I was thinking more about my journalism class and blogging last night. While many of my students are getting the hang of this, just as many aren’t. I’m sure it’s that some are simply more motivated than others, some feel more comfortable writing for an audience, others are more passionate about their topics, and some are just more confident in their abilities in general. But what those of us using Web logs are trying to articulate now are the strategies that will help students make the most of their blogging efforts while at the same time envision the ways in which they might be included in the curriculum. Here are a few that I’ve collected but not committed to blogemory…nothing earth-shattering I’m sure:

  • Blogging works best for students when they write about topics about which they are passionate. This is true of all of us, and of writing in general. Problem is, some of my kids really don’t have a true passion (sad), can’t articulate it if they do, or can’t write about it in a school setting. I think job #1 is to help students find good topics to write about.
  • Student bloggers need to be student readers of blogs, and they need to interact with the writers they read. We all know this; if you want to be a good writer, you have to read good writing. Web logs allow us to take the next step and join the conversation, which leads to better blogging, I think.
  • Student bloggers need real audiences. It’s not enough that the words are published on the Internet. The potential for interaction from a “real” audience is a motivator primarily if that audience becomes real. As Dennis Jerz says “the students who felt like their blogs were being read tended to keep up their enthusiasm longer than others.” We need to teach our students how to find audiences, but at the same time, we have the very difficult task of keeping those audiences safe for our students. This is one of my biggest struggles.
  • The teacher who uses Web logs needs to build a supportive community in the classroom where students can share their experiences (successes and failures) and teach each other. I guess something along the lines of a meta-blog would apply. My students most conspicuous successes usually occur when they not only see good models but share in their creation.
  • While I think I’m almost at the point where I could argue for a writing class in the Web log genre (wouldn’t that be cool), for now student blogging has to come in the context of what’s being taught in the curriculum. That’s why I think it has worked well for my journalists, because they are using it as a tool to “cover” their topics. Nick Olejniczak refers to this in a comment to Kaye’s post yesterday. This is difficult to translate to other classes which are inherently more narrow in their scope and thus in the topics students can post about.
  • More to come, no doubt…

    This all assumes, of course, that you believe that Web logging is a genre of writing that is worth teaching for it’s own merits, and that the skills students learn by blogging develops them as writers in other genres as well. (There’s more on this here.) Um, I think that’s what Terry is supposed to find out…;0).