“Don’t Bite the Noobs!”


Love them or hate them, online media (blogs, wikis, forums, etc.) are new aspects of composition classrooms that are quickly becoming part of the norm. With Tryon’s “Writing and Citizenship: Using Blogs to Teach First Year Composition,” Hunter’s “Erasing “Property Lines,”” and Benson and Reyman’s “Learning to Write Publicly,” one of the main connecting ideas between the three articles are the difficulties instructors experience in creating an authentic environment for students to write genuinely and for students to feel like that their writing is making some sort of difference on the world (with hopes of connecting with at least one other person). Luckily, the four authors mention and present different solutions and statistical proof on how online media can assist in conquering these dilemmas.  


ned-stark-blog.jpgWith this group of reading, I instantly started comparing the differences between blogs and wiki pages. Generally, blogs are written by one author and have content that is open for criticism by outsiders. According to Tryon, students become better writers because of this instant publication of their writing. Through this instant publication, students are capable of escaping the perception that they are “passive consumers” of writing and instead are becoming “active participants” of a specific writing community (Tryon 128). In the case of Tryon’s experience with his “Writing to the Moment” course, he was lucky to have readers outside of the classroom comment on his students’ blogs. As intimidating as that may be, this aspect of the course blogs made it so much more impactful for Tyron’s students because it showed an establishment of his students becoming part of that community. Rather than having the criticism in the comment section bring down their writing, students were able to strengthen their writing by incorporating the criticism into their next writing or using it to further establish their stances present in the blog; “blogging’s ephemerality, its focus on the everyday, and its no-holds-barred argumentative style” (128).


Wiki pages are generally content manifested together through a community of different authors who are able to add their own content and are also be able to edit other community members’ writing. Despite the strong community aspect to wiki pages, these authors also have a “lack of ownership attached to mistakes” (Hunter 48). Unlike blogs, wiki pages are more of a group effort where authors can directly communicate with each other on their writing and how to fix it.


Although blogs and wiki pages are separate online genres, they share a commonality by emphasizing on some sort of community development and individual growth through that community. In a way, blogs and wiki pages fit Benson and Reyman’s use of Walker’s take on network literacy, “understanding a kind of writing that is social, collaborative process rather than an act of an individual in solitary” (9).


I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but I’ve always felt tension when incorporating new media in the writing classroom –both as a student and an instructor, especially with blogs. Having gone through my undergraduate career, I can say that the strictly writing courses were tedious. Don’t get me wrong… I learned a lot, but they felt so repetitive. The saying, “Don’t Bite the Noobs!” in Hunter’s article stuck out to me because I think it’s something that we all can incorporate into our classrooms. Writing itself is such a hard thing. Even as a graduate student, I still find myself stumbling with words when typing the simplest of things: Facebook statuses, Instagram posts, and even text messages. Knowing that a community is open to new individuals definitely eases the tension and is something that can be beneficial for students.           




4 comments on ““Don’t Bite the Noobs!”

  1. Hey Stefano!

    I enjoyed reading your post. You synthesized and integrated the various points across the articles well and highlight the main differences between blogs and wikis, namely the way participation and collaboration features in those respective formats. Individual “stake” also varies, which is important.

    I want to piggyback and add to what you’ve written about blogging closer to the end of your post. For me, the aspect that makes blogging not-so-fun in a lot of courses when they ARE integrated is the fact that they are basically taking what people would do offline (type up traditional, text-based assignments, then print out) and moving that to the Internet. Beyond customizing one’s blog space, there is no other stimulation, and the materiality is not highlighted in any other way. The format is capable of so much more than just words on a screen, but instructors who integrate blogging overlook this fact. We can integrate pictures, videos, audio, etc. into our blog posts.

    Also, blog posts really require followers or commenters to make the writing seem somewhat authentic. We have a pretty good format here in Kory’s class where everyone has to respond a minimum number of times and can choose the weeks they want to do so. In classes where comments are not moderated, not tracked, not required, students feel no different from composing blog posts as they would just turning in a paper to the teacher, except perhaps even worse, because at least with traditional assignments, the teacher will often comment and respond but may not do so with a blog for one reason or another.

    Integrating new media is really tough. Shipka touches on this in her book a few times – because we have not been trained, necessarily, to include it or assess it. How do we assess a dance, a skit, or a photograph, versus a traditional essay? We are not “experts” in other fields, so how can we assess the way the content is being interpreted and delivered by the students? Luckily, we are in this class and these conversations are happening. In that way, we have an edge over many of our colleagues in the field.

  2. Using new media is difficult, but it can definitely make the classroom an even more collaborative and functional space. In the past I have used wiki as a student and teacher and I have to say that it worked well as a controlled environment for our class alone. If you’re concerned about your students being over exposed online (like I have to be with high school students) wikis are awesome Web 2.0 spaces for collaboration.

    I have used wordpress and blogger for the first time at SFSU, and for a college course, I think that they are great online spaces for what you called “writing genuinely.” Making the students more aware of how they can be contributing to online discussions beyond the casual instagram, twitter, or facebook post is such an excellent way to incorporate authentic writing scenarios for our students. Blog writing is something they can take into the professional realm with them and use to promote themselves (such as in the example I share in the next paragraph).

    I also think blogger and wordpress are a great platform for students to assemble portfolios if that is something you become interested in incorporating into a course you teach. Or for yourself just keeping all of your teaching materials together and open for feedback. I was just looking at Kory’s other blog where he keeps all of his teaching materials for all the courses he has taught. I think it is such an awesome way to open yourself up to future employers or the rest of the teaching community.

    Thank you for sharing,

  3. Greetings, Stefano! 🙂

    I enjoyed reading your blog posting, and I can relate to the challenge of integrating new media into the composition classroom. When designing my ENG 710 course, I struggled a lot with deciding whether or not a writing assignment should be in a “traditional” or new media format. As an undergraduate literature major, we used no new media – all of our papers were typed up in MS Word, printed and turned in (or, when having an especially modern professor, emailed). Even the more casual and intimate writing format encouraged by blogs is new for me! As an undergrad, we wrote a lot of distant analytical papers, with no use of “I” in sight. Sometimes, I still think, “Should I be using ‘I’ here?” when writing papers. I’ve had to loosen up quite a bit since starting the composition program!

    It’s also a new experience thinking of academic writing as “collaborative,” as new media, such as Wikis and blogs, encourage us to do. At first, I felt resistant, and thought, “I work alone – ain’t no collaboration needed here!” But, it’s so interesting to not only see what our classmates’ views are, but also to interact with them. I didn’t realize how isolating some of my previous “traditional” English courses could be at times.

    Thanks for your insights!

  4. My main aversion with all of these kinds of collaborative and interactive writing is whether or not the “noobs” will get their head bitten off. I did a vlog for my New Media project and I realised how terrified I was of actually posting anything on youtube. While not as popular, this can be the same as a blog. If one goes on many videos on youtube the comment section is one of the most toxic communities on the internet. While it is exhilarating to get a view or a comment, human psychology tends to cause us to focus on the negative. One overly negative comment can eliminate ten or 100 comments that are positive in the mind of a “noob” blogger or vlogger. If people come upon my students content, one troll could cause that student to lose all confidence or wore quit trying. These communities are WAY more populated than they used to be by exponential factors. As a result, the idea of a welcoming community seems somewhat less likely to me outside of the class of students.

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