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Writing Teachers Describe Blogging

Yes, the blog bubble is mushrooming. Soon we may see less quizzical looks generated by the word. (remember when you had to explain what a mouse was or what a URL really provided?). I just skimmed some nice perspectives on blogs ppublished in LORE: An E-Journal for Teachers of Writing. The Digressions section features the words of mostly graduate students and adjunct faculty, with the current issue on the “B” word:

In the past few years, blogging has become something of a national pastime, and academics are becoming a core group using blogs for personal and professional reasons. Yet even though many people embrace blogging, many others have no idea what it is or why anyone would do it. In this issue of Lore, we explore the role that blogging plays for academics both in and out of the classroom.

The 13 short essays are a nice mix as they represent some international perspectives. But let’s here it for writing teachers- the ones I work with seem to always be among our pioneers in things such as ePortfolios, blended learning, and now blogs.

Amy Earhart makes a connection with the social aspect of blogging and her experiences knitting:

I thought bloggers were nuts. Why would you want to put personal information online? I am a private person and certainly wouldn’t want people I don’t know reading about my life. And I have to admit that I wondered what the point of an online daily journal might be – pure hubris, perhaps?

Then I rediscovered knitting. I learned to knit as a kid (think 4-H fair), made some ugly slippers, and came to the conclusion that knitting was not cool. Twenty-five years later I glanced at a current knitting magazine and reached the following conclusions: (1) you can get amazing yarns with gorgeous colors and textures; (2) the styles are interesting; and (3) knitting is fun and relaxing. So I started to knit.

The problem is that I live in a small town that has no local yarn store (or LYS in blog-speak). All we have are mega stores that carry the old style of yarn (ugly, squeaky acrylic) that originally made knitting so unappealing. So I started to look for nicer yarns on the Web, where, if you Google “yarns,” you get hits for knitting blogs. After a month of fascinating reading, I joined the expanding ranks of knit bloggers.

All this is to say that I have an easy answer to why I knit but a much more complex response to why I blog about knitting. The need to knit is something that makes a lot of sense in an increasingly technological world. After a day spent sitting in front of a computer, I need the tactile touch of yarn and the slow, methodical creative process. I escape to the click-click of needles. Why I knit is simple. But the choice to blog is far more complex, as blogging takes me back to the thing that I am escaping; I reenter the technological world. So why blog? I answer in several ways.

Blogs provide the community that you need to be a successful knitter. In a town with a local yarn store, knitters visit and knit in the shop, asking questions of the patrons and staff. If you don’t have that community (or want another community), then you contribute to and read blogs. You ask questions on your blog, put up pictures, read and write comments. Another knitting community exercise is the knit-along. Bloggers choose a project (for example, a poncho) to knit as a virtual group. There is usually a listserv for questions and support, and individuals use their blogs to post tips, concerns, and pictures of the work-in-progress. The knit-along provides motivation, information, and a group of new friends to discuss knitting with when those in your life think you are just daffy for working with wool in the humid Texas weather. Technical issues are quickly answered by the knit-alongers based on their experience with the same project. These groups are particularly helpful when you know no other knitters, as is my situation.

In “I Blog, Therefore I Am”,
Angelina Karpovich, University of Wales, Aberystwyth shares:

And of course, as I told my colleague, I have a blog. “A blog?” My colleague was clearly unfamiliar with the concept. “What is that, some kind of a disease?”

Well, it can be quite contagious. Flippancy aside, the blog (or more precisely, online journal) somehow exists separately from my academic Web site and yet perhaps not entirely separately from my academic life. These two instances of my Internet presence are motivated by different impulses and managed according to different conventions. Whereas the latter follows the accepted template of academia in presenting its subject as studious and career-minded (though passably kooky – I do, after all, use the occasional smiley), the former seemingly runs riot with nonstandard English and various forms of triviality – from what I had for dinner to which TV shows I’m particularly enjoying at the moment.

And for a dose of reality for those who think there is too much blog hyper, read “Blogging from the Bottom: A Cautionary Tale” by Eric Mason, University of South Florida:

What I want to caution against here are the ways in which blogging can alter how we graduate and adjunct instructors understand our status in the university and our work as educators.

Graduate and adjunct writing instructors are in no position to blog. Surely, there’s little difficulty in finding an online service to host your blog. And there’s no shortage of colors, images, and templates to choose from in designing your blog. And I don’t simply mean that we are the group most easily disciplined for public statements on our blogs. What I mean is that blogging can give us a sense of security and authority that is too often unlike our actual conditions and possibly contrary to what we value most in our pedagogies. While the following trends are not universal and can be strategically avoided, they represent ways in which the logics embedded in blogging intersect with individual and institutional contexts. I admit I’ve found it hard to resist some of these trends and offer the following as caution to potential bloggers.

This are just samples– there are some thoughtful perspectives here, worth sharing with some of those teetering on the edge of the high dive into the blog pool.

A tip of the blog hat to Kairos

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

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