Blogging in the Classroom: Questions
When I decided to have students blog as part of my class one of the difficulties I had was trying to decide what type of questions to ask. Should the blogs be standard analysis or reflection papers that just happen to be put up on a blog for others to read? Should they be more open ended engagements with the readings or general themes? Put in another way, I had to figure out to what extent I wanted my students to become bloggers and to what extent blogs were simply a medium for them to read each other’s reflection papers. Overall I went more with the latter. As I started I was most worried that the blogs would not be rigorous enough and thus I assigned straightforward analysis – the first blog assignment was a basic compare and contrast between Genesis 1 and Enuma Elish, a common assignment given without using blogs. Since one goal of having the blogs was to ensure that students were doing some of the reading throughout the course, these sorts of assignments were effective (ensuring that students did the reading on non-blogging days was a difficulty throughout the semester; some other form of reading check seems necessary if one hopes to have a discussion-based classroom). I always tried to give students a number of different ways to approach a blog post and this seemed to ensure enough variety and openness within the analysis paper model. As the semester went on (and particularly when we turned to the theme of poverty for the final three weeks), I made the prompts more reflective. These posts were particularly effective in terms of generating real discussion during class time.
In the end, I worried about having the blogs becoming too un-academic and this perhaps risked stifling the medium to a certain extent. In the future I would keep a mixture of the various types of prompts but I would include more of the open ended, reflective prompts earlier in the semester in order to facilitate more discussion.