Blogging

Screen shot from subject blog

Screen shot from the subject blog

All students have individual blogs, and for the majority this is their second semester of blogging within their coursework. At the beginning of semester most are not very invested in their blogs, but by the end this has changed for the majority. (This is measured through a highly empirical show of hands at the beginning and end of semester in response to the question “Who would mind if their blogs were removed?”)

Blogs become integral to the subject, though this is a collateral outcome rather than something specifically assessed and directed. This happens in two ways. The first is that I use a self assessment protocol for participation, and during this the students realise that their blogs are the best location for the documentation of those things that come to represent participation. In this way I do not spend any of my assessment budget on blogs but they become (for most students) active places to document activities, ideas, questions and problems. This is also supported through blogging their weekly video tasks.

The second way blogs become important is through a subject blog that includes editorial reblogging. I subscribe to all student blogs via RSS, and write blog posts that provide brief commentary on relevant posts from across the student blogs. This could be tying together all the student blogged notes from a lecture, questions and misunderstandings that arise from classes, and observations on the readings. Reblogging provides a central location that weaves together a learning community through my comments, as well as providing access to the work that the students are doing in the subject. Indeed, students who miss or choose not to attend lectures are able to get a very good outline of what they missed between my slides and the commentaries by classmates that I weave together through the subject blog.

Students value appearing and being linked in the subject blog in this way. It makes visible the role of network literacies in terms of connections, models the sorts of behaviour and social protocols that blogging requires, helps produce a small scholarly community, shifts my role from being content expert to a ‘provocative facilitator’ for the students, and encourages them to move from information consumers to knowledge creators.

Finally, since all have experience of blogs they become a reference point for teaching systems like Korsakow as blogs are made up of small parts (the posts) which each make sense by themselves and it is something that is greater than the sum of its parts. A blog survives even if a part is removed, and the structure of a blog arises in practice, the categories and tags that develop, and what links are made between blogs (indeed which blogs I end up writing to and around more than others) become assemblages of relation that emerge in situ rather than reflecting predetermined structures. These reflect many of the qualities I want students to learn in relation to making a Korsakow film and are the emergent qualities evident in network practices more broadly (they are not limited to Korsakow films but can be seen in blogs, tag collections in Flickr, the way in which structure emerges and is experienced in Korsakow films, hypertext, and the larger structures of weak links and dense connectors that is the internet as a network). Blogging and the students’ experience and understanding of it becomes a rich source of examples and discussion to move from Korsakow to blogging, blogging to Korsakow, and via both to small world networks and hypertextual patterns.

Notes

Bernstein, Mark. “Patterns of Hypertext.” Proceedings of the Ninth ACM Hypertext Conference. Pittsburgh PA: ACM, 1998. 21–9. Print. (Mirrored at http://www.eastgate.com/patterns/Patterns.html

Watts, Duncan J. Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. London: Vintage, 2003. Print.