Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Feeling like the high beams

I taught my first writing class yesterday. I've taught first-year students before, but I've never had a class of made up of first-years exclusively until now.

Three words: deer in headlights.

Their faces were wide-eyed and bewildered and they registered no feedback whatsoever. So if nothing is coming out, I had to wonder, is anything going in? Is this just what they look like on their second day of college? Is it me? Am I freaking them out? Can they hear me?

Is this thing on?

Instead of having them keep "writing journals", as most first-semester-first-year college students are required to do, I made them start blogs.

I think they think I'm crazy.

It will be interesting to see how many of them show up tomorrow with drop slips in hand.


Kristen said...

I think its a great way to motivate them while encorporating technology into your curriculum. I bet they will love it and you!

Kristina Chew said...

Maybe they'll come back with the web addresses for their MySpace or Facebook blogs scribbled out.....

What, a professor who BLOGS LIKE I DO?

kyra said...

i LOVE that! they won't come back with drop slips; they'll come back flanked by pals with ADD slips!

Daisy said...

What a great idea! Will you require that they read and comment on each other? You are one cool prof.

MOM-NOS said...

You know, Daisy, that was something I considered for a long time. Ultimately, though, I don't want them to have to edit themselves because they're worried about how they'll come across to their peers. So I won't share their URLs with anyone else - but it will be interesting to see if they decide to share them with each other over time.

Kristina, funny you should say that. I specifically told them that even if they had another blog somewhere else they needed to start a new one on Blogger for the purposes of this course. I'm always afraid I'll stumble upon information I'll wish I didn't have if I spend any time on Facebook or MySpace.

Kaethe said...

Good choice. PZ Myers at Pharyngula is posting links to his students' blog of science stories. The point there is to do abstracts of science reporting.

Keeping them anonymous is fine. But let us know if they decide to share.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry. All of us "first-years" (that term always reminds me of Harry Potter) have that look. I'm on day 17 and I still do. I would much rather write a blog than a journal if that's any consolation to you.

gretchen said...

More evidence of what I've thought since the first day I found this blog: you're brilliant!

Are you going to let them read your blog?

Ric said...

Blogs are a very different assignment than journals because journals have an essence of privacy and blogs have a definite purpose of visibility.

I think journals are the classic elementary writing class assignment because "it's OK to suck in private." Assigning blogs takes away that license.

That said I am not saying I don't think this was a good idea. I think it's great! Much more contemporary and realistic. I am not so sure that the confidential journal and the license to suck ever...

...inspired anyone to write more often.
...inspired anyone to write more candidly.
...made anyone a better writer.

In fact, the popularity of blogs have suggested that a little feedback goes a long way toward all those things. Writers like to be read!!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Ric. A public blog is a very different beast than a private journal. I work on the administration side of higher ed and we are very concerned about privacy and security issues with regard to blogs and sites like myspace.

In fact, in my office we spend a lot of time reminding students that their public information is visable to future employers, colleagues, and even graduate school admissions comittees. Look at all the articles in the Chronicle about search committees googling candidates.

It's also true that not everyone is comfortable sharing personal thoughts/information in a public forum and it's really not fair of you to ask them to do this.

That said, I would be ok with your blogging assignment if you allow students to remain anonymous or password protect their sites.

MOM-NOS said...

Anon, I agree. And I think it would be a bit of a double standard if I told them they couldn't remain anonymous in their blogs. You know, considering...

Also, I have no requirement that they share their private thoughts with me and the world. If they want to write about last night's episode of CSI, that's fine with me. I also don't require them to publish a site feed.

Speaking of which - no, Gretchen, I haven't shared this blog with them, but I have started a different blog with them in mind.

Here's something interesting, though. The comfort level in class #2 was a complete turn-around from the deer-in-headlights of class #1. I think a huge part of it was that they had already posted something and gotten a response from me, which allowed us to start building individual rapport.

And not a single person dropped.

MOM-NOS said...

One other thing I should note. I added a caveat to the syllabus so that students were approaching the blogs in the way in which they were intended for the class:

Two important notes about your blog:
1. If you make reference to any other people in your blog, please change their names.
2. Though you are mostly writing this blog as a personal journal, it will be posted on the internet and will therefore have a (potentially) larger audience; it is also part of your academic portfolio for this class. For these reasons, I expect posts on your blog to be respectful and mature. Posts that are hostile, offensive, inflammatory, or mean-spirited will result in a failing grade for the blog portion of your final grade. If you have questions about what is or is not acceptable, please consult the “Harassment” section of the college code, which can be found on pages 23 – 25 of the Student Handbook, available on the college website.

laurentius rex said...

Since I first put a web site out anyone is going to be able to know more about than anyone might from any job application, but that cat is well out of the bag and the fact is I rather wish any prospective employer would look at my website cos then they would know what I am fully capable of never mind what might pass for communication in an interview.

My life is an open book, for this the most private of people. How bizarre.