I published my first-ever blog post on October 10, 2012. This was an assignment for a “Perspectives on Literacy” course blog in which I was told to interview someone who had experience typing on a typewriter. My mother is a legal secretary who started her career as a professional transcriber and typist, so I interviewed her over the phone one afternoon and published a post of 1235 words, no images, no video, no sound. This purely textual post recounted my questions, her answers, connections to course themes, and my personal reflection on the experience of interviewing my mother. Interestingly, even this first post, my induction into the blogosphere, blurred the lines of public/private, personal/professional/academic in my life and in my blogging. I submitted three more posts to the course blog that semester, all in the same purely-textual, responding-to-the-prompt fashion but all of which involved some personal content alongside professional and academic content.
In response to and alongside these experiences with composing for a course blog, I decided to establish a personal blog, titled “My Quarter Life Crisis” and published my first post on November 11, 2012. In the last six months, I’ve published 15 total posts that mix personal, professional, and academic topics and approaches. In one video post (composed in response to a course blog prompt that required multimodal posts), I explore some of these mixed motivations for blogging. That video post was one of my first attempts as composing a video, was entirely too long-winded for a vlog post, and mostly consisted of my talking head. I’ve excerpted a relevant portion of the video here because I think it demonstrates the mixing of personal, professional, and academic that blogs allow and shows an important step in my journey as a blogger, although it’s mildly terrible, it is still my first attempt at a video post.
This winter, my “Computers and Writing” course also required a course blog, and I decided to use my already-ongoing personal blog to compose and publish those required posts for the “Computers and Writing” course. These posts have ranged from responses to course readings, to reflections about integrating technology and digital multimodal assignments into my own first-year writing classroom, to thoughts about attending relevant professional conferences. I think the decision to publish these professional and academic posts on a single blog alongside descriptions of my workout routine or musings about my favorite pop singers has allowed me to fulfill my original blogging purposes of representing myself and my experiences as a fragmented-but-whole person and of attending to the intertwining personal, professional, and academic “Quarter Life Crisis” aspects of entering a doctoral program, or any graduate level educational experiences for that matter.
One of the most productive experiences I’ve had with blogging thus far has come out of this blending of personal, professional, and academic content on my blog. At the encouraging of my “Computers and Writing” professor, I attended a conference on campus titled “Autism Speaks Back: Neurodiversity and Disability Studies.” After live tweeting throughout the conference and making connections on Twitter with some of the conference speakers and attendees, I composed a blog post in which I made some connections between my personal, professional, and academic interests and investment in the conference. This post became my most widely shared post to date with several comments from people I’ve never interacted with offline, several likes on WordPress, and over 100 views in a two month period this year. I think the successful sharing of this blog is related to the specialized nature of its content as well as my purposeful linking and sharing the post on social media outlets. This experience has helped to clarify for me some of the distinct and overlapping purposes and potentials of self-motivated, personal blogs versus required course blogs.
My overall purpose in recounting these experiences with blogging is to mine them for some useful takeaways as I instate a required course blog for the first time in an undergraduate course that I am teaching this coming fall. I’ll be teaching upper level writing/academic argumentation, and I’ve set up a course website on WordPress that includes a video course description, a syllabus and schedule, and a course blog. I think the most useful things I’ve taken from my limited experiences with blogging and from discussions with other instructors who’ve used course blogs are:
- logistics: most undergraduates do not keep personal blogs, so setting up a single course blog and allowing everyone to publish on it can be a useful structure for the blog. In addition, although I’ve had useful, positive experiences with open-ended blog assignments, for the purposes of an undergraduate academic argumentation course, I think more directive prompts will be a useful way to start out and move toward more open-ended, free form posts as the semester progresses.
- goal setting (and decision making based on those goals): the goals of required blog posts should be made explicit and be in keeping with the broader course goals, themes, and content. Ideally, after expressing these broader course goals, students will be able to arrive at and pursue related individual goals for their course blogging.
- publicizing: to avoid a reading-responses-posted-online version of course blogging, I hope to encourage students to set and pursue some goals concerning how to and why we ought to publicize our course blog as whole and their separate, individual posts.
- multimodality: I hope to encourage students, through the video course description, course readings, and assignments, to explore not-only-textual modes of composing on the course blog. This multimodal composing seems relevant to me in an upper level academic argumentation course because many of the arguments students encounter are not-only-textual but multimodal. By asking students to produce these kinds of arguments themselves, I hope to encourage more conscientious production as well as consumption of digital, multimodal arguments in the course and beyond.