Naming the Blog

This semester, I came up with the blog title and URL for The Critical Student without any student input. I decided to do this part myself to save time and to help build my own confidence (and technology literacy skills!), but in the future I plan to ask students for input. Following is a lesson plan for generating a title and a subheading for the blog. As soon as I have the opportunity to try out this lesson plan I’ll update this post with reflections, observations and improvements! Continue reading

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Commenting on Student Posts

A student blog puts writing instructors in an interesting position. As the editors of the blog we are still in a position of power, but a position of power that is now one step removed from academic discourse (a more casual grading system, such as the check system, furthers this distance). I find it important to clarify this new role as the editor with my students, and to ask them often for ideas to improve the blog. I also like to keep my comments on the blog friendly, informal and inquisitive. In order to maintain the boundary between the blogging community and the academic discourse community, I think it is crucial to ask students questions on the blog but to refrain from offering feedback. Peter Elbow, in “Closing my Eyes as I Speak,” lends exigence to this philosophy:

As teachers, we need to think about what it means to be an audience rather than just be a teacher, critic, assessor, or editor. If our only response is to tell students what’s strong, what’s weak, and how to improve it (diagnosis, assessment, and advice), we actually undermine their sense of writing as a social act. We reinforce their sense that writing means doing school exercises, producing for authorities what they already know-not actually trying to say things to readers. To help students experience us as audience rather than as assessment machines, it helps to respond by “replying” (as in a letter) rather than always “giving feedback.” (65)

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Grading the Blog

One of my favorite elements of Northern Arizona University’s English 105 program is the check system (as apposed to a point system) for grading homework. Instead of giving students a grade on their homework assignments, instructors are encouraged to give a check for full credit, a check plus for extra credit and a check minus for partial credit. The check system relieves students of the pressure to “get a good grade” and encourages them to focus on the content of their homework instead of the structure or surface errors. In “Closing My Eyes as I Speak,” Peter Elbow explains the importance of helping students let go of anxiety and pressure like this: “whether we want to teach greater audience awareness or the ability to ignore audience, we must help students learn not only to ‘try harder’ but also to ‘just relax'” (65). Continue reading

Creating the Blog

Managing a student blog will probably challenge–and improve–your technology and visual literacy skills (it certainly challenged mine!). If you have experience with other blogging platforms–such as blogger or blogspot–I strongly recommend going with the platform you find the easiest to use. If you haven’t blogged before, then WordPress.com is probably the way to go (and the platform I will provide instructions for using on this blog).

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