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Why I Still Blog

Contributor: Lanette Cadle
School Affiliation: Missouri State University
Email: LLCadle@MissouriState.edu

Introduction

I blog. Yes, I still blog. That may seem like an old-fashioned subject to some, especially at Kairos, a journal that rightfully positions itself as one of rhetoric, technology, and pedagogy. Blogs, after all, aren’t new, and a big part of writing about technology is concentrating on the new, what is just emerging onto the scene. Blogs are not new; they could even be seen as the pencil and Big Chief tablet of social media, itself a term that did not exist when blogs were new. I have been blogging since my first pseudonymous site on Blogger in 2001. I jumped to my own domain in 2003, and even discussed the pros and cons of pseudonyms vs. own-name domains on a Kairosnews thread before creating a new pseudonym, Techsophist.

That, of course, is the history for my own blog; I have also been using blogs with my students during all that time. That is a lot of time, a lot of entries, and a lot of students, and I know I am not the only one with this history. It may seem right to ask, after so many years: what is left to discuss about blogging? We all know what it is. We all know what it does. What used to be the Blog Special Interest Group (SIG), then the Blogs and Wikis SIG, then the Emerging Social Software SIG at the College Conference on Composition and Communication (CCCC), is now gone—no longer emerging. Blogs are old, and the social side of them has shifted so significantly to other media, that blogs could now be seen as social media only in their potential for social structure, with actual social interaction now taking place on Twitter or Tumblr or the next new thing.

And yet, it is worth examining such a versatile, chameleon-like tool now that we think we know it well. Once past the how-to, the why-to can emerge. As part of the “why,” I need a webtext that tells why blogging is so good for us, that “us” being academics who think about things a lot and even make connections between their scholarly lives and the classroom.

Every year brings new students and scholars, and every year fewer of them know from their own experience why I do not just “use blogs in the classroom” and also blog myself. In other words, why I still blog is worth examining for the benefit of those who missed out on being early adopters. Each year new graduate students, teachers, and scholars enter the fields of rhetoric and composition, new media, and computers and writing. What is old for those with more history in this corner of the very broad field of rhetoric and composition is not so for new arrivals. They may well ask "why blog at all?" now that blogs are no longer the new kid on the social media block, noting that the cool kids have moved on to other tools that I also use, such as Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, Vine, Instagram, and yes, even Facebook. 

Social media iconsPinterest Twitter feed YouTube Tumblr Facebook Instagram Google+ Vine

Click the icons above to see social media accounts in action; the links go to personal pages rather than each service's home page so that the medium can be seen in action.

Those new to blogs may even ask questions such as, "If one is going to use blogs with students at all, why bother to use freestanding blogs when Blackboard has a blog module?" These questions cannot be answered in the brief walk between mailroom and hallway.

Why Blog?

What Blogs Do

Blogging began with Jason Hill, Jorn Barger, Meg Hourihan, Rebecca Blood, and others who hand-coded time-date stamped entries: Blood (2004) told of these early days in “How Blogging Software Reshapes the Online Community," where she also considered how “the message began to shape the medium” (p. 54). Still, the concept of Blood’s first blog, Rebecca's Pocket, holds true for many even now: a pocket to put things in. In fact, when I teach "Composition and Rhetoric for High School and Junior College," the course in composition studies for English education students the semester before they student teach, I use the metaphor of a shoebox for the students' culminating project of an e-portfolio. They are given several choices for an interface, including Google Sites, but the overwhelming majority of them end up using Wordpress or Edublogs (a Wordpress build), and not simply because of familiarity: Starting a blog from scratch is not a familiar task for most of these students, the extroverts of English majors. I believe the flexible functionality of the blog form wins out for them for storing their precious academic texts, videos, podcasts, helpful links, and images.

At the same time, the idea of a shoebox has psychological weight. Many people kept a shoebox full of precious things as children, things that also acted as talismans to trigger memory—that rock with flecks of mica, a pressed and dried trio of bluebonnets, a plaster cast of a deer track, the note passed to you by your best friend, the ticket stub from La Boheme. This is the personal side of blogging. Although blogs can be personal, there is plenty of evidence that they do not have to be. There has been a lot of blogging of many kinds since 2003, when Barclay Barrios wrote "The Year of the Blog," and 2005, when he wrote "Blogs: A Primer," many of them mixing personal with professional uses or with reflections on pedagogy or pedagogical materials—what I call the three Ps of blogging. These three broad uses fit well for academics, the target group for this webtext, even though blogs also function well for people seeking to grow their blog for commercial use. That slipperiness or flexibility in tone and purpose is why Jill Walker Rettberg's (2014) 2nd edition of her definitive book Blogging is so helpful; she wrote,

While social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Pinterest are not usually referred to as blogs, they clearly have a lot in common with blogs. Twitter is sometimes referred to as “microblogging,” with reference to the brevity of each post, and as we have seen, Twitter is very similar to early blogs like Scripting News or Metafilter. Many people use YouTube to publish a video blog, or “vlog,” where they speak to the camera much as a conventional blogger types on the keyboard. Pinterest could be seen as a visual blog where people share and comment on images they find online. And Facebook is in many ways a closed blogging system, not unlike Livejournal was with its complex privacy controls, friend lists and possibility of sharing (or posting) status messages, links, images and other content. (p. 54)

Yes, blogs began something that has now branched off into many other, more specialized social media, yet the blog remains a viable form because of its scope. As Rettberg (2014) pointed out, the best way to truly understand what a blog does is to read blogs over time (p. 5). Blogs have the time, space, and ability to accumulate and form patterns where later, more specialized forms such as Twitter are by design more ephemeral.

Who is Blogging (and Where)

Although blogging was in many ways the beginning for social media as we know it today, the competing forms developed later may have drained off past, present, and future users of blogs. For example, those who originally used blogs primarily for short commentary on links can now use Twitter, which does that task brilliantly. Diarists can now be even more personal using video and have a far greater readership through their YouTube channels. No matter what the reason, though, it is clear that blogs fill a much smaller proportion of the social media landscape than before. The Pew Internet & American Life Project last did a blog-use study in 2006, now eight years ago (Lenhart & Fox, 2006). However, in the intervening years since the 2006 blog study, social media became multifaceted and that expansion in multiple directions meant declining numbers of bloggers. In "Social Media & Mobile Internet Use by Teens and Young Adults," Amanda Lenhart, Kirsten Purcell, Aaron Smith, and Kathryn Zickehr (2010) noted significant drops in blogging in four years, especially among teens, who went from 28% saying they blog to 14% (p. 24). Even more significant is the drop in commenting, which went from 76% in 2006 to 52%, with young adults also showing a drop (p. 24). Not surprisingly, the study also found a notable upward shift in social media use (which they called social networks), finding that 73% of teens and 74% of young adults use social network sites, which is up from 55% and 65%, respectively (p. 17). At that time, teens and young adults were very low users of Twitter, a situation that changes in later studies.

The latest figures come from a 2012 Pew Internet Project study that gives a breakdown of who is doing what and where for social media. In “The Demographics of Social Media Users - 2012,” Maeve Duggan and Joanna Brenner (2013) looked at social media and its demographics, specifically at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr, listed in order of prominence for adults 18–29 (p. 2). A significant change in approach from previous considerations of social media is that the study centers on sites, not media. In the 2012 study, social media is considered a place as much as it is considered a mode of communication. Part of the ease of use for these major social media sites is that they are enclosed, easy-to-use sites with memberships. Blogs are not necessarily that way. For example, Tumblr is a blogging site, and was at the bottom of the scale with 6% of social media users. It is clearly a blog, but is also an enclosed grouping of content-focused communities that are tagged; in other words, it is content-focused. If I want to find Tumblrs with nothing but Benedict Cumberbatch animated GIFs, its tagging system makes it very easy to do, unlike freestanding blogs, which are only searchable within their domains.

That shift from media to site may be the difference in how blog use is both measured and evaluated as social media now; the definition of social media has both expanded and diminished. It is expanding because of the fragmentation that creates many more content-defined sites and it is diminishing because the sites are now the foundation rather than the media. The blogs that focus on critical writing and identity construction, the ones that aim for the long thoughts which are so valued for developing as a writer and an academic, are often freestanding or part of a looser affiliation such as Blogger, Wordpress.com, or Edublogs, as opposed to blogs that are part of a centralized system such as Facebook or Tumblr. This essentially moves blogs out of the tightly place-bound view that now dominates social media. So, although the number of people blogging may not have decreased, bloggers, and specifically academic bloggers for this webtext’s purposes, now represent a dwindling percentage of overall social media users. Long-thought blogs are becoming outsider media. Yes, people still blog and many of the original cast previously known as the blogosphere are still out there. However, as a matter of percentage, blogs are now a minor part of social media.

The Why for Blogs

Returning to those English education students mentioned in the introduction, and also adding graduate teaching assistants to the mix, the shift in social media use has implications for the kind of blogging that works well for critical and reflective writing. Juxtaposed against classroom use for blogs, the dwindling percentage of traditional blogs means one thing for sure: There will be teachers out there who teach writing with blogs but who do not keep blogs themselves. That means they are less likely to know the benefits of blogging over time and may use classroom blogs primarily for short-term uses, such as homework or worksheet-like questions, especially if that is how blogs were used for them in high school. Stacy M. Kitsis (2008) made that very recommendation in The English Journal, and it can not be denied that blogs can be used for those ubiquitous questions at the end of text chapters or in lieu of worksheets. And when used for homework, blog comments (Kitsis used email chains, probably to answer secondary school level FERPA concerns) from peers to ensure timely feedback. She found that students were more likely to do homework in this guise.

However, this heightened completion rate comes at a cost later. Students asked later in university-level classes to write critically and reflectively in a blog are likely to carry over the idea that blogging is merely another form of homework—or, busywork—rather than a primary method for developing their new identities as scholars. This is also a concern for graduate students who teach writing. Academic blogger and digital rhetoric scholar Collin G. Brooke (2014) stated in a Facebook post that he finds himself “struggling lately with the challenge of explaining blogging to students who have come to social media through Facebook and Twitter, without having experienced what we used to call the blogosphere” (n.p.). He echoed my concerns about the lack of students' blogging and succeeding generations of writing teachers when he added, “I suspect that we'll probably locate a generational shift at some point—it’s hard for some commentators (myself included) not to feel like something's been lost since then. And I think that has a lot to do with when/where they were introduced to social media” (n.p.).

Clearly, the largest percentage of social media users today, 94%, are not blog users, and the 6% measured is for Tumblr. Yes, there are many blogs outside of the Pew study, but one has to wonder how the percentage stacks up to contained social media sites like Facebook and Tumblr, and what percentage of that is not commercial or functioning like a newspaper. It appears that although social media use on the whole is on the rise, the traditional reflective blog is not. It is not dead and many of the academics who started blogging ten or more years ago are still blogging, but at the same time, blogs are no longer the entry point they used to be for social media. This should be a concern. It should especially be a concern for those who value writing that is used for inquiry, for speculation, for reflection, or even for creativity—blogs do those things and let ideas develop over time, something hard to do in a sequence of 140-character tweets or even the most reflective Facebook post.

Identity

No matter what a blogger’s intentions are for a blog, it will construct an identity. This identity could be aspirational, actual, individual, communal, deliberately deceptive, or even subsumed under a corporate gloss, but identity will be there. The accretion over time of many posts not only gives a long view on content, it gives a long, dimensional vision of the person (or people) behind the words and other media. That may be the primary reason why this function of blogs—what Rettberg (2014) called “blogs as narratives” (p. 115)—is so important. A blog is a superlative place to build, interrogate, and define identity. Other social media platforms do this also, but not in the sustained fashion possible through a blog. In essence, a blog is a rhetorical construct for generating content that the rhetor puts forth as a expression of identity, whether intentional or not. Through the multiple media used, a blog is a multimodal rhetorical construct, with the potential to be sustained over time.

Image  

Different blogging platforms—and the different themes and customization they offer—can make meaningful differences in how a blog looks

Why Writing Teachers Should Blog

Whether you choose to use blogs in the classroom or not, no matter what your focus—academic, personal, creative, or something else—there is no better space for working out your own ideas than a blog, and for an academic, contending with ideas is a big part of identity. Truly, those long posts over time build identity, both for the blog and for the blogger. My blog, Just a Blog, has for its subtitle, "For when 140 characters are not enough." Although I also use Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Facebook, for me, each platform acts as a concentration of one facet of blogging, each useful, but only one facet of an intricate construction. There are definitely times when 140 characters are not enough. For example, although Twitter allows academics to collect and share the snippets and quick links, it does not supply a space for more complex thoughts given Twitter's 140-character limit. That may be the reason some academic tweeters resort to a sequence of tweets with numbers (1/2, 2/2) given to mark the sequence. Sequencing is a makeshift solution though, and could be an indicator that the idea needs to be shifted to a blog post, which then can be promoted in a tweet.

Other social media retain that sharp focus in their own way. Pinterest excels at categorizing and sharing links expressed through photos, but conventionally leaves only a brief caption accompanying the photo. Facebook uses all of its features to solidify strong social connections, both personal and commercial, but is not the place for extended reflection, which may be why its “Notes” feature has disappeared in more recent iterations. Of course, blogs can still do these things, but lack the tight social focus or the structure fitted for specific content that these newer media give. For example, if a scholar’s only focus is on visual rhetoric with no need to reflect in writing about the visual finds, then Pinterest will suffice; a blog is not needed. However, critical thinking, speculating, reflecting—that is what academics do and considerable space is needed to do it well. What blogs give that other social media cannot is extended textual and other media space over time while retaining a central identity. In addition, through comments and trackbacks, others add to the conversation and can link to their own posts elsewhere. As Collin Brooke (2005) pointed out, "To maintain a blog ... is to participate in a small-world network, one that involves both clustering and connecting. The combination of these forces (embodied in any number of different kinds of gestures) results in a different kind of writing altogether" (n.p.). A blog is different from a stand-alone text due to this tension between the identity of the writer expressed through the multimodal elements of the blog and the social connections the blog enables. This "tension" works well for faculty as they express their scholarly (and other) identities through text and other media.

A natural sequel to the idea that blogs are good for the kinds of connecting and writing that faculty need is that it is also an excellent place for graduate students to investigate their scholarly identity. Rebekah Shultz Colby, Richard Colby, Justin Felix, Robin Murphy, Brennan Thomas, and Kristine Blair (2005) connected blogging to the identity construction process that is such an integral part of graduate school in the multi-voiced "A Role for Blogs in Graduate Education." In the section entitled "Agora," Robin Murphy noted that the form "allows for the access and ability to read within the community, attempt to enter the community, and participate at a student/new professional level with others at the same or near the same level—for free, since most blog space is free" (n.p.). As mentioned before, there are many more social media now than when blogging was the great new thing, and many more to come, but blogs retain the benefits they had from the start: They are the easiest and most flexible medium for academics who desire a sustained space to construct a scholarly identity.

There is no doubt such a place is needed. The casual hallway conversations on deep subjects that embody visions of the academic life don't always play out that way for the rhetoric and composition specialist. Housed in different departments, including English Studies, Writing, or Communication, rhetoric and composition faculty often find themselves the only one in their specialty for their department, especially those who act as a WPA (writing program administrator). Even in larger departments, those in computers and writing, possibly many reading this webtext, are typically the only ones in their department, especially if that person’s focus does not overlap into technical writing. As one who teaches rhetoric, composition studies, creative writing, and science fiction and fantasy literature, I appreciate the extended reach blogs give me to a world of colleagues who would otherwise be outside my reach. Much as I appreciate my departmental colleagues in technical writing, literature, creative writing, and yes, composition studies and traditional rhetoric, we do not fully share interests. The hallway conversation is a brief update rather than a shared explication and questioning of ideas. The desire may be there, but the shared vocabulary goes only so far and, of course, once on campus, there are the demands of teaching and meetings and advisees—the movie version of the leisurely academic life stays on the screen.

Finally, academic blogging is not just for university-level faculty and graduate students. K–12 teachers have taken blogging to heart and are doing fabulous things with blogging in the classroom and for themselves, often in the form of a reflective blog centered on their teaching practices. A current blogger who began as part of the LiveJournal generation is Kristin Roberts (2014), a middle school teacher in Arizona who began blogging as a young teen using LiveJournal. She uses her blog, That Teaching Blog, to actively reflect on classroom practices. Others discover blogging through professional development initiatives and local versions of national literacy programs, like Missouri State University's Ozarks Writing Project.

As a long-time blogger, I can not imagine chopping off that part of my identity. For me, it is vital; it is the core of my scholarship and self. Moving from the personal to the professional, and between fields, blogging your scholarly identity as well as using blogs in your writing courses is a good way to stay part of shifting academic disciplines and emerging pedagogies.

Students

Why Students Should Blog

The most powerful reason for student blogs is the real-world shift from composing solely as word processing to composing as a digital composition, one that still has argument as its center. Stephanie Vie (2008) argued that “compositionists should focus on incorporating into their pedagogy technologies that students are familiar with but do not think critically about: online social networking sites, podcasts, audio mash-ups, blogs, and wikis” (p. 9). J. Elizabeth Clark (2010) asserted that Kathleen Blake Yancey’s (2009) call for 21st literacies cannot be ignored and details how student blogs fit into what she calls “The Digital Imperative.” In this vision for the composition classroom, the blog format itself is studied as a rhetorical construct; links are used to lend source support, and most of all, students gain experience in argumentation the way it is happening now—in “an online arena” (p. 34). Clark added that student blog entries then become high stakes writing, writing that has real consequences:

The instant publishing feature of blogs, however, makes blogs one of the highest stakes (although graded as low stakes) forms of writing that my students do; in a single click, they become authors with the responsibility for what they have written. They are also aware of the possibilities for revising if someone in the class challenges the reliability of something they have written. In this way, blogs may be seen as a popular form of Bakhtin’s “cultural software” that gives meaning to the act of writing and help students to develop new habits of thought about writing and its role in their lives. (p. 34)

Blogs as Portfolios and as Learning Management Systems

Advanced undergraduates and graduate students who need an online professional portfolio with a blog, CV, and teaching page will find that a blog is the natural entry point since it shows what is newest first by design. This is an excellent culminating project for any class with a strong professional development component. Finished seminar papers do not have to be posted publicly in the blog; those can be included as an abstract in a post with a password-protected attachment. However, the reflective writing that stems from readings and the comments from others that happen though reasoning things out in public (and a commitment to regular posting) keeps the portfolio from being entirely locked-down. The practice of blogging found objects, a concept taken from art, also lends depth.

At the same time, those who want to host their own teaching space can do that too and do it for free. Wordpress in particular can be adapted to use as a Learning Management System (LMS), and instructors who choose to use Edublogs, which uses a customized version of Wordpress, have access to widgets expressly chosen with education in mind. This is not only a possibility for current classroom teachers; a sample teaching module on a student-developed LMS can be a classroom assignment for graduate students taking pedagogy classes. There are many options, especially if you choose something like Wordpress or Drupal, which can act as an LMS and house an entire course. Possibly the best how-to book for the writing instructor interested in using blogs as a LMS is Will Richardson's (2010) 3rd Edition of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom. Polls, forums, wikis, and file exchange—it's all possible.

Making Large-scale Choices

Whether you host your own course space or have individual students start their own blogs, there are large-scale choices you must make to best fit your particular vision for the blog. For instance:

  • Will you have a course blog or individual student blogs?
  • What technologies will drive these blogs? Is that choice a teacher-driven or student-driven choice?
  • Will the blogs be public or private or some combination?
  • Who is the intended audience of the blog? Will comments be allowed on blog posts?

These large-scale choices, and others, are covered in Alex Reid's (2011) chapter, "Why Blog? Searching for Writing on the Web." Of course, before using blogs as a hub for 21st century literacies, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) needs to be considered. Instructors who use blogs in the classroom should be sure that students have the protection the law allows, especially those instructors teaching K-12, which has additional requirements for parental rights. On the university level, HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) (2012) provided guidelines for public student blogs that take into account FERPA and ethical issues. The main issue with blogs is the concept of “educational records.” HASTAC’s guidelines concluded that public blog entries are not educational records “because they are never ‘in our keeping.’ That is, we do not see the record until after the student has made it public” (n.p.). Clearly, then, students writing in public as part of a class does not violate FERPA. The remainder of this wiki entry consists of possible assignments that utilize blogs. 

Assignments

The "Found Objects" Assignment

Art students are frequently sent outside in search of "found objects," otherwise disposable or non-valuable objects that catch the artist's eye. For example, a bottlecap, the shape of a rock that fits the artist's palm perfectly, a white feather, or even the first red leaf of fall—any of these could be collected as a found object to be taken back to the studio and incorporated into a piece of art, usually a collage, relief, or sculpture.

For this assignment, over the course of the semester, find ten good links on the Internet that you think will be useful or of interest professionally to you and your future colleagues. Do a post for each and space these posts out over the course of the semester. In those posts, make sure that you give some commentary that addresses the value of the piece and gives some analysis of it, or even some speculation about an issue if that is appropriate.

The Poster Project: Starting a Meme

Introduction

We have all seen it. Maybe you have even helped keep one alive. Certainly at one point you have passed one on with Facebook, Google+, or Twitter. Yes, I’m talking about a meme, specifically one that uses a strong, sometimes unlikely visual to make a point using added text captions. For example, when I taught Gender Issues in Language and Literature, the “Feminist Ryan Gosling” meme was making the rounds. It was started by a women’s studies instructor who wanted a way to make the sometimes difficult feminist theorists more accessible—and it worked. Another example of a visual meme is the familiar six-photo sequence that moves from what thinks to what really is. There are multiple versions of this, and many are about writing and the writerly identity. Yet another example is the faux-1890s greeting card art that juxtaposes genteel art with direct statements. Finally, these memes are not always static; animated GIFs are making a comeback and are being used for memes.

Ingredients

In this project you need to:

  • Use image manipulation software such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, or Gimp to take a photo (or illustration) from pop culture and make your own meme. No Willie Wonka photos, no LoLCats. Use a striking image from pop culture to begin your own series. If you are unfamiliar with memes, you should research to be sure that you do not accidently choose an image or idea that is already out there in this genre.
  • Note that memes aim for humor in order to persuade. Just a cute photo will not work.
  • As always, use in-class studio time wisely so that I can keep track of progress.
  • Do one thing that these memes never do: give a fair use citation at the lower right corner.
  • You will super-impose text onto the image.
  • You will save multiple versions of this file. First you will retain the native file format (.ai for Illustrator); next, you will save for web (medium resolution as a .jpeg or .png); finally, you will save a hi-res version as a .tiff for printing. The web version is the one you will turn in using the “Due Here” link.
  • Write a meme assignment that you would use in your future or existing classroom. Your meme will act as an example for your assignment.

The Adapted 365 Project Assignment

This is an adapted version of the 365 Project, a photo-a-day challenge. The original concept, as expected, takes a year and is housed in a site specifically for that project. For this class, we will scale down to the semester we have and at the same time, give textual analysis and reasoning that connects somehow to the photos.

It has been said more than once that it takes 21 days to make a habit. Part of this class is centered on the habit of writing, specifically academic writing. For each class day we have, take a photo, post it to the blog, and write 150-250 words of analysis, reflection, or speculation about the photo. Sample posts will be shared in class.

Those who wish may do the real deal and post a photo a day (with analysis) for the whole semester. Students who successfully complete this challenge will receive 5% extra credit. Those who make it past half-way will receive 3% extra credit.

The Shoebox: An Eportfolio Assignment

This is an abridged version of the culminating project assigned in my "Composition and Rhetoric in High School and junior College" course.

On the class blog, the Shoebox Project is described as a teaching journal and a container for teaching materials you develop, much like the shoebox in your closet where you keep the mementos from your childhood–the BFF necklace, the rock from your hike in the Grand Tetons, or the note Heather passed to you in 8th grade Algebra asking which would you rather do: x or y, and the choices were never good, but always amusing. All of those things, no matter how trivial they may seem individually, add up to a remarkable portrait of your past.

In more concrete terms, you will collect the following and use some kind of CMS or web-authoring software to contain your materials. In the interest of clarity, I have detailed what components, if done well, add up to an A, B, C, or not passing. I have also noted an additional item for the graduate students in the class.

An “A” Shoebox Project makes excellent choices with its presentation and organization. It is not merely a list of components with links. It will contain the following:

  1. A Writing Study: A reflective paper that looks at some aspect of the teaching of writing. This paper will go through several drafts using peer revision and instructor comments. 6-8 pages.
  2. An expanded Talking Point about one of the in-class or out-of-class writings done during the semester, i.e., Public Affairs, McGuffin, Profile, or Collaborative.
  3. Lore links (6-8). Collect several links, video clips, sound files, cartoons, and so on that cut to the heart of some aspect of teaching writing.
  4. Show your place on the rhet/comp pedagogy landscape. You may use a diagram, cartoon, movie clip, or drawing/painting/collage (paper scanned and converted to .jpg or .png, or using software such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop).
  5. Do a longer version (1-2 pages longer) of your assignment sequence, one that talks more about choices and the reasons behind the choices you made. Taken to 6-8 pages excluding appendixes with the assignments themselves, this idea could also be used for the writing study. If you do that, your fifth item in your shoebox would be an additional assignment for the sequence with one or two pages analyzing where it would fit in the sequence, what it would accomplish, and why.

A “B” Shoebox Project will contain 1, 2 (not revised), and one of 3, 4, or 5. It will show some attention to effective presentation and organization.

A “C” Shoebox Project will contain 1 (unrevised) and 2 (also unrevised). It is competent, but does not aim for more.

Graduate Component (All graduate students include this for an “A,” “B,” or “C”): Pick two categories (the blue links) from the Bedford Bibliography for Teachers of Writing and find five sources for each (total of ten) that are from 2003 – present. Write up those sources in Bedford-Bib style.

Quality, insight, creativity, and execution will all be factors in grading the Shoebox. In addition, “A” or “B” Shoeboxes must have at least one multimodal/not primarily text item. Items 3 and 4 lend themselves naturally to this requirement. A completed Shoebox can be stored as pages on your blog. If you do that, please password protect all pages that are longer papers such as items 1, 2, or 5. With these, give an abstract with a link to the full-text version which will be password protected. That way, if you want to share the document with a future employer or a colleague you meet at a conference, you can simply give them the password along with the URL for your site. I will email my comments in order to keep your grade confidential.

Implications

Simple things are rarely that simple, and blogs exemplify that maxim. Why blogs, traditional blogs, are such a good choice for academics and for their classrooms is not an easy thing to summarize, except for this—life is complicated, and if we do it right, long. Social media is where many of us play out our virtual selves, fragmenting our wit and our serious moments between a variety of different media. There is nothing wrong with later developments such as Twitter or Pinterest, but the long thoughts, the incrementally developed narrative (Rettberg, 2014, n.p.) that blogging gives, is an excellent way to gain the habit of writing, and with it, reflection.

If blogs are your bedrock, your entry point to this social and tantalizing digital world, then you will be able to keep the best and the worst of you in one place, ready to access and ready to build, year after year. The narrative will play out and develop, sometimes even surprising the author. Our students also need to reflect about things in more than 140 character bites. Instructors who blog are more likely to show their students the larger view of what can be done. For that and many other reasons, I still blog.

References

Almjeld, Jen. (2014). Jen Almjeld’s Facebook home page. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/jen.almjeld

Barrios, Barclay. (2003). The year of the blog: Weblogs in the writing classroom. Computers and Composition Online (Spring 2003). Retrieved from http://www.bgsu.edu/departments/english/cconline/barrios/blogs/index.html

Barrios, Barclay. (2005). Blogs: A primer. Computers and Composition Online (Spring 2005). Retrieved from http://www.bgsu.edu/departments/english/cconline/barrios3/barrios3.htm

Barton, Matt. (2014). “Matt Chat.” Matt Barton’s YouTube Channel. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/user/blacklily8?feature=g-subs-u

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