of Dr. Steven L. Berg

Blogging Instead of Term Papers?

This evening, I read Matt Richtel’s “Blogs vs. Term Papers”  (New York Times,  20 January 2012) which discusses Cathy Davidson’s desire to eradicate term papers.  I am in sympathy with this position and have already been moving to have students publish work in blogs this semester.  I have already briefly mentioned blogs to my classes but have not yet really described to students how the blogs could be effectively used for fulfilling course requirements.

I could imagine a student deciding to create a microblog as a way to document his/her research throughout the semester.

In my film class, I could see a student begin to set himself or herself up as a film critic.  The five required film analyses could serve as the basis for a new blog about some aspect of film.  Because of the class, they would have something to say.  Based on their interests, they could find a niche for their blog.  It is something that could last past the class.

In ENG 102, students will publish most of their work in HASTAC, on the Ocelot Scholars blog, or on the Ocelot Scholars website itself. Although I have some ideas about this, I am going to take the advice that I gave to my students:  let the publication decisions emerge from the research.

I do think that  ENG 102 students need to write a term paper, but I am not sure what is the minimum length acceptable for them to develop a skill that will lead them to success in their academic pursuits.  However, in my history classes, I have already been moving against the expectation that we require a term paper.  Note,”no requiring a term paper” is not the same as “banning term papers.”  Also, there is no reason that a combination of blogs, multimedia, and formal papers could be used in the same class.

More on Blogging

A couple of weeks ago, I told a friend that I would discuss blogging with him.  Now that the semester is started, I need to follow up.  I think he would be a great blogger.  As I was writing this, I remembered Cathy Davidson’s recommendation to read “Blogging Tips for Teachers.”  I should share this with my friend as well as with students who might want to start blogs.  Although they are not teachers, the ideas can easily be adapted to other disciplines as well.

I would be very interested in reading my friend’s blog.  But I also think that it would be interesting to have a multi-author blog with him and possibly one or two other friends.

I attended the LAND Steering Committee meeting in Lansing. It is actually a meeting that I enjoy attending.  The members of the committee who come from around the state are dedicated, interesting, and enjoyable to be with.  The meetings are productive.  Too bad that more are not like this.  I rode to Lansing with my Clark Iverson and we chatted about live and teaching on the way there and back.  It was a nice way to spend the day.

I am not comfortable writing about one of Clark’s teaching ideas without his permission.  But he had a great idea concerning using a traffic light as a teaching tool.  I am so impressed with his ideas to engage students and to get them thinking.

(Photo credit:  Vit Brunner)


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2 thoughts on “Blogging Instead of Term Papers?

  1. Glenn Sunshine on said:

    An interesting question. I think blogging can be appropriate in lower level classes and as part of upper level classes, but I also think that writing extended papers is an important skill for students to develop. The research, analytical, organizational, and writing skills cannot be developed any other way that I have found.

    • I believe there is a place for research papers and feel we do a disservice to our students if we don’t teach them how to effectively craft them. However, couldn’t a student–in a well structured blog–develop the analytical, organization, and writing skills over the period of the semester? It seems that this might even be easier for upper level and graduate students. I appreciate your comments as I think about these issues.

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