Thanks to Ryan Cordell and Mark Sample for significant portions of this assignment, which I’ve expanded and adapted to fit the course.

Throughout the semester, we’ll be keeping a class blog where you can critically engage with the ideas of the course.  All forms of writing – including academic writing – have been reshaped by online modes of publication, and thus learning how to write, design, format, tag, and publish a blog is an important skill.  For this course in particular, it also provides a platform where you can practice writing for a public audience; learn how integrate images, sound, and other media to create dynamic compositions; and develop design skills and writing skills that keep your audience engaged. I encourage you to take advantage of the medium and include images, links, sound files, and video clips when appropriate.

In addition to the above, I ask you to blog for a number of reasons:

  • Public, online writing plays an increasingly significant role in many fields – both inside and outside the academy.  It is essential for college students to develop skill crafting an online writing persona and writing for a broad public audience.
  • Blogs provide a wonderful opportunity to experiment with your voice and writing.  Not only do they allow you to compose arguments by integrating and remixing texts, images, links, quotations, videos, audio files, and other media, but they also allow you to try out different “voices” in writing to develop and augment your online writing persona.
  • Blogging allows more avenues of participation in the class, expanding the physical walls and opening a broader spectrum of participation for students.  Even quiet or shy students can contribute to a course blog.
  • Blog posts give you the chance to learn from your peers.  You’ll read your colleague’s posts and, hopefully, learn from them or be challenged by something you read.  Having the chance to respond to your peers enhances collegial and critical engagement.
  • Public blogging allows us to connect to larger communities outside of our classroom.  There’s always a chance one of your posts will invite a response from outside the class.  More importantly, blogging surrounds your writing with the aura of community.
  • The course blog will extend the physical classroom and provide a place for us to spark and develop ideas together in a public, evolving intellectual community.

Despite the relatively short length, your blog posts should be treated seriously. As the 15% indicates, I see your blogging as one of the central assignments of the semester, and thus I suggest you think of your blogs as experiments where you can practice some of the writing and designing skills we’ll be learning. They’re also a great format to respond to the readings, share research in progress, discuss your work on the digital project, and share other material related to the course. Your posts may be less formal than a standard academic essay, but they have the same importance. Aim for clarity and creativity.

 

Protocol & Requirements

  • You are required to write 7 blog posts over the course of the term, which amounts to about one every other week.  You may not submit (for credit) more than one blog post per week.  You are also required to write at least 7 substantial comments on your colleagues’ posts.  I suggest that you begin writing your posts and comments immediately.
  • Each post must be 300-500 words long and maintain a clearly focused line of thinking.
  • Do not write about more than one topic in a post. Be specific, targeted, and focused.
  • Each post should have a clear narrative with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Every post must be tagged with keywords.  This is easy to forget, but untagged posts will not receive a grade.  When tagging, try to think like a librarian.  Use tags that make your post easier to find for people interested in those topics.  Check available tags first; one of your peers may have already created an “author” tag, for example, or something you may find relevant to your own post.
  • Although written informally, your posts should be clear, well written, and spell-checked, with no grammatical errors or careless punctuation.  Images and other media files should also be properly formatted.

 

What to blog about

There are many ways to approach these open-ended posts.  Here are a few options, some more traditional than others:

  • Write about an aspect of the day’s reading you don’t understand.  Reflect on why that particular aspect confuses you.  What can you learn from your confusion?
  • Consider a text in relation to its historical context.  You are free to incorporate outside research so long as it is cited or linked properly.
  • Look up a date, an event, a person, or a place alluded to in the reading.  Share what you find with the class and explain how or why it helps us to interpret the reading.
  • Analyze a specific quote, passage, or event in the reading, exploring it through a critical lens.  (If you quote a long passage, it doesn’t count toward your 300 words.)
  • Post something you find relevant from your external reading.  It could be an article, an image, or what have you.  Connect it to the readings and/or discussion.  Use it to posit a question or engage an idea.
  • Do some outside research on a topic and share it with the class
  • Find, review, discuss, and analyze a digital tool or software.  Use your post to introduce and review the tool and its possible relevance.
  • Embed audio or video you find relevant to the course and reflect on its relevance.  What complementary or contradictory ideas does it provoke?  Use your blog post to render the connection more explicit for your classmates.
  • Post an image that speaks with, against, or across your reading and/or research.  Images are often a great way to not only “represent” ideas, but to think critically about the ideas in a text.  Include a short description or commentary on the image that connects it to the reading or your research.
  • Share your research in progress.  Use a blog post to introduce an idea, controversy, event, or problem that you’re researching.
  • A current event. If something we’re reading is relevant to the cultural, social, or political scene today, write a post in which you connect the reading with the current phenomenon.

As these bullet points indicate, there are several angles you can take in your posts.  You are free to bring outside material into conversation with the class, so long as you explain why and how the connection is relevant.  Remember to think of these posts as mini-narratives in which you introduce something, discuss and analyze it, and consider its implications.

 

What not to blog about

Anything is fair game for discussion and analysis, but try to avoid general themes that are either too vague or somewhat cliché (e.g., media has a negative influence on society).  You should also avoid blogs about your own personal feelings (i.e., how much you liked or didn’t like one of the readings), as well as blogs that merely summarize the plot of a text.  Other than that, write about whatever sparks your interest, so long as you can compose it with a clear structure, purpose, and narrative focus.

 

Commenting on Posts

I cannot comment on every post, but I will occasionally interject or add something when I feel it’s relevant.  You should always interpret my public comments as engagement, not as criticism or sanction or correction; conversely, you should not interpret the lack of comment as criticism. 

 

Grading Blog Posts

I will grade your blogging according to the following rubric, adapted by Creative Commons license from Mark Sample (with additions by Ryan Cordell).

 

Rating   Characteristics
10 Exceptional.  Your blog posts reflect in-depth engagement with the course. The writing is clear, creative, focused, and developed, connecting ideas at the highest level. The posts integrate examples, links, and other media with clear explanations and analysis. They are designed, tagged, and presented professionally. They are also highly focused with a clear structure and sense of purpose.
8 Good.  Your blog posts reflect strong engagement with the course. Overall the writing is clear, focused, and reasonably developed, but it often stops short of connecting ideas or engaging them fully. Examples, links, and other media are sometimes included, but often hastily and without a clear motivation or purpose. A sense of structure and purpose is evident, but they could be executed with more delicately or efficiently.
6 Underdeveloped.  Your blog posts reflect passing engagement with the course. They consist mostly of description or summary, with few connections between ideas and less interest in integrating examples, links, and other media. The writing feels rushed, careless, or hastily composed.
4 Limited.  Your blog posts are vague, unfocused, hastily written, and simply rehash material from the readings or discussions. They display little evidence of student engagement with the course.
0 No Credit.  Your blog posts are missing or consist of one or two disconnected sentences.

 

Comments will be graded on a pass/fail basis.

 

How to write for the blog

Our course website is based on WordPress.  At the beginning of the semester, you’ll receive an email with your account information (login information and password).  With this information you’ll be able to log in to the backend of the website where you can draft and publish new blog posts.  You can also change your password and the username that will be visible on your posts.  Please change your visible username to something I can recognize (preferably, something with your last name and first initial (e.g., ccarey, hsmith, dgtrout, etc.).  If you’ve never posted in WordPress before, visit the WordPress Codex for instructions.  You can also find articles here about incorporating other media.