I just finished grading my ENG 101 midterms and was struck that too many of my students relied on a personal voice with some extreme editorializing ("I think," "I can relate," most every other sentence) and "this reading reminds me of my own story," instead of engaging our source texts with direct quotes and cites. Argh.
I blame the blog assignments, which of course are wonderful for eliciting personal stories and so forth. But for newer writers especially, who are obviously not aware of the conventions of more formal writing, I think my blogs may have been a hindrance.
I'd agree with Dr. Van that their blog posts are strong, their formal essays are not. Writing an essay with a beginning, middle and end seems to have been impacted (though we have reviewed models and made plenty of suggestions for the review.) 'Writing from sources' is an important objective in Composition I. I've tried to structure my blog assignments to encourage mid-stakes writing, not exactly informal, but still I see the effects....
More theoretically, I suppose, professors of writing and literature obviously are so aware of genre and convention and audience. Our students do not know this, or really care. This all reminds me that blogs--or any other technology--can never be a magic bullet for our students' needs.... It's still work to engage these questions of audience, genre and rhetorical effects. (Next week, we shall have to go over the basics of writing a simple, but effective, in-class essay in class. Yet I fear that my students may groan because 'formal writing' is just not as fun as blogging.)
Last, I wonder what the cognitive effects of texting or tweeting all day are? It cannot be good for the modest essay form.... In its ideal form, I still believe the blog is perfect for a smart, informed mini-essay.... But it takes work to use blogs to promote forms of writing that will translate into the more 'formal' assignments. It's probably my fault, in part, since I allowed my students to practice for their midterms on similar, sample topics for a blog assignment. (I'll be grading those next... and get some ideas of what, perhaps, may have gone wrong.... and how to improve things for next time.)