We’ll get back to our hotel manager in the next post, but in this one I would like to reflect briefly on this blog. It has been three-and-a-half months since I began, I have put up around 30 posts, and like many a blogger before me I am beginning to re-think some of its aims. One hope I had in the beginning is that posting the writing experiences of our graduates, and supplying a link to the questions I posed when interviewing (available in the first post), would induce readers to share their own “post-graduate” writing experiences. There has been a little of that in the comments section but not as much as I had hoped.
Discussions of curriculum and the struggles of writers trying to find markets for their work have sparked the most substantive discussion, and I hope that future posts will keep that going. While any blog is an experiment in self-publishing, it is also a recognition of some centuries-old constants that have faced writers seeking a public. There is so much content available, especially in this form, that I’m not sure just what combination of subject matter, contacts, and good fortune will help us find all the readers we seek, or engender the conversations about writing programs we hope for. Because I was the first to tie a web log to the university’s web presence, it has a generic URL, and maybe I can get that changed.
Another strategy which I hope to implement in the near future is to invite postings from guest contributors. In fact, as soon as someone offers to do one, I’ll probably take that person up on their offer. (I am easy to find.) This move will introduce a variety of styles, and imitates some interesting and well attended educational blogs I have come across. For instance, an article this week in the on-line magazine Inside Higher Ed featured a Duke University English professor experimenting with student-centered grading in one of her courses. Her idea for the course was first described in a post last July on a communal blog sponsored by Duke’s Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory. This blog appears to have been well established before the professor’s posting, and responses to her initial post were so numerous and interested that she quickly posted a lengthier discussion of the theory and history of evaluation. Comments left by readers were thoughtful and substantive. Even better, and something I have yet to see on this blog, is that commentators soon were reacting to each other, and not just the initial or subsequent post.
The professor’s approach is at least partially based on the old contract grading approach popular with some English instructors during the seventies and eighties. The contemporary element is that student writing is in the form of blog entries, and other students in the class determine if each entry is “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory,” which the professor calls “crowdsource grading.” Anyway, the discussion of how well this works can be found at the blog itself. What most interests me is the context in which the professor’s original post appeared and how that context may have contributed to the response she received. (The professor is also identified as one of the co-founders of the “collaborator.”)
In three weeks I’ll be travelling to the Rhetorical Society of America conference in Minneapolis, to report on what I’ve learned through doing my blog about the rhetorical demands of blogging, and of blogging’s potential as a way of communicating and generating knowledge among readers who aren’t necessarily fellow disciplinary professionals. So far, I have to say I’ve learned a lot, but that the potential I’ve just mentioned remains unfulfilled. Please contribute your observations on that subject, as this project really isn’t supposed to be about one blogger’s “whistling in the dark.”