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In Stephen D. Krause's When Blogging Goes Bad, he speaks of his profound disappointment because his students' blogs didn't become dynamic sites. He suggests and as I learned at Purdue in teaching practica, blogging must essentially be used as a tool because they don't become dynamic sites replacing email or listserves. He advises us to forget the utopian idea of a thriving community. Ken Smith's experiences would seem to suggest otherwise, except for one or two students, and in a class of 20, I think the percentages are a strong indicator that blogs have the potential to "go good."

Simply using the blog as a tool may backfire and explode in what Michael J. Salvo terms "technorhetorical" in his article, "Teaching Information Architecture."  Salvo defines "technorhetorical" as not only communicating information to an end user, but also taking part in the process of how the information will be constructed. This is exactly what happened in my Technical Writing class last semester.

In Technical Report Writing, my students worked in collaborative groups to create online tutorials for their client. As part of the process, I assigned a group blog for students to document their contributions to the project and keep everyone informed about their progress through the project. Typically, there were four contributing members to each blog. While some students barely met the blog requirements, one group began practicing "technorhetorical," and created a blog with dynamic aspects.

What impressed me with the blog is the development of outside links on the sidebar, and not just any links, but links that directly relate to their work within the classroom and the reason for the blog. In addition, it is clear that they didn't just blog in response to a prompt as so many of the class blogs did–they're communicating here. For example, "We'll go over the grammar in class tonight." They're planning and sharing not through email, but on the blog and before class.

Their blog shows the earmarks of "technorhetorical" strategy. They were only required to set up the blog and post after course meetings and/or meetings outside of class. However, at least one of the students sharing the blog understood that blogs have a rhetorical layout and strategy, and s/he or they began constructing a dynamic blog rather than the static tool the assignment requested.

In addition, a student in another group began investigating other blogs (I'd led them through setting up an account with blogger). I suggested (following a tip from Ken Smith) WordPress as a medium, and he formed a blog with other students outside of class. And he is not alone. While my classmates and myself didn't create a dynamic blogging community in our Freshman Composition Practicum, we did afterwards, and now, we're dependent on that blog for communication and support as we leave the mothership and move into other positions.

Professor, blogs can "go good," but perhaps not in the classroom. And I'm willing to admit they can go bad. The potential is certainly open either way. How do I help mine go good? Anonymity? Or just accept that while it might not happen in the classroom, it could happen later. And if that's the case, I can at least provide the "usability testing" within the classroom.

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2 Comments

  1. I love this site. Good work…

  2. Thank you!


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