Tag Archives: blogging

Non-Human Community

My department recently hosted a three-day Teaching with Technology seminar. I feel I’m already fairly plugged in enough that I have most of the skills involved in teaching using the Internet and social media, though sometimes I do need to be exposed to ideas why this might an area in which I’d want to increase my abilities. I have students in my Science Writing class write blogs over the course of the semester, with some mixed results, but by and large I’m a pen-and-paper kind of composition instructor. Part of it is practical: in a large state university, we’re not providing the students with laptops or tablets, and I can’t necessarily count on students having regular and unimpeded access to devices during class-time. I’m also hyper-vigilant about electronic technologies distracting students from the task at hand during the class, and flipping open a laptop screen reveals at times too many temptations to students, and too many distractions to other students seated behind them.

At the same time, I acknowledge and am a living example of how much actual writing going on in the world is occurring on-line, or at the very least, is occurring while a small stream of on-line information is being held at the ready. Even when writing about nature, I find I’ll have several browser tabs open with scientific or natural history information. I think it’s important to get students aware of and working with these tools in a way that strengthens their own arguments and develops a sense of writing as in part a community process.

So I came away with at the very least a renewed commitment to pushing my students more dramatically toward doing their work online, making the Internet part of the classroom rather than simply a distraction, and particularly my more advanced writing students. I’m still on the fence about whether to drop my usual writing journal requirement for my Writing as a Naturalist class in favor of a blog, as there are still so many advantages in getting students in the habit of taking in-the-field notes. Certainly I will make every effort to either get them to bring laptops or if that fails make machines available to them during class to do collaborative peer-editing on Google Docs, so that not only can I see what revision suggestions are for student drafts but I can also share the drafts with the class for discussion and further revision.

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What he said.

Matt Yglesias on student writing and the Internet:

The thing that you have to do if you’re in college is start doing the work. Follow writers you like on Twitter and use it to interact with them. Write your own blog, and even though it probably won’t have many readers take it seriously and write it like it’s intended to be read by total strangers. If you do internships, try to do them at places that hire young people for writing jobs (i.e., not the New Yorker). Think about what would be a good place for a first job, not a place where you’d dream of ending your career. If you do a post critiquing something someone you respect wrote (me, for example) then send an email and explain yourself—you might get noticed. If you get ignored, don’t get discouraged—you might suck, but the guy you wrote to just might have been busy that afternoon.

I’m going to add that writing faculty should be encouraging these activities, and that writing faculty should be taking part in them as well. Obviously.

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