the students have spoken

and they don’t like blogging. Yesterday I got evaluations back from two FY comp classes I taught last semester. While*all* the students I had last semester were required to keep individual invention blogs, these two sections were required to read blogs and online media (of their choice) on a weekly basis and post regular responses and links based on that reading.

The second unit essay was an extended blog post, where they were to offer a mini-analysis of blogs as genre. What do blogs look like? What is the writing like? etc.

The kicker here is that those essays were, for the most part, quite good. And while this might be as a result of the *required* readings (they read Mortensen, O’Baoill, Blood, and others) and not their own blog-reading, they still did more in these essays than I expected. Some of them even talked about “informality” as an actual “form” with rules. Several students also received comments from authors they had cited (Mortensen was one generous commenter), which I was thrilled about.

But they hated it. I mean *hated hated* it. While none of them was particularly articulate in their hatred of blogging, nearly three-quarters of both classes (and maybe more, since I’m guessing) listed “blogging” under “Please name two things about the course you DISLIKED.” Some of them listed blogging AND blogging so they could list two things.

Gah.

Because none was forthcoming with WHY they disliked it so much, I can only guess:

It was too pervasive–both materially pervasive (as it was time-consuming) and personally pervasive (as I encouraged them to read and write about things for which they would need no external compulsion).

Along with it being materially time-consuming, it also seemed (to them) that the amount of reading and writing (because I did not designate word counts or page lengths for the weekly blogging activities) was excessive. That is, it was clear to them how much writing they were doing, as everytime they logged in to post again, they would see *just how many* posts they had already written. (Some did mention in their evals that the course was “too much work.”)

It was boring (one person did cite this as a reason for disliking the blog work). I encouraged them to read what they’d like, and one can only read so much about women’s professional softball. I guess I mean that when you’re 18, and your interests are the sport in which you participate, your girlfriend, and finding someone to buy you beer, the sorts of things you’re going to choose to read might not be compelling or thought-provoking. And I know this sounds like I’m having a little snit, but I’m trying to wrangle through something here. Blogging–a certain kind of blogging, I guess–requires that the writer have some level of investment in either learning or communicating something–something, anything. And this is not a personal attack against any one of these students, or traditional students generally. But there is something cool about being disaffected, uninterested, bored. About not caring. If you don’t care, you can’t be disappointed or hurt. And a blogger (a writer!!)–one who is internally-driven–cares about something. Is interested in something.

So maybe this is a function of a pervasive obstacle in writing classes, blogs or no blogs: writers are engaged when they find something that piques them, but it is difficult to allow oneself to be piqued when she’s worried about grades, and what she looks like, and how she’ll get home this weekend for her best friend’s birthday party, and when it is NOT cool to worry about anything.

Blogging, in all it’s virtual electronic splendor, is material. It is a material production of identity–a material production of work. That I can go back to any one of those students’ blogs and get a sense of who they were then and whether they actually completed the required number of posts is…threatening? Not threatening. But…scary to them?

The same thing happened the first time I used LinguaMOO. It seemed to be going really well during the semester, and then the evals at the end made it sound like I was a tech nazi, making them perform electronic acrobatics to learn how to log in and use punctuation to speak and emote.

>sigh<

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7 thoughts on “the students have spoken

  1. Eeek–and I’m doing a blog component with my Eng101 students soon! I have to say, it may not be the blogs per se, but this kind of writing. We did commonbooks with students at my old old school, and many of them resisted those in the same way others resist any frequent, short-term writing. That stuff that doesn’t seem to have immediate pay-off in terms of grade or obvious applicability to other coursework. Tough stuff.

  2. I’m interviewing students next week about their experience blogging in my class last semester. Interestingly, one of the students who wants to be interviewed was one of the worst bloggers. She only wanted to blog about dating and lacrosse. She really didn’t invest any time and effort into it. She still liked it though. Weird.

    I’m happy to share the results of my survey if you like. So how did you grade the blogging component of your class? Ours counted as participation and throughout the semester, we’d discuss upping the ante in terms of how much should be written and the quality of the work.

  3. Hi! My colleague, Ron, is having his language and society class keep a class blog. It’s http://languagechat.blogspot.com/.
    I think it’s an interesting forum for a class. My class is doing on-line discussions, and they are resisting this as well. I think they resist most, if not all, writing assignments. This is part of their genetic makeup as students.

  4. I mean I know what “a blog” is– but the content, quality an approach to them is so varied, it seems. I know that what makes a blog a blog is that it’s personally driven and produced and usually seems to have some unifying focus connected to the first person– or first people who produce it. I think. I mean, if I had to adopt a blog at the aspca, that’s how I’d differentiate it from the heffalumps.

    So what were their blogs to be like?

  5. These blogs were *supposed* to be like the commonplace books that susan mentions above: simply a record of writings/thoughts. I made no requirements or restrictions about topics or length, except that their posting must be prompted by *some other text* (ie, these blogs were not “discuss the minutae of your day”), although sometimes the “other text” was a prompt from me to discuss or examine something we’d read/done in class.

    I think, though, that the purposeful openness of the assignment stymied them a bit.

    We did not do a course blog–that is, each student maintained his/her own individual blog.

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