To Blog or Not to Blog, That is the Question

The title may sound corny, but the topic (Using Blogs in the Composition Classroom) is worth reading about.  What are blogs and how can they be utilized in the composition classroom?  This is the question I will explore in my scouting report.  I have started my own blog this semester and I was amazed at how easy it was to get a blog started (I have an older version of Word so I am not going to italicize the word blog anymore—I didn’t want to take the time to learn how to “find” and “replace”).  The blog posting is easy and I have enjoyed seeing my work (writing) on the Internet.  But, I have not received the feedback that I thought I would be receiving; from classmates or from web viewers.  When I checked out a fellow classmate’s blog the other day I noticed she had added some color and a few tools to her blog; these additions definitely made the blog more appealing to look at.  I really appreciated the added visuals and tools; these enhancements made me want to read what she wrote and comment on her writing.  I noticed a “poll” tool that was asking the question, “Who’s ready for Halloween?”  I responded because the multiple choice answers were engaging:

  • I’m wearing a costume right now!
  • Get thee hence, Pagan!
  • I don’t have to beg for candy

I think I’ll have to experiment with some blog additions to attract comments.  Blogging does involve a time commitment; to maintain the blog and prepare writings to post to it.  The maintenance includes: routinely checking for spam, reading and responding to comments, and enhancement.

What is a blog?  According to Wikipedia, “A blog (a contraction of the term “weblog”) is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order.”  Blogs can be arranged around genres such as: political blogs, travel blogs (also known as travelogs), house blogs, fashion blogs, project blogs, education blogs, niche blogs, classical music blogs, quizzing blogs and legal blogs (often referred to as a blawgs) or dreamlogs.  Blogs can also be organized by media type: vlog, a linklog, sketchblog, photoblog, tumblelogs, typecasting (blogging), Phlog.  The terms that describe “blogs” are a lexicon unto themselves.  The type of blog that I envision using in my composition class would be a very simple “edublog,” or a blog used for educational purposes: the type of blog we are using in English 5010 would suffice because it is easy to start and easy to maintain (

The primary reason I think blogs would be beneficial in the composition classroom has to do with the importance of audience to the writer.  The ancient philosophers and rhetoricians; Plato, Aristotle, Isocrates, Cicero, and Quintilian all stated that rhetoric is the art of persuasion.  So, in order for persuasion to occur there has to be an audience.  It seems to me, and the more writing I do the more I believe this, that audience feedback is vital for the writer: writing and the feedback that accompany that writing are synonymous.

I visited several sites to learn more about blogs and I also investigated how easily they could be set up:

  1. 1. you need a Google account
  2. 2. create a blog link
  3. 3. pick a title and address for the blog
  4. choose a blog template
  5. When you’ve completed all the steps above you’re ready to start posting.
  6. Easy to use. I might use this for a composition class.

  1. One of Time magazines 50 best web sites of the year
  2. To get started: Choose a template
  3. add content and arrange it: text, photos
  4. no software to install
  5. Variety multimedia elements: video players, photo galleries, audio players, slide shows, and maps.
  6. Choose a domain name and publish the website.
  7. Easy to use. I might use this for a composition class.

  1. The last blog on this site was dated June 25, 2009.
  2. References to spammers and pill sellers.
  3. I don’t think this would be a good website to use with students.

  1. sign up
  2. upload photos, videos, podcasts
  3. create polls, discussion forums
  4. Easy to set up.  I might use this for a composition class.

  1. An online journaling community.
  2. This might be a good forum for a composition class.

I was able to visit these blog web sites utilizing a Google search.  There were almost three million results for my “free blog” query.  One negative to the use of new digital media (NDM) is the time involved in researching and investigating NDM.  My first exposure to NDM was in the fall semester 2008; during the succeeding semesters I became increasingly digitally knowledgeable.  My comfort with NDM is now such that I do not take notes on paper anymore; now I use a laptop to take notes, prepare assignments, and communicate with classmates.  This “scouting report” project has given me the opportunity to a) research “blogs” and b) determine whether a “blog” is feasible to use in a composition class.  So, I am finding out that time is well spent researching and learning the applicability of NDM in a composition classroom.

One concern I have about using NDM is ethics.  According to Socrates;

People will naturally do what is good, if they know what is right.  Evil or bad actions are the result of ignorance.  Self-knowledge is considered necessary for success and inherently an essential good.  A self-aware person will act completely within their capabilities to their pinnacle, while an ignorant person will flounder and encounter difficulty. (Wikipedia-ethics)

I think the ethics involved in using blogs, to teach composition, are similar to the ethics involved with teaching any other subject.  Take for example a liberal studies teacher who does not use NDM to help teach liberal studies content; this teacher provides student support and encouragement to help his students become ethical people.  The enlightenment that Socrates refers to is a way to provide our students with not only ethical support but critical thinking support as well.  In the article, “Young People, Ethics, and the New Digital Media: A Synthesis from the Good Play Project” the authors make a similar point:

As young people spend more time in digital environments, it is critical that they are equipped with the capacities to act responsibly there. Ultimately, our effort is motivated by a desire to create ethical supports for young people to engage in reflection about what constitutes ‘good play’—meaningful and socially responsible pursuits—both online and off. (48)

Support and guidance seem to me to be the main points in this article; ethical supports, both online and off.  In conclusion, I would like to suggest that teaching is not only the art of providing content support (in our case to facilitate student writing) but teaching is also allowing our students to explore NDM with our guidance and support.  The only way for teachers to provide NDM support and guidance is to become informed through research and experimentation.

1 comment for “To Blog or Not to Blog, That is the Question

  1. Ryan
    October 22, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Hey Mike. Great report. I agree about the whole giving our blogs a little more pizazz. THings like photos and quizzes certainly add to the overall flair. You are right about educators having to be somewhat fluent in ndm in order to teach it. As it becomes a bigger part of education, it may be a requirement. Good job. Later,

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