An Assessment of my fall 2009 blogs: two strategies

A couple of days ago I posted the details of my blog assignments for Queering Theory and Feminist Pedagogies. In this entry, I want to write about how I implemented these assignments. Here are two strategies I used:

1. I demonstrated a commitment to the blog.

I showed the students I was serious about using the blog by spending considerable time training them and thinking with them about what a blog is and how it is useful. Way back in August, when I was writing about teaching with blogs, I offered the following suggestion:

Spend some time at the beginning of the semester training students on how to use the blog.
If possible, demonstrate how to: log in, write an entry, create a link, upload an image, embed a youtube clip, comment on other blogs, find helpful blogs (other things I am forgetting?). You should also spend some time discussing what blogs are, how they can be used, and how/why they will be used in your class. Although this reading is a little dated (from 2005), it might be helpful in getting your students to understand what blogs are and why they are useful. And, it might (but not always) be helpful to have students reflect on blog rules (how to comment on others’ blogs, etiquette, etc).

This fall I took my own advice; in each class we devoted an entire week to training and thinking critically about blogs and how they could/do function in feminist and queer classrooms. In my queering theory class, we read essays on queer blogging by Jill Dolan, Rahul Mitra and Radhika Gajjala, and Julie Rak (you can read my discussion of them and find links to the full citations here). We also devoted a lot of time to thinking about blogging in relation to queer theoretical issues (is the blog a queer space of freedom? what sorts of queer subjects are constructed through blogging? how do blogs challenge and/or reinforce liberal notions of the Subject/Person and the personal?). Reflecting on blogs in this way–queerly and as an important topic for queering–established from the very beginning that the course blog wasn’t just going to be extra (busy) work for the students to do; the blog was going to be a object of study and where they could practice their own queering of theories/ideas/experiences, etc. In my feminist pedagogies class, we read Blogging Feminism: (Web) Sites of Resistance and my three part series on feminist pedagogy and blogging (here, here, and here) and we discussed how blogs can be used (and abused) in feminist classrooms. In both classes, I gave them a tutorial on how to blog in the media center. I also posted (and discussed) this blogging primer.

2. I was an active participant on the blog.

In addition to spending some time at the beginning of the semester for training and thinking about  blogs, I also participated in the blogs with the students. I posted entries in which I reflected on the readings, offered up an example for them to analyze, made announcements about interesting events or resources, and linked to my own blog when I had written entries that seemed relevant to the class. I also occasionally commented on their own entries. With all of this posting, I definitely increased how much I participated in my course blogs. In past classes, I averaged about 10-15 posts per semester (which consisted of announcements about class or weekly questions for them to respond to). In my queering theory and feminist pedagogies classes this past fall, I did 88 entries combined. While many of these entries were about course management (announcements, additional readings, links to handouts), overall I was more creative in my use of the blog. Here are some examples of how I participated on the blog. I posted

The blog can be an amazing (and perhaps overwhelming, at times) resource for students as they engage with the material, with me and with other students. I really enjoyed exploring so many different ways to facilitate (and encourage) that engagement. Okay, so I have run out of steam on this entry. These are not the only strategies I used for implementing the blog. In future entries, I want to write about using the blog in class discussions, a few blog categories that I am particularly proud of, and my struggles with comments.