My Dog Ate My Computer

In  “Learning to Write Publicly: Promises and Pitfalls of Using Weblogs in the Composition Classroom” Benson & Reyman make an interesting point:

“While blogs have the potential to reach a wider public audience, many students reported that they felt that the anonymity of writing with a screen name and the perceived sense of writing for friends and classmates, as opposed to a larger public audience, made thinking carefully about potential negative consequences for their writing irrelevant” (20)

Just be warned that blogging does not necessarily induce audience awareness. There are loopholes where students can use the internet as if they were writing in a private space.

Blogs should encourage two-way communication rather than one-way commenting and collaboration that wikis offer.

In “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts” by Will Richardson, the first chapter talks about blogs which are a collaborative medium. At first, the internet was only used to share text and data. Then in 1993 came a period of people being able to read and write to the internet.

People use blogs for a variety of topics including personal passions to politics. People can also mix modes by posting photos and audio files. Even the Obama campaign was successful in 2008 because of the group forming ability that the internet has. However, education is slow to adapt these new changes.

How can we keep up? We are seeing, as Richard puts it, “A new model of journalism evolving in front of us” (4)

Journalists now include people in this participatory culture of fact checking the news so that journalists can write better. Children are “always on” (5) and they are building vast social networks with little or no guidance from adults. Students become fearless in posting their content online which is a definite change from how students used to be shy when writing anything in print.

Richardson says “It’s the conversations, the links, and the networks that grow from them afterward that really show us the profound implications for lifelong learning” (9)

I like the idea of lifelong learning. When you learn things in class, it doesn’t  just end there. Blogging is a way to continue on learning after the class ends.

Another interesting fact is that many schools have major filtering programs where people who write inspiringly and educationally about their work can be blocked off from student access. Even though blogs are open to a lot of people, a lot of it is also closed off too. There is also the issue of keeping students safe and issues with publishing names, writing responsibilities and we are obligated to teach students what is acceptable and safe.

Richardson says, “These teenagers use these sites [weblogs] more as social tools than learning tools, and their behavior is sometimes reckless” (20) We now as educators have an added responsibility.

I liked this quote:

“It drastically reduced the frequency of ‘I didn’t know we had homework’ and ‘That was due today?’ responses when my students didn’t do their work. I’d simply say it was on the blog” (21)

Now students can’t say, “My dog ate my computer!”

Blogging is a good way to archive learning. We have to learn how to evaluate blogs for accuracy and trustworthiness since anyone can write them. Some bloggers prefer to stay anonymous. We might want to find out the reputation of the blogger for credibility of the source.

Another interesting quote that differentiates blogging from writing a traditional essay:

“That’s not to say keeping a blog is all work and no play however. Don’t be afraid to include some posts that are totally personal or just for fun; your readers want to see the person behind the blog as well”

In the article, “Erasing Property Lines: A Collaborative Notion of Authorship and Textual Ownership on a Fan Wiki” by Rik Hunter, he says,

“The answer is that thankfully there are vastly more editors who want to make it right than those who want to make it wrong. When mistakes occur or vandals strike, the collaborative efforts of the group set it straight, usually very quickly” (56)

The edit histories usually prevent vandalism because you can undo the changes. I wonder how this can be applied to other aspects of life such as cheating in school and plagiarism.

Tryon in his article, “Writing and Citizenship: Using Blogs to Teach First-Year Composition” talks about how blog entries have mixed reception among academics and journalists. Blogging has the reputation of being used for political commentary. He says,

“Actually I have no idea how to make my own arguments except that I try to stick to the facts and I always admit when I’m wrong which fosters credibility in all future arguments” (129) and also

“Humorous forms of argument were often more successful than the professional discourse readers might encounter in other contexts” (130)

As you can see from the last two quotes these lines of thinking is not even imaginable in traditional academic genre. I think that blogging has expanded the way we reason now. We are more curious about author credibility and entertaining our audiences than ever before.

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2 comments on “My Dog Ate My Computer

  1. You take on an interesting concept of student accountability here that I had not thought of before. A running stream of blogs or Wiki’s as a way to promote time management and organization is a new way to look at these digital platforms. Before attending SFSU, I had never been in a classroom that didn’t print and handout the syllabus on the first day of class, instead, leaving it online permenently so I can refer back to it when needed. I think graduate students are less prone to the “My dog ate my homework” bit and likewise, graduate instructors less likely to put up with such attempts.

    I do think there is a certain consequence of anonymous writing in the form of blogs on the internet. It makes it hard for students to find valid resources in their research and thus harder for them to establish connective tissue between what they are reading and their own attempts at writing in a similar sphere. I am sure there are some theoretical ideas out there to address this issue; admittedly, I have not read them, but the cencern about this is present regardless.

    The thing I like most about blogs is that you can maintain more than one at a time. You can have a personal blog for family/friends…and another for totally educational purposes to be used professionally amongst colleagues. One does not have to connect to the other in any way and the author can control the readership through the privacy settings.

  2. I agree that ” blogging does not necessarily induce audience awareness. There are loopholes where students can use the internet as if they were writing in a private space.” That’s what I was trying to get at with my blog – that blogging has the potential to really work with audience, but it doesn’t necessarily though. Not all blogs are read (though I guess the comment I got from Australia disproved my point a bit).

    I also connected with your point that “Blogging is a good way to archive learning.” Students can see their revisions in progress, jumping back and forth between past ideas and new ones and seeing how not only their writing, but their thought as well, has been revised throughout the semester/course. I only wish that when you revised a post, it didn’t supersede the post. When students revise a blog post and re-publish it, you can’t see the original anymore.

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