Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Getting Students to Create Their Own Blogs (Critical Thinking and Signature Assignments)

Last semester, I taught ENG 110 -- Critical Thinking. When I first heard of the ideas and practices of the "Signature Assignment," I was demonstrably concerned with what I thought would be the slight repetitiveness between the journal assignment (Logs) and the signature assignment. So, instead, I decided to request that the students create their own blogs in order to do centrifugally-critical things:  (1) increase their positive web presence, and, (2) learn a new piece of internet software on their own.

So, I offered that, once a week, they should find a piece of media on the internet (picture, video, link, article, etc...) that dealt with that week's reading and discussion in a critically-synthesizing manner. This could be done on either blogger, blogspot, wordpress or tumblr. I also made a blog while the students were making theirs in order to match their work. An example might be that a photograph of a family watching television compares visually and ideologically with Plato's "Allegory of the Cave." And, as a sidenote, this photograph, let's say, also acts as documentation of American racism, which then recreates the discussion on what it means to think critically as well as what it means to "read" in the sense that we should deconstruct all images and videos in order to rebuild them and learn from them.

We made proper use of APA citation where necessary and, as well, committed to mild professional research from sources like NPR, BBC, NYTimes.com, and National Geographic. I have done this before at other schools (Brooklyn College, NYU, and Mercy College) and feel that a blog is a great tool because the static feeling of who-is-the-audience increases as does the grammatical correctness and presentation since it is a public venue, technically and not a diary. We also get to make use of multimedia (New Media) and comment/follow on each other's blogs. This also brings up great discussions, like what does it mean to be private and public (especially in lieu of Plato's cave and Dante's hell. We also were able to discuss what kind of rhetoric is conversational, professional, explanatory, etc. And, perhaps most importantly, we discussed the timeliness of accurate revision processes because you don't want something to be victim of the public eye (errors on a blog) for too long. So, in that case, pre-writing becomes absolutely necessary. 

In a world where some job interviewers ask for credit reports, website addresses and Facebook passwords, we are slowly seeing the normal binary of public and private life interweave into a mesh of gray. It is seemingly growing more impossible to discern that your personal history is your public present. And, I think many in the MCNY community need to understand the pertinent imperative that having a positive web-presence is. 

The link to my course below is HERE.

You all can read it from the end of the semester (top of the site) to the beginning (bottom).

Ken L. Walker


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience on blogging with MCNY students.

    I particularly liked that you used your own blog to parallel the students' experiences and to provide a role model for the type of thoughtful writing you were requiring.

    Your focus on creating a positive web presence is an important skill for students who expect to be professionals.

    Did you use the blog instead of Moodle and email to communicate with the class?

    Did you require students to read and respond to each other's blogs? How were the blogs assessed? How did you respond to the students blogs? Did you follow every student blog?

    Were the blogs open to the whole world or only members of the class?

    I am interested in seeing some of the student blogs, but when I tried to use the links on your blog I received the following error message -
    Not Found
    The URL you requested could not be found.

    In the past, I used a wiki for my CA field journals, but the learning curve was too high and we spent more time learning to use the software than reflecting on field issues. I am now using the Moodle forums, but I find that it limits the students and they do not bother responding to each other. Maybe blogging, if it can be limited to only class members, might offer a more flexible environment for thinking and sharing. I see that tumblr offers the opportunity to password protect blogs. This might make it work.

  3. I, too, received the error message, but if you click on the title of the student blog, you will be easily directed to the blog. Definately work checking out our students' work!

    Student privacy is an ongoing issue, but there are some advantages to having writing open to a larger community. Composition scholarship argues that students tend to write better if there's a larger audience. Getting feedback from friends or even complete strangers can be empowering and help students understand that education does not happen in a vacuum within the four walls of an institution. That said, it's still an issue worth discussing. To password protect or not password protect: that is the question.