The Decision to Blog as a Class

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┬ámulti-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.

Two Years Ago Today

One Year Ago Today

 

Comments 18

  • Hi Leigh,

    I enrolled and dropped one of your classes this spring and still occasionally read your blog out of curiosity regarding your unusual teaching methods. You talk about “the importance and value of having a professional blog” for your students. But do you feel like every single one of your students has something valuable to say even once, let alone on a regular weekly or monthly basis (as is pretty much required if you want your blog to garner any external interest)? Aren’t some, if not most, of them adding to the already overwhelming detritus of personal/professional blogs on the internet – especially as these blogs are mandated by your class curriculum, and thus have not risen organically from each student’s interest in writing, blogging and whatever subject matter they’re made to write about?

    I hope I’ve not come across as critical, I genuinely seek clarification. Thanks!

    • Yes – I remember you. Yes, I do believe that students – at both the undergrad and in my masters classes – have something valuable to say. Of course we are adding to an existing and growing body of information on the internet. You, as a reader, will have to decide to what extent that information is valuable to you (or not) and then read it (or not). Not everything in a course is going to be organic and rise naturally from what a student is interested in. I wish it could – that would be great. But in reality it’s just not going to happen.

      However, students do have a wide berth when it comes to identifying a topic to write about. For the Politics of Reading, you can write about anything that interests you so long as it falls under the larger umbrella of the course. In that sense,you, as a writer, are free to explore a topic that is of personal interest to you but relevant to the course and the purpose of the blog.

      I think, more importantly, it’s not just if I believe that students have something valuable to say but what the larger public says. And I know – from seeing interactions on twitter and FB with a larger audience – that people outside these courses do read these posts and the do make a difference. They do push readers to think differently, and people have communicated the value they get from them.

      Is every post a masterpiece? No. Neither is every post that I write. If you write 10 posts a semester some will be better than others. That’s normal. But writing is a place where you can work out your ideas, share them, test them out, get feedback, etc…Are we contributing to internet debris or clutter? I don’t think so or I wouldn’t do it, but ultimately that’s for you to decide.

  • Hi Leigh,

    I enrolled and dropped one of your classes this spring and still occasionally read your blog out of curiosity regarding your unusual teaching methods. You talk about “the importance and value of having a professional blog” for your students. But do you feel like every single one of your students has something valuable to say even once, let alone on a regular weekly or monthly basis (as is pretty much required if you want your blog to garner any external interest)? Aren’t some, if not most, of them adding to the already overwhelming detritus of personal/professional blogs on the internet – especially as these blogs are mandated by your class curriculum, and thus have not risen organically from each student’s interest in writing, blogging and whatever subject matter they’re made to write about?

    I hope I’ve not come across as critical, I genuinely seek clarification. Thanks!

    • Yes – I remember you. Yes, I do believe that students – at both the undergrad and in my masters classes – have something valuable to say. Of course we are adding to an existing and growing body of information on the internet. You, as a reader, will have to decide to what extent that information is valuable to you (or not) and then read it (or not). Not everything in a course is going to be organic and rise naturally from what a student is interested in. I wish it could – that would be great. But in reality it’s just not going to happen.

      However, students do have a wide berth when it comes to identifying a topic to write about. For the Politics of Reading, you can write about anything that interests you so long as it falls under the larger umbrella of the course. In that sense,you, as a writer, are free to explore a topic that is of personal interest to you but relevant to the course and the purpose of the blog.

      I think, more importantly, it’s not just if I believe that students have something valuable to say but what the larger public says. And I know – from seeing interactions on twitter and FB with a larger audience – that people outside these courses do read these posts and the do make a difference. They do push readers to think differently, and people have communicated the value they get from them.

      Is every post a masterpiece? No. Neither is every post that I write. If you write 10 posts a semester some will be better than others. That’s normal. But writing is a place where you can work out your ideas, share them, test them out, get feedback, etc…Are we contributing to internet debris or clutter? I don’t think so or I wouldn’t do it, but ultimately that’s for you to decide.

  • I’ve taken multiple courses taught by Leigh. In each course I blogged about various issues, topics, and interests. It was a place to put my ideas and a space to explore the idea of blogging. My classmates read my posts and provided feedback which allowed me to become comfortable publishing my thoughts for others. It also allowed me to think thru, process, and question the things I was learning about in a more flexible environment rather than only while physically in class.
    After graduation I still keep up with my blog. Because it started as part of an assignment doesn’t mean that the posts or my thoughts aren’t organic. I also never felt as if what I was writing about was unvalued or unappreciated. It didn’t and doesn’t always line up with others’ interests, experiences, or philosophies, (much like an “organic” blog wouldn’t perfectly align with every reader) but my colleagues, peers, and instructors valued the assigned posts I wrote because of the relationships we created– just like I value the things my students write about.
    I always find it comforting when I come across other likeminded people going through or exploring similar things that I’m going through or exploring. Whether that person is writing for an assignment or because they chose to write a blog post “organically” so be it. I can only hope that I can bring comfort or spark thought and conversation for someone else.

    Thanks for your continued inspiration, Leigh!

    • Jaymie – thanks for your comment. I’ve just found your blog and will be reading it, as I do Leigh’s, to see how it develops over time; it’ll be particularly interesting to monitor since you only just graduated. I find this approach to teaching extremely fascinating, so any material is helpful!

  • I’ve taken multiple courses taught by Leigh. In each course I blogged about various issues, topics, and interests. It was a place to put my ideas and a space to explore the idea of blogging. My classmates read my posts and provided feedback which allowed me to become comfortable publishing my thoughts for others. It also allowed me to think thru, process, and question the things I was learning about in a more flexible environment rather than only while physically in class.
    After graduation I still keep up with my blog. Because it started as part of an assignment doesn’t mean that the posts or my thoughts aren’t organic. I also never felt as if what I was writing about was unvalued or unappreciated. It didn’t and doesn’t always line up with others’ interests, experiences, or philosophies, (much like an “organic” blog wouldn’t perfectly align with every reader) but my colleagues, peers, and instructors valued the assigned posts I wrote because of the relationships we created– just like I value the things my students write about.
    I always find it comforting when I come across other likeminded people going through or exploring similar things that I’m going through or exploring. Whether that person is writing for an assignment or because they chose to write a blog post “organically” so be it. I can only hope that I can bring comfort or spark thought and conversation for someone else.

    Thanks for your continued inspiration, Leigh!

    • Jaymie – thanks for your comment. I’ve just found your blog and will be reading it, as I do Leigh’s, to see how it develops over time; it’ll be particularly interesting to monitor since you only just graduated. I find this approach to teaching extremely fascinating, so any material is helpful!

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