Wednesday, March 24, 2010

class blog posts and academic writing: a theory

A colleague and I were talking recently about how much extra writing (translation: time) blogs take to use seriously as a teaching tool. Often, one ends up writing a comment to a student's post that is as long as (or longer than) the post in question; sometimes, a follow-up student comment then provokes another comment...and suddenly the post and comments start to resemble a lengthy collaborative essay, nearly self-contained.

How does all this writing figure in to one's more formal, research-based academic writing? Perhaps not at all—or maybe just not directly.

Upon first glance, it might appear that this sort of writing would distract from or deplete one's energies from the serious, scholarly writing that one has to do to earn tenure.

Yet my colleague and I have found that our own productivity—especially the ability to simply sit and write, to work on a project—increases dramatically during periods when we are using blogs in class as writing components. Through having to write regularly, thoughtfully, and consciously for an audience of one's students, the writing mechanisms are maintained, and kept flexible; it becomes easier to turn to one's own work and write a new paragraph here, revise an old essay there.

While this conversion is not always clear or distinct in the moment, we do find that writing articulate and detailed comments, each aimed at once toward an individual author and an entire class, our own scholarly writing tends to happen with fewer blocks and less inhibitions.