Sunday, February 1, 2004
This semester is my first using a weblog for a composition course. The course is EN106; its course description promises this: "The course teaches students to write effectively for various purposes and audiences. It also helps to develop further skills in critical thinking and reading. Special emphasis is given to information retrieval and writing a research paper." I decided to make one group blog and to make blog-writing compulsory. It's a lot like what takes shape in the online courses I've developed where course requirements call for a kind of double-entry journal from which dialogue unfolds. I like the asynchronous interaction. The compulsory element calls for a total of four entries each week: one 250-word entry must relate to our course concerns (the questions we're taking up from the reading and related discussions), one 250-word entry must trace a selected theme throughout the semester--for thirteen or fourteen weeks. The other two entries can be about anything, any length, etc., including comments on other entries. This is in addition to six essays and a few other options, all of which allow the students to make choices about what work they will do.
I went with compulsory posts because I wanted to ensure that the blog caught on. I also wanted to enable students to pursue their own interests in fullness and with sustained attention. In other words, I find the nature of many blogs bring about nuggeted writing--truncated blurbs about whatever notion strikes, a kind of Short Attention Span Theatre of sound bytes. Calling for a sustained theme will induce, I hope, a sense of coherence and continuity and will lead us toward ways of talking about and understanding ongoing research pursuits (research isn't all coherence and continuity, FWIW. It's plenty of digging, sifting, discovery, misadventure and curiosity, too, I'd say).
After our first week of writing in the course weblog, I have the impression that it's too much writing (right...never mind...there's no such thing. Is there?). For now, I think I'll stick to the pre-cut path. The rest is wilderness. Good thing we're not alone.Posted by Derek Mueller at February 1, 2004 10:51 AM to Dry Ogre Chalking