The Blogging Method: Improving Traditional Student Writing Practices

The Blogging Method: Improving Traditional Student Writing Practices

Christine Fiore (Independent Scholar, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0562-4.ch011
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Why are there more than 450 million blogs on the Internet? The answer is simple: blogging is easy, free, and fun. People have opinions they want to share with the world, and blogging is a form of social media that best allows them to do so at length. This chapter examines how blogging can be used as a way to enhance instruction on expository writing. As with any form of social media, using blogs as a teaching tool can be a daunting proposition. Therefore, this chapter provides its readers practical instruction and ideas about how to integrate blogging practices into a composition classroom. Because blogging closely mirrors traditional writing practices, this chapter invites readers to consider blogging as a 21st century model for a 20th century practice.
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Getting students to write well has been the goal of English composition classes for countless decades. Over the years, the proposed means to accomplish this goal have changed, but one thing that has been consistent is frustration with both the process and the results. A Modern Language Association report on English composition teaching published in 1910 complained that “the results of English composition teaching in almost all schools are unsatisfactory” and that too much emphasis was placed on spelling and punctuation and too little on general structure, and artistic and personal qualities (Modern Language Association, 1910, p.1).

An article published in 1943 by the Institute of General Semantics bemoaned the fact that the English teacher pays too much attention to grammar and “appears to attempt to place the emphasis upon writing, rather than writing-about-something-for-someone.” According to the author, “Although one may have learned how to write with mechanical correctness, one may still have to learn how to write with significance and validity” (Johnson 1943, p. 26).

Ideas about teaching writing finally changed with the Process Movement of the 1960s. One of its primary tenets was that freewriting was the best way to develop writing skills. In the words of Peter Elbow, “‘Trying to write well’ for most people means constantly stopping, pondering, and searching for better words. If this is true of you, then stop ‘trying to write well.’ Otherwise you will never write well” (Elbow, 1973, p. 25).

The Process Movement took place at a time when pens and typewriters were still the main tools of writing; since then, technology has made a big impact on how we write and has the potential to impact how we teach writing. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, instructors were looking at the benefits of classroom collaboration among students, sharing or publication of student writing, and the potential of the computer as an editorial tool (Lehr, 1995). The Millennial generation (born between 1982 and 2000) came of age as computers became ubiquitous and the Internet blossomed, and thus quite easily assimilated technology (McNeill, 2011).

Technology makes writing easy. It has changed the way we relate to each other in that it has encouraged average people to write, and to write a lot. Email, smart phones, and social media quickly increased the number of students who used written communication on a regular basis. With some rapid thumb movements or the swipe of a finger, paragraphs get composed quite quickly and effortlessly. As a result, people “talk” more on their phones via text messages than actually making a phone call.

New forms of social media are constantly emerging, each one offering ample opportunities for writing. Each of these forms offers very different writing experiences and opportunities. In this chapter, I will look at how instructors can use social media, specifically blogging, to help students find their voice and become better expository writers—without the pangs often associated with classroom writing tasks.

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