have thoroughly explored the topic from multiple angles, as well as extensively engaged with and made connections to course readings, discussions, past projects, etc., what are the students intended to use or do to take their responses further, or to “build” upon them? Does Warnock  expect students to conduct outside research? Relate the topic to their personal experience? Provide meta-commentary about trends in fellow student approaches to responding to the topic? Without clarifying how and in what ways student responses are expected to be “original”, the evaluative category seems somewhat arbitrary and subjective. Particularly when we consider who our undergraduate students are, is the goal to encourage them to read more widely? To bring in some of their own expertise or knowledge from outside of the course? If the goal is simply to encourage students to pursue as many external sources of related information as possible in order to perform the ability to make “more” connections, doesn’t such an approach seem to eerily border on the acquisition of information for information’s sake (e.g. banking or accumulation models of education)?

The improve comedy series Portlandia does a nice job of satirizing the information-hording model of reading: http://www.hulu.com/watch/217024/portlandia-did-you-read#s-p3-sr-i0

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3 comments on “What does it mean to “build on a post”?

  1. Humm, I think that Warnock is trying to prohibit students from “taking the easy way out” by telling the students that they will lose points for writing posts that are similar to their peers’. He wants the students to think about the the topic for themselves, rather than simply read what another student wrote and rephrase it. I don’t think that this would require outside research. The students would just need to engage in some intellectually activity with the question, which could possibly lead to them pursuing outside sources. Building on a post, as I see it, simply means staying in the conversation by adding new ideas or thoughts, or challenging someone else. By requiring that students “build on a post,” Warnock is also ensuring that the students are reading their peers’ posts, rather than just posting their own, separate comment in the middle of the rest of the classes’ conversation.

    I also loved the clip! Thanks for adding it.

  2. I liked your comments on Warnock’s “Teaching Writing Online: How and Why” in which Warnock discusses his ‘Rewards and Penalties for Originality and Participation’ in online discussion boards.” I belive what Warnock measns that his students’ posts “should contribute to the overall conversation.” Is that he wants them coming up with their own ideas and suggestions by adding to the conversation, by coming at the conversation from their own unique point of view. In this case being

    not only “original” but contributing some thing new, some thing fresh, maybe from another perspective instead of going along with the crowd. Great post I look forward to reading more of your posts before the end of the semester.

    Joe Ramos

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