Blogging: Making the Most of It

I’m not sure if any of you caught the moment on the first day of class when I asked you to give your blog a subtitle, or tagline. What happened was that all of you paused. What I realized was that I had set for you a very simple problem that is at the center of your work as a writer: finding the right words and placing them in the right order. The words “finding” and “placing” of course stand for an extraordinarily complex process that required you not only to think about language, but about form and context and audience and medium.

The taglines you have formulated for your blogs are really good. That is, your blogs are already showing attention to how you might represent your reading, thinking and writing in this course. I encourage you to continue thinking about your blog as more than simply a functional tool (an archive). I am interested in you using the blog to better represent your intellectual work and to help you develop as a writer.

Below is a post by a friend of mine who teaches at Washington College in Maryland, Sean Meehan. Making Use of the Medium: Ways of Doing Digital Writing and Reading says much of what I want to say about your writing on a blog. Professor Meehan and I are both interested in using blogs to develop the reading and thinking and writing  of our students. Here is what he says:

I mentioned in the first class that we would be focusing in the course on ways that we could develop and strengthen our writing by being more aware and making better use of the medium and multiple media of writing. The blog postings you are doing in response to reading and discussion (and on your way to the larger writing projects) are a good example. So here are some tips, offered in response to your initial posts, for ways to develop a stronger response and to experiment with future postings.

  • Provide a  focus for your response–both in terms of summary (what the reading says) and analysis (what you say, your critical thinking in response to the reading). Some simple ways to develop focus:
  • title: at the end, or while writing the blog (I suggest you save or publish the blog before finishing, and then update it once or twice while writing), use this to ask yourself: what am I getting at.
  • at the very least, don’t title it “blog #1″; start experimenting with some creative thinking–you will need a good title for your essays.
  • summary (what you hear the reading say): think 2-4 sentences, an initial paragraph that summarizes in a way that will allow you to later dig in to a key point and elaborate further.
  • elaboration (what you notice; what you want to say about the reading): dig in by providing a  quotation; use the quotation tool (in toolbar) to highlight this.
  • basic paragraphing: though the posting need not be fully edited or as formally organized as an essay, consider some basic paragraph breaks to move from summary to analysis, to distinguish different main points; this will also allow you to do some practice with transitions.
  • tags: after finishing the draft, the tag function invites some reflection on what the focus has been, what some key ideas and keywords are; tags can also be effective later when working on an essay and looking for material–to remember or be surprised by some associations (two different posts that turn out to be related by a tag); tags can sometimes lead to interesting associations to other blogs. Some of the WordPress formats will actually suggest automatically other blogs out there that might relate to your post.
  • Advance your focus by making a link
    • the basic links we will use (and mainly use in writing) are quotations and citations.
    • consider digital quotation: a link to a site that offers definition or explanation or example for your focus.
      • use the link function in the toolbar
    • consider linking/inserting an image or other media, if relevant and effective for your focus
    • think of this as a digital means of forwarding and countering (two key elements of academic writing we focus on in the course)
  • Look ahead: to discussion in class, to the next section of the reading, to your next posting.
  • one way to conclude effectively (wrap up, but not entirely–since a blog by definition is not a finished product, should have more to say): ask a question.

We will go over these suggestions in class, as I am interested in what you think about them. If these suggestions are interesting to you, and you want to respond, go ahead and post a comment on this page below.