I am beginning to notice something about my course blog for PHIL298H: Patriarchal Force and Political Power. As we discuss the material we have been reading for class and engage with one another online through the blog we are creating a communal document, a digital artifact of our work together this semester.  I am struck by this more this semester because of the structure I am using in which we all co-edit one blog rather than each editing a blog of our own.

As students post and comment, as they add links through delicious to articles and online resources, we are developing a community of communication that is at once dynamic and lasting.  I find myself responding to the ideas of the students more as I attempt to weave the themes found in the text into our discussion.  I realize, however, that the blog format allows them to become partners in thinking and it forces me to respond in multidirectional ways that I find exhilarating and daunting at the same time.
The weekly round-up podcasts adds a completely different dimension to the class that forces us all to think of this as a common endeavor more than as a unidirectional process in which knowledge is transfered from teacher to student. I am not sure where we will find ourselves at the end of the semester, but I am beginning to feel like the journey, although to a large degree directed by me, will take us all into unexpected territory.
It is good to know that wherever it takes us, we will have an eloquent record that maps our progress.

Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Cole says:

    I really like this perspective, Chris. I’ve done this in the past — where students post to one blog and I feel like it really works on a bunch of levels. I am wondering how they feel about the “ownership” of the posts? Do they feel like they are contributing to a shared environment, or are they giving content away to you? Just curious as I struggle with that all the time.

  • My sense is that they do not miss having their own blog space, but I will have to ask them explicitly. They are engaging the at a sophisticated level and really responding to one another in a way that I was not able to achieve with the multiple blog model. They do have a degree of ownership insofar as they can edit their own posts. I am happy to see the way the online discussion is now making itself felt in the classroom.

  • Cole says:

    I think in a lot of ways “we” superimpose our own thoughts onto those of the classroom … just because I find it important that I (or my students) own their own content doesn’t make it true. If you push the issue with them I would be really interested in hearing more. One last thought — how often are they commenting on each others’ posts opposed to creating a new post of their own?
    I like that you are exploring lots of ways to utilize these tools in your classroom … it is important that we push the boundaries of what we think is important.

  • They are doing a great job posting things of their own and especially commenting on the posts of others. I am trying to reinforce that in class by drawing directly on the comments and posts to orient our discussion in class.
    Today, for example, we spent a lot of the class talking about specific comments students made on the blog. I am trying to dissolve the boundary between the online and the in-class discussion.
    As for ownership, I invite any students from my class your might be looking at this exchange to jump into the conversation. Both Cole and I would be very interested in what you are thinking about your experience in the use of technology in this class.

  • Dan Huff says:

    The concept of a “communal blog” is very interesting. When I first read about the idea in the PHIL 298H course description, I was not sure if a single blog would be capable of holding up under the stress of 20 or more authors. I was also concerned that the personal connection a reader develops with a blog– the feeling that you are getting an insight into the author’s state of mind– would be lost in the high level of activity. However, I was definitely proven wrong.
    The blog is remarkably cohesive for the amount of input that is made to it each day. Conversations that begin in response to one entry, are often continued in subsequent posts. The cycle of commenting and entry creation seems to have weaved a thread through the fabric of the blog that holds everything together nicely. And as for my concern about the “personal” nature of the blog… I feel that the connection IS lost, but only to be replaced by a more tangible sense of the collective progression of the class’s thought process. Instead of glimpsing into the mind of a single author at a given point in time, a blog of this type provides a window into the development of an entire group. For instance, if you look back at the beginning of the blog, it is obvious that the type of thinking we undertake in analyzing and responding to class texts has changed. Each week, the extent to which we can build upon discussions made previously is clearly demonstrated in the types of posts being made.
    Last quick note. Using a blog of this sort as a tool in a small, introspective looking class such as the 298H groups seems almost natural. The impact of the blog would not be as powerful if it were actually 25+ single blogs. On a personal note, I feel a strong sense of ownership not only for the posts I make, but for the blog as a whole. As the it grows directly from classroom discussion, I feel we are all contributors and co-owners of this project.

  • RUTH CANAGARAJAH says:

    While I enjoy writing, I believe that these posts induced a certain vulnerability at first. Personally, I was initially hesitant about posting because my background knowledge of Greek tragedies is very limited and I did not want to appear unsophisticated and ignorant in my posts. I am no stranger to posting blogs for a class since my AP Spanish class in high school utilized blogs. These, of course, were much more structured and were also in the format of individual blogs. I believe that this single blog that we use, however, is much more effective. From experience, I know that students can become overwhelmed by the individual blogs. Instead of at least perusing what other students were writing about, my class and I chose “favorites” or close friends with whom we continually commented and gave feedback. Instead of integrating ideas and promoting discussion, the individual blogs actually may have made the class more scattered and disconnected.
    One would think that a single blog would be the one to create disorder. However, I am increasingly realizing that reading about so many perspectives on these symbolic tragedies makes this class a very enriching one. This, I believe, promotes the sense of ownership; our various viewpoints and even our own modifications on a popular view seemingly individualizes us insofar that we establish where we stand in comparison to others. Still, I can understand that there must be daunting obstacles, like Prof. Long mentioned, in steering the class in a certain direction. Although I can’t say that I’m able to discern beforehand exactly where Prof. Long intends to take us by way of the Greek tragedies, I do believe that the students have the specific focus down when posting—the theme of patriarchal force vs. political power. I think we specifically concentrate on this topic but I also believe that even those blogs which may have gone “astray” were enlightening and may have even unintentionally contributed to the overarching theme.

  • Nikki Massaro Kauffman says:

    Hi Chris,
    This sounds like an intriguing idea.
    Do you think there is an interest in preserving their contributions in their own physical blogging ePortflio space?
    Is there a way to have these contributions both live in this space and be embedded in their own ePortfolios so that they can be carried with them through their academic careers and beyond?
    Nikki

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