I’ve written a decent amount about my experiences with blogging as a teaching tool. In this post, I want to stop and reflect on my decision to not just have students blog in individual spaces, but to have a class blog. If you’re interested, some of my previous posts on blogging include:
At the masters level, I’ve had students set up individual blogs. I did this for a reason. First, I really believe it’s important to teach my students (classroom teachers) the importance and value of having a professional blog. I thought that if they had their own space, and used that space throughout the program, they might continue on with it on their own. I knew that not everyone would do this, but I thought at least some of them would. I don’t think anyone ever has.
In my Politics of Reading course (undergrads), we do a single class authored blog. When I initially made this decision, it was born out of practicality. Students were going to be blogging about issues relevant to the course, but those issues fell under a specific umbrella (the political nature of reading instruction in schools). We didn’t need 20 or more blogs on that, and I thought we could also better promote a single blog if we did it as a class.
With my masters course, one of the biggest struggles has been to gain readership for the teachers. I assume this is because most are not super active on social media (beyond FB) and do not have an audience in place to read their posts. While I can and do share their posts – and have a larger audience to share it with – it’s very difficult to keep up with sharing posts from a bunch of individual blogs. Plus, I start to feel like I’m the only one who cares when I seem to be the only one doing the sharing. If I’m just sharing off a class authored blog I don’t feel overwhelmed – even if I’m sharing the same amount of posts. That’s likely because I just log in to one place instead of 10+ different blogs.
Why Am I Leaning Towards Class Authored Blogs?
It comes down to this: better readership. My Politics of Reading class blogs January-April of each year. The rest of the time the blog is silent. No new material goes up (although I did just compile a Best Of page). And yet, the darn thing continues to grow in terms of readership. Between January 2016 and the end of June 2016, the blog had 400 more views than it did for the entire 2015 year (granted, that was the first year of the blog, but still!). It’s about tripled in average page views per day for the 2016 year when compared against 2015.
In 2016, we have had people from 65 countries – not counting the U.S. – look at the blog by mid-July. In 2015, 23 had people from 53 countries – again, not counting the U.S. – look at the blog for the entire year. Readership is definitely growing, and it appears to be remaining consistent.
This is what I want for my students. For me, a central point behind having students blog is to get others outside the class to read their work. And having a class authored blog, as opposed to lots of individual ones, seems to be the way to go. While I don’t have access to the stats for the individual blogs, it is something that has come up in class before. Most people report that their stats are very, very low to the point that it looks like no one outside the class is reading it. Although some do get readers in other countries and outside the class, most get very little (if any) of that.
Beyond the Class Authored Blog
Ideally, I’d like to move beyond the class authored blog. What I mean is this: While I would like to have a blog for my courses (as it makes sense to do so), I would like for others to join in as authors. I would like to have other classes connect with mine and join up to develop the blog. This gets us further along in developing readership and expanding what gets discussed on the blog. What I’m moving towards here is a multi-class authored blog.
Multi-class authored blogs do not need to be any more complicated than a single-class authored blog. And single class blogs are not complicated to run. All it takes is teaching students how to sign up for a time on a sheet for their post to go live and then scheduling themselves in wordpress. I don’t think I’ve ever had a student get confused or make an error here.
I’m hopeful about finding someone to partner up with in the future to make this happen.