Sunday, December 4, 2011

Student-centered technology

Last week students in my ENG 101 class reflected on the use of blogs. I have had this kind of activity before, and in the past I have tried to summarize what students report. But I am not certain anymore (in light of my recent presentation on 2.0 tools in composition) if summary is the best way to report such data.

For instance, a student wrote "I am not sure if my classmates do or not but I do go through each and everyone’s blog after we submit our writing. It is so great to read the writing that has come from the person sitting right next to you. Assignments have been pretty tricky and awesome at the same time but it is wonderful to see how everyone’s writing has progressed over the past 2 months." I could report this student as one of 25 (or maybe 3 or 4 of 25) that reads all of their classmates' blogs. She would be together with the following who stated: " These blogs gave us the opportunity to check out others' writing and view both weaker and stronger writers than ourselves. By seeing how our classmates write and reflect their thoughts can help us see how to become better writers and how we also make similar mistakes. I've visited many of my classmates' blogs and I have to say that many of them are strong writers and very intellectual people. They have the capacity to get all the points across and write a well organized essay. Their text to self and text to world connections were always on point. Unfortunately though, I didn't get as much love back, because not many people commented on my blogs. Perphaps many were too lazy and did not even bother to write or read others blogs. I mean it's understandable, who has time to do more than their own work, people have busy lives." But such reporting would miss the point, which is that these students set for themselves goals and practices not initiated by the instructor.

With no guidance or requirement to post to all others or to read all other blogs, these two turned the class into a more demanding and more rewarding experience. Granted, students can always choose to work on more than the assigned work, but this experience had the unique quality of not being teacher-directed yet still meeting the particular outcomes and objectives of the course, just at a more advanced level. They read more models for the assignments they had already worked on, provided more critique for them, and interacted with the ideas of as many peers as they wished. The student who reported that he did not get "as much love back" continued to provide feedback even after it was obvious there were not many following his example. Why he did and others did not is entirely a different (and hugely complex) issue but the key is that he set a pace for himself and because of blogs he was able to keep at that pace and on track. Students without blogs can also choose to do extra work, as I mentioned, but will that work be as relevant to class work as that already assigned? In these cases, it was. So, as I now look at these reflections, I explore more how students shaped the class for themselves rather than whether they went after the goals I had set for them.


  1. I see a connection with this entry and Maria's entry regarding writing and self-efficacy of 11/28. It seems to me that the few students who have taken the time to read and respond to their peers' writing are "standing out from the crowd." In a way, they're special and if they can see themselves in that light- it builds self-esteem and may encourage them to continue to be different (in a positive way).

  2. I agree with Judith's comment. I like the general idea of having students reflect on blog use, too. Did you have the students reflect on how they read and used blogs throughout the semester?

  3. Judith: I agree that these students have gone above and beyond the call of duty.
    Justin: I do have them reflect on blogging and blog use, separate from a general reflection on their writing in fact, because I am interested particularly in how the blogger platform shaped composition learning.

  4. Justin: me too--I try to have a separate "what about blogging"? reflection