Blog’Whats in Gaston County

I’ll be teaching a 2 1/2 hour workshop today on blogging for educators in Gaston County North Carolina (where I grew up).  In preparation, I have tried to address a question, or a series of questions, that I have sensed more than actually heard in my blogging workshops.  Most of the time in these workshops is spent explaining what blogging is, why it is important culturally and instructionally, it strengths, weaknesses, dangers, and the wonderful opportunities.  We just haven’t gotten around the assessment, especially in terms of the ethical aspects of a world with everyday, everybody journalists.

So I will be suggesting five questions that will be asked, not by the teacher, but by the student, as a way to assess blogged content.  I call the questions “Blog’Whats?”:

– What did you read in order to write this blog entry?

– What do you think is important about your blog entry?

– What are both sides of your issue?

– What do you want your readers to know, believe, or do?

– What else do you need to say?

These questions assume that blogging is seen as a practice of literacy, accessing, processing, and communicating information.  They also serve to help the writer to focus on the broader aspects of the issues being written about, exploring all sides and perspectives, and even exploring the next phase of the communication.

I think that these same questions, reworded only slightly, can also be used to examine and evaluate the blog writings of others, other classmates, and other blog content being used for learning.  Those questions would be:

– What did the blogger read before writing?

– What was important about the blog entry?

– What were both sides of the issue?

– What do you know, believe, or want to do after reading the blog?

– What else needs to be said?

Please suggest other questions, or other ways to assess blog work?

17 thoughts on “Blog’Whats in Gaston County”

  1. Two suggestions that immediately came to mind are:

    Was the author’s entry approprite to the topic and the audience?
    Did the author clearly state his case?

    Brian Grenier

  2. I think of vital importance is:

    What sources are used and are they properly linked?

    Blog entries that talk about articles should mention the article and hyperlink it. It should be correctly hyperlinked and not “If you want to read the article click here.” Such improper linking wastes time and space and good bloggers never use an extra sentence if one will do.

    Good bloggers have relevent contextual links. They do not have distracting links that are not relevant to the story they are telling. I think talking about a source without a hyperlink is bad netiquette! Links are what give true power to the blog and correct linking is an essential skill for a blogger.

    I am spending time teaching in my hometown today too with a new Internet discussion group. It is so important to share the message on all fronts! Great job, Dave!

  3. * What did you read in order to write this blog entry?
    * What do you think is important about your blog entry?
    * What are both sides of your issue?
    * What do you want your readers to know, believe, or do?
    * What else do you need to say?

    David, how do these questions take advantage of this new medium?

    Doug’s 2.0 questions:

    * What experiences or insights have you shared that make this entry unique?
    * How will you generate feedback from your readers?
    * Are you upfront about your biases?
    * How do you want to make your readers feel?
    * What are you doing to make people come back to your blog? Do you care or should you?

    Other “composition” questions that are specific to social writing?

    David, I am still a huge fan and admirer. Glad the librarians treated you well in New Orleans!

  4. I like these questions, especially the one about reading. Too often, students expect to write only from their own experience without reading, without understanding others’ perspectives, without weaving those perspectives into their writing. However, I would change that question to:

    – What are the different sides in this issue?

    This rephrasing moves students from an “either-or,” “us-them” mentality to a more nuanced picture fitting the complex reality of life.

    On a sidenote, Haloscan didn’t like the trackback URL provided.

  5. David, excuse me while I have a COW! Taking a deep breath, focusing…. It appears blogging by students then, will just become one more way that we assess them. If that is not what you intended, please take a careful look at what is being implied in some of the comments left here.

    In this brand new, thrilling, boundless environment, educators are already scrambling for ways to harness what students do here, to wrap their own perceptions around it, to change the way students write in it, to shape it to their purposes. I can see it now, the latest NCLB iteration will involve teacher and student self evaluation of their blogs.

    One of the true joys in the blog environment, both for this teacher and for my students this year, has been the _separation_ of our blogging from all the other insanity that comes with the regulated, tested, and lock-step mentality that has become public education. If the student blog becomes just one more piece of that system, it will drive children away in droves.

    I say we must continue to let the blog in schools grow, flower, and mature on its own – for a lot longer – before we start messing with deciding what we want it to be. We need to see what it CAN be, first. Nurture it before trying to harness it. – Mark

  6. There is a great deal of self-reflection going on here, and I am sorry to hear that Mark had a COW. I hope it didn’t hurt.

    Much of the academy has yet to comprehend or wrap its instituitional brain around the potential of blogging as an extension of teaching and learning — something that moves education beyond the ivory towers and the four walls of the classroom.

    While you are focused here on assessment, I would like to point out the shortage of hard empirical data supporting blogging as an academic activity. We can recount anecdotes until Mark’s cow comes home, but what’s critical here is evidence supporting desired learning outcomes.

    Until administrators, the people that ultimately decide our fate as educators, understand that the benefits of blogging far outweigh the liabilities.

    The assessment questions mentioned here do not stray all that much from the antecedent traditions of literary discourse. I do think this still holds true with emerging new technologies, but what happens on the web, I believe, deserves a form of evaluation that takes into account the spontaneous feedback I blogger receives. Teaching and learning is changing with the Internet. Students are by and large vastly more digitally literate than many of their instructors. This is a generation that was born to and came of age online. The Internet and technology, in many cases, appears second nature for most.

    Therefore, setting learning outcomes and educational objective must be concomitant with student behavior. We have entered a brave new world of learning where students are increasingly producing creative and intellectual content for the masses. At this point, there is an imperative in education to meet students, our future journalists, where they live – online in cyberspace.

    Hope this isn’t too preachy.

    Dennis Dunleavy

  7. So, blogs can’t be used as creative writing exercises? Or as journaling? Only for newsy, reportage of events that had to be prepared for with background material, and required making at least one point and deliniating a cogent argument? Yuk. A steady diet of that and we turn out little automatons.

    I’m with Mark on this, at least partially: there are many, many, many types of blogs, just as there are many types of writing, and many types of students. While we may want to target some types of blogging for assessment on occasion, we should also encourage, coach, foster peer review of, and show examples of blogging that is NOT serious, does NOT seek to convince, and has NO background material involved.

    Just like student writing is now: there are some classes that help you write a research paper, some that help you write a book review, some that help you write a news article, and some that just let you write what you want to, guided by study and sharing of the writing of others, including some in the class. In some music classes (in those schools that still have music programs), lyrics and song structure become part of the curriculum.

    There’s just as much a future need for script writers, feature writers, comic writers, lyricists, poets, and curmudgeons as there is a need for journalists. Blogs can and should be used for any of these.

  8. David and all, I’ve been thinking about this post, and the outline of structure the questions would provide to some people. I just finished teaching a staff summer workshop where people had many more questions than I had answers to. Now, most of them are comfortable with their own best practices to see how blogging will fit in their classrooms. Others will welcome this list as a way to structure what they will learn to do in their classrooms. For those of us who take an idea and transform it into our classrooms in the best interest of our students, we can feel good. We can see the progress our students make. It is also in our best interest to help others who are still adapting to these new technologies to provide them with an outline, a structure, or parameters on how they can use these new ideas in their classrooms with their students. To me, blogging is about the conversations and telling the new story is a great best practice!

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