Graduate Students Provide Reality Check on Required Blogging in Class

Web writing or maintaining a blog does not come natural to digital natives. Moreover, using blogs as a class requirement requires the instructor do more than say “go blog.”

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This is at least the third year I’ve had students in my journalism classes at the University of Alabama doing required blogging.

For prospective journalists,  the ability to maintain an online journal is a necessary work skill as one enters a full-time news production job.

Consequently, we here on the UA faculty decided two years ago to start requiring incoming freshman to create a blog in their very first class and do AT LEAST FOUR blog posts over that first 15-week academic term.

In this first undergraduate course, we award extra points when they dress up their blogs with photos, pictures and web links.

We hope they’ll continue to use the blog for classes throughout the major.

Bob Sims, who leads the cadre of content producers at Alabama’s top news

Bob Sims, editor of al.com, talked about the importance of blogging during a visit to both of my journalism classes Jan. 30. He was an outstanding, enthusiastic guest speaker.

web site, al.com, spent 90 minutes with my class almost two weeks ago.   I was curious how much of what he said would stick as the students blogged.

Starting this semester on our journalism department web page, we are going to spotlight a “BLOG OF THE WEEK.”

WHEN BIG KIDS BLOG

This is the first semester, I’ve required graduate students to maintain a web log.   Now that we’re about four weeks into the semester, I am reading over their first few blog posts of the academic term.

I can see what happens when you require something that really ought to be informal or something with a personal flair to it.

THE PROBLEMS

Here are five (5) problems I see from requiring something like this in an academic setting:

Problem #1:  The students think they’re writing for me, the professor

Problem #2:  The students are reporting on what we did “in class” as if the reader was in our class and heard the same instructions that they heard last Monday morning.

Problem #3Text-only writing  is boring.  Where are the images or graphics that make something appealing to read?  Most of the blog posts are link-less, destined to NOT Be found out here on the World Wide Web

Problem #4: The posts fail to take much of a stand on a controversial or unpopular issue.

There’s little to argue about what someone said in a chapter of a textbook.  They should be finding something to engage an audience in discussion.

Problem #5: Some of the posts feel like they’re written because the teacher is requiring it, not because the writer actually thinks or believes what he or she is saying.  In other words, there’s no conviction.

Here’s the newsflash:  This is ALL MY FAULT.  Just like anything else, students ?(even very bright graduate students) cannot do what they haven’t been taught.

Assuming these digital natives who spend half of their lives in social media know how to maximize this free, open and flexible web space is a BIG MISTAKE.

We all know what assuming does (hint, hint).

SO WHAT AM I GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

It’s not enough to pose problems, if I don’t have any solutions.  I think I’ll address those in a later post here.

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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