Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lost in Blog Land or Perhaps Swirling Around? Confessions of a New Blogger

Hi everone--we've discussed four short stories on blogs--by Orwell, Lahiri, Danticat and Nam Lee--they set the tone and open up themes for World Lit Written in English and students seem to be liking the stories a lot--we are now transitioning to Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian...I contextualized one of the main themes of the book (barriers to education in a colonial-pocol context by having them read excerpts from Frederick Douglass and Richard Wright--both of which they loved). Big themes that are surfacing--how colonialism is inscribed on the body, how writers use language to survive, to speak back, the problem of hybridity--a hostile space you have entered, requiring a mask, a denial of self...one student commented, "we all have to bear the problem of learning too much, knowing too much about ourselves and the injustice around us...I sometimes wonder how many students at LaGuardia have had to face the same problems as Douglass, Wright or Alexie..."
Before I began living in blog-land I had students write reflections every week--a page--responding to text and I used these to start class discussion, and as a gold mine for essay topics--I could see what in the text spoke to them--so I want to take a moment to compare my experience with blogs so far with my earlier experience with HANDED IN WRITTEN REFLECTIONS. Point number one--they took the reflections more seriously--a greater percentage of students wrote them and gave them to me--now it is only week 2 1/2-3 so I am trying to adjust and be patient--but there is something about the blog that they may not take as seriously--and I have tried to lower the boom but the results are mixed: "I ordered the book the first day of class but it hasn't arrived yet" was one response--I made this student go to the library...Point two--they are very interested in GRADES--and I am using the blog evaluator that Priscilla gave us--great--I showed it in class and they seemed....intimidated! Point three--some are preferring to write reflections because they like the privacy and so far I have given them that option but am trying to win them over by responding to blogs quickly. On the positive side--they love posting pictures and they are talking to each other--so I am trying to think about how to encourage new kinds of communities--tomorrow we will be getting groups together for each of 5 novels--and they have signed up on NING--
Finally--tomorrow Scott and I are going to set things up (thank you Dr X) so my class will be reading his class blogs on the Causes of Crime--then they will be applying ideas from Scott's students to Alexie's novel and reservation life--will let you all know how it goes!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Dr. Van; I hope you don't mind that I added some tags to your entry...

    As to blogs vs. written reflections; you may want to think about what works best for your personality for the next time you teach w/Ning... I mean, what you are doing is sort of diametrically opposed to what you used to do: from private writing to public writing...

    For next time I can help with the strategies to make students respond promptly; that could be an early discussion in the seminar...

    As to the rubric--I like it very much, but it does set each blog/blogging as a high stakes exercise; I would use it, for example, for a class where blogging is a good chunk (30-40%) of the grade. But if you are using the blogs for low stakes writing (as I am doing now), you may be better off with a simple content + engagement + timeliness kinda rubric.