It's been so long that I posted to this blog that I almost forgot how!
This has been a very intense end of the term and end of the school year for me. There seem to have been many more social events all clustered together. In fact, beginning on Sunday, June 11th I had at least one social/professional event every evening until yesterday! Since my husband and I are country mice who hardly ever go out, this was really unusual and intense. It probably explains why Greg came down with a terrible cold.
It had been long enough since my last post that when I pulled up my blog I couldn't remember how to post. I actually had to go to Blogger's FAQ and remind myself. Pretty pathetic, huh?
Spring term was good. I taught a graduate-student-only rhetoric and writing theory class with 16 students. They were a diverse group, which made for really interesting discussions. Only two students in the class are majoring in rhetoric and writing (in our MA program--we don't offer a Ph.D), so most were taking it to fulfill a pedagogy requirement they must meet as TA's. Many had no idea that the field even existed before they began their MA and started teaching writing. Some were excited about the class; others were intimidated--but they all worked hard to engage the material. And they wrote terrific seminar papers. Some have posted their essays on our class blog.
Here's the URL for our blog: http://blog.cmc.oregonstate.edu/mtblogs/wr512/
This is the second time I've had a class blog. The first blog was for my fall Language, Technology, and Culture class. (This was a mixed group of undergraduate and graduate students.) It's interesting to compare the differences between these two blogs. The fall term blog, The Presence of Others, really took off. By the time the class ended we had something like 300+ comments, many of which were voluntary. In contrast, the blog for this term, boringly titled WR 512 (the course number) just never developed momentum.
I think there are some reasons why this is the case. Perhaps most importantly, the fall term class was in the English department's computer classroom. We not only had a computer console where we could project things, but we also had laptops--so the students could post to the blog in class. We didn't have a large number of in-class postings since it takes time to get the laptops out, fire them up, etc. We had had some early on, and seeing people's posts pop up on the screen really stimulated interest.
This term, by contrast, I taught WR 512 in a regular classroom in English. I could sign out the department's smart cart and bring a computer to class--though I never did. And we had no access to computers for students at all, so all posting had to happen outside of class. Posting in our computer classroom last fall felt a lot like playing. It was really fun to see people responding to posts as they appeared. I suspect that posting in WR 512 felt more like work.
The other reason the WR 512 blog didn't take off has to do with the subject matter of the class. In the fall, I presented the blog as central to our course inquiry: we would use it to explore the intersections of language, technology, and culture in our very own classroom. Several students in the class know a lot more about online technologies than I do--I'm thinking particularly of Michael Faris and Chris Villemarette (watch for them down the road!), and they helped generate interest and posted some really interesting comments, as well as "show and tell" items.
If I were a more creative teacher, I could probably have found a way to tie our class blog to the content, but I didn't. So while a few students posted non-required comments, and we did get some threads going, the blog never developed momentum.
So what's the lesson here? I guess it's a reminder that online technology--like writing and communication in general--is situated. Blogging offers the potential to create lively alternate forums for a class, but whether it will do so depends on the particular rhetorical situation, which includes everything from material conditions (like the availability or non-availability of laptops) to the personality of students to the content of the course.