What if the students say…*yawn*…to blogs?

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed about teachers in Shanghai enthusiastically wanting to use blogs. The students weren’t so responsive. The Chronicle wonders why.

Was it because the blogs were seen as another gizmo or gadget… a passing fad? Was it because they were just added on to an already jam packed curriculum and people just ran out of time? Or upon closer reading…was it because the teachers were doing all of the blogging but the students were just asked to do the reading and commenting… that they responded to the questions, but they did not get to ask the questions.

How was the exercise presented to them? Were the students perplexed by what was expected of them and what they were supposed to say? Were their comments less about expressing their own opinions…and more about trying to figure out what they thought the teacher wanted them to say?

If that is the case, then blogging did nothing to change what the students already knew to be true: the teachers are in charge, the students do what they are told… the teachers hold the knowledge and the students are empty vessels in comparison.

There needs to be more information, for sure, about this particular situation… but I believe the power of classroom/academic blogging happens when EVERY person both writes and comments, questions and responds. These tools by their very nature allow for interconnected and non-linear and even uncontrollable conversations…both within the classroom community and way beyond it (I just checked my students’ blogs…they are –still– getting comments from people beyond our college on posts they wrote last spring).

These tools, when allowed to weave their magic, disrupt the status quo, level the hierarchies, allow every voice to be heard, make it possible for teachers to teach students but also for students to teach teachers…such that every person is educated, and every opinion is shared. But that can only happen when teachers are worried less about control and concerned more about sharing knowledge, all knowledge, individual and collective knowledge… with or without blogs.


Barbara is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at a small liberal arts college in Maine. Rumor has it this was also her alma mater. She used to work for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for almost 20 years as a teacher and language center director. Prior to these adventures in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and making stuff out of clay. To see her online portfolio please click here!

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  1. Charles · August 1, 2006 Reply

    I wonder about some future time when all hiearchies would be leveled and every voice would be heard, how would the status quo then be “disrupted”?

  2. barbara · August 1, 2006 Reply

    Good question. From my vantage point as a teacher, and as a teacher of languages where the proficiency one achieves in a class is directly proportional to the amount of practice you have in and with the language, I see blogs as a very interesting way for students to wrestle with text, audio, images, etc both created by them as well as by others in response to them etc etc etc. No one person needs to be in charge for blogs to be effective, because everyone has equal access to comment, post and redirect the conversation if need be. For me, this is a total disruption of what is the traditional scenario/ the staus quo in a language class: teacher monopolizes the conversation, students wait passively for their turn to speak… and surprise surprise, along the way they get more access and time on task which should, one hopes, translate into better proficiency levels with the language.

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