I was slated to run a session today on “Blogging in the Academy” but ended up going a different direction instead. Our workshop description stated:
Blogs have begun to move beyond personal journaling to emerge as a possible form of academic publishing. Blogs today provide a reflective medium for publication of teaching and research, and provide a point of connection for community building within one’s discipline. How do blogs fit in with other academic duties? How can blogs help scholarship and is it possible for blogs to harm scholarship? Should students blog as part of their learning journey, and can students effectively blog if faculty do not? This workshop will explore the use of blogs in both classroom and academic disciplines.
The last time we ran this session in September, we spent the entire time discussing blogging as scholarship. As it turned out today, in polling the participants up front, no one was interested in blogging as scholarship, but each either wanted to have students begin blogging as a way of fostering student connections and communication, or they wanted to blog themselves, or both. I found this fascinating, because several have discussed in the past week the concept that blogging is dead. Paul Boutin in Wired magazine wrote Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004. The CogDog barked that “Maybe Blogging is Dead After All (Or Our Conceptualization Is).” Yet it seems that when early adopters move on to something else, the majority backfill the void and pick up the practice. As Jon Becker noted in “Greatly Exaggerated,” he was not buying that blogging is dead…and the interest I saw today demonstrated to me the same idea.
So I moved rapidly past the discussion on blogging as a public intellectual, and instead focused on instructional blogging.
One example that I could rapidly showcase is the work Jeff Nugent is doing with his Mass Comm Learning with Digital Media class. Jeff has his students blog as part of their weekly assignments, and has collected their blogs in a Netvibes site. As Jeff noted over coffee earlier this week, he has been gratified that some of his students are now making connections with the global blogging community, and are no longer writing for a grade, but rather for a readership that they value.
What drives that value are comments. Blogs are a great personal reflective journal, but when others begin commenting, and one returns the favor by commenting on the blogs of others, connections get made – exactly what several professors today wish to have occur in their classes.
Blogs are not mainstream…yet. The ECAR 2008 Study of Undergraduates and Information Technology reports that about one-third of students contribute content to blogs. I would hazard a guess that blogging by faculty is much less percentage-wise. Yet, a small group of faculty registered for our workshop today so that they can begin. I find solace and hope in that!