Class blogs should be open spaces

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The walled discussion board almost feels normal at this point. As a tool, I can understand the use of a discussion board as a community builder and idea incubator. I’m a fan of those concepts.

I’m still calling wangdoodles when discussion boards are utilized for awkward or inauthentic purposes, but I can see their usefulness as an archive of correspondences for an online community. On SLA’s MOODLE install, all community members have access to a discussion forum that’s been live since the first year – SLA Talk. New freshmen are part of the fold, and their thoughts intermingle with those of the first graduating class when they were freshmen. It’s readable, documented institutional memory. An observer is just as likely to find a thread discussing student language use in the hallways as they are to find a debate about the latest movie release. It is a simple artifact of community online.

This semester, I’ve two courses implementing blogs as assignments.

For one course, a few students are assigned each week to post their thoughts on the reading leading up to that week’s class. Each other student is required to reply to one post per week with the option of passing on one week during the semester.

The posts have yet to be mentioned in class discussion.

In the other course, each person is encouraged to post weekly. The posts’ content might be related to the readings or simply to the topic for the week. No replies are required, and the posts are weekly referenced by the professor in discussion.

If blogging is to be required for a course, the latter instance comes closest to ideal practice – not required, but preferred; not for nothing, but tied to class.

In both instances, our class blogs live within the walled garden. The thoughts with which my classmates and I play will never find footing in a feed reader or enjoy comments from those who have reading lists contrary those chosen for us on our syllabi.

They should be public. Comments from anyone around the globe should be invited and commented. Our thoughts should mingle in the cyberether.

This is true for two reasons.

One, the refinement of thinking benefits from a plurality of opinions, and the Internet offers a cacophony that would challenge us to sculpt our thinking in ways we could not imagine.

Two, an open class blog asks participants to clear their throats and use their public voices while connected to a class setting in which they can find support when their voices are challenged. More than once, I’ve felt pushback when posting in this space. Early on, it was difficult to take. Sure, I wanted people to read what I posted, but how could they disagree with me?

Opening our blogs would give my classmates and I the chance to write with the training wheels of a cohort of support while enriching the experience by exposing us to the democracy of thinking on the web.

Walling a class blog runs the definite risk of students taking their opinions into the world untested and unprepared for criticism. It also robs them of the practice microphone a class blog could become.

3 thoughts on “Class blogs should be open spaces

  1. Hello Mr. Chase,I enjoyed your post very much. I found it very easy to relate to because I am actually commenting on your blog for a class I am taking in college. Our personal blogs are similar to the second class you explained, but a little more complex. We have to post weekly from assignments that are given to us. We comment on a child’s blog from around the world. We comment on a teacher’s blog weekly. We also comment the blogs of our own classmates. It is pretty much a blog based class and posting is NOT optional. Because everyone in this class is a future educator, our personal blogs are not placed in the “walled garden”. Our professor encourages us to make it as public as possible; from leaving our blog addressed to leaving our Twitter information. I agree with what you said about making your class blog public. Knowing that people from around the world are looking at my blog and receiving comments from others besides my classmates always makes me want to work twice as hard. I find myself put more effort towards my blog so my audience can enjoy it. I know that it is probably hard to write a post and not getting any kind of feedback on it. I guess that is one of the positives of having an open blog. But sometimes you can get comments that are a little harsher than you expected which doesn’t make you feel very good about your opinions. That is the negative part of a public blog. Hopefully, these courses you are taking will consider open blogs for the future. Thank you for your time and happy blogging!My Blog- http://ellisonchaneledm310.blogspot.com/My Class Blog- http://edm310.blogspot.com/

    • Chanel, thanks for your comment. It’s a little crazy to think that anything I’m writing here could be part of a class.
      Thanks for taking the time to explain the setup of your course. How do you feel about it? Part of me cringes at the required structure of it, but another part of me suspects, absent those requirements, many people in the class would never step outside their comfort zones. Is that a fair assessment?
      I know what you’re saying about harsh comments. It stings. It also helps to remind me to be thoughtful in how I comment or reply. It’s a great moment of Golden Rule education.

      • Hello Mr. Chase,
        Well it is different in this class because now people can “Google” me and find all sorts of information. Our blog is very public and our professor gives us assignments that have to do with blogging our whole life stories. But if we refuse to do them, of course that will be some sort of deduction towards our grade. So, no I don’t really think it’s that fair but we just suck it up and deal with it. Unfortunately, many people have already dropped the class, and I’m thinking it has to do with the reasons I explained.
        The only plus I see from our public blogs is the experience we get from using it.

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