Bridging the Composition Divide:
Blog Pedagogy and the Potential for Agonistic Classrooms

  1. Since the emergence in 1999 of online self-publishing tools such as Blogger, blogs have grown exponentially in many arenas--political reporting, private life, and education. As many readers will know, a blog (contraction of "weblog") is a web site composed of generally brief, frequent entries arranged in reverse chronological order. The convenience of easy-to-use, form-based interfaces has led to an explosion of the so-called blogosphere. As of November 2005, (a search engine that specializes in blogs) indexed 21.9 million blogs in its database, and there are estimates that 80,000 new blogs are created every day (approximately one per second) (Dyrli). Though blogs have been used in many ways, they tend to exhibit certain identifiable generic attributes, including a blurring of public and private modes of writing or behavior. This article will consider how we as writing teachers might use this new genre. We will first consider how the quasi-public, semi-private generic attributes of blogs trouble the traditional divide in writing instruction between expressivist and social constructivist theories. Then, we will discuss a model for using blogs in the writing classroom to promote intellectual community and agonistic engagement in the proto-public space of the classroom. Rather than using blogs as a tool to facilitate a type of online journaling, we will focus on the implications of using a single, multiply-authored class blog as the central interface for the writing classroom.
  2. The Expressivist/Post-Process Divide

  3. To illustrate the pedagogical landscapes that blogs might function in, we draw on both James Berlin's heuristic set forth in "Rhetoric and Ideology in the Writing Classroom" and Peter Elbow's response to social constructivists' critique of the notion of "private" writing as discussed in his article "In Defense of Private Writing." This pairing will help articulate the "classic divide" in composition studies, show how a complication of this sharp division is both possible and helpful, and provide a means to demonstrate how blogs can facilitate both.
  4. Arguing that ideology influences the way we think about not only the structure of the composition classroom itself but also writing, the subject, and the world (681), in 1988 Berlin divided the then "new" process-approaches to writing into the now well-known categories of cognitive, expressionistic, and social-epistemic rhetorics.1 According to Berlin, expressionists locate the existent within the individual subject and see writing as a way of discovering the "authentic self," while social-epistemics regard "the subject. . . itself as a social construct that emerges through the linguistically-circumscribed interaction of the individual, the community, and the material world" (688). Obviously, conflicting understandings of the nature of subjectivity put these groups in opposition. As Berlin articulates them, the expressivist and social-epistemic approaches are at odds over fundamental epistemological assumptions: the location of reality and the relationship between the self, society, and writing. In her review essay, "Houses Divided: Processing Composition in a Post-Process Time," Allison Fraiberg revisits the debate, and stakes out a similarly polarized divide, only she condenses it to a rift between expressivists and "post-process" scholars for whom writing is always "social" and "subjectivity is multi-valenced and multi-voiced; writers and readers are always conditioned and interpolated by networks of social relations; and the goal of composition is in part about raising students' awareness of their own discursive formations. For the social, post-process theorists, expressivist process theory seems at best quaint and at worst deluded and irresponsible." Characterized as such, the debate seems intractable.
  5. Writing in 1999, Elbow responds to social constructivist critiques of expressionists and their understanding of the "private self" and "private writing." Although "In Defense of Private Writing" addresses the specific social constructivist attack that "all writing is social," the piece can be interpreted as a defense of expressivist assumptions about subjectivity, writing, and culture as a whole. Even if we do not share these assumptions with Elbow, we can admit that his introduction and explanation of a continuum of degrees to which writing is both private and social illustrates that the relationship between writing and its "publicness" is far more complicated than the phrase "all writing is social" suggests.2 It is not surprising that the scholarship on blogs which advocates using blogs as online journals of one type or another draws on Elbow.3 His continuum helps to explain what happens when blogs seem to enable contradictory understandings of the "publicness" of the writing published on them. Just as Elbow emphasizes that writing is always private or social and public to varying degrees, so is the writing space that blogs enable. Because of their unique quasi-public, semi-private nature and their innate tendency to emphasize the blurriness of such boundaries, we suggest that blogs offer a potential "both/and" solution to what otherwise seems like an unbridgeable divide in composition theory.
  6. Complicating Conventions: Blogs Reconfigure Public/Private Boundaries

  7. Charles Bazerman compares genre to "the symbolic landscape we have constructed to live in" (19). Blogs are a new genre, and therefore a new landscape with new features. In this section, we will consider how one of the most distinctive features of the blog landscape-- its simultaneous invocation of public expression and private thoughts--enables both expressivist and post-process goals for writing to be met. Though academic attention to the use of blogs in the writing classroom is still relatively scant,4 what has been written from the scholarly vantage-point suggests that instructors who implement blogs in their classroom are still sorting out best blogging practices.5 One recurring theme seems to be the idea that the activity of regular writing on personal blogs will improve writing skills. This idea is not a new one for composition scholars, many of whom used some kind of journaling or what Peter Elbow terms "freewriting" in their classes long before the popularity of blogs. We argue that more careful consideration of the genre conventions--a more precise map of the landscape--might lead teachers to more unexpected and unconventional positions.
  8. Rebecca Blood, an early blogger and author of The Weblog Handbook , describes some of the most general genre conventions of blogs: a blog is a web page with "new entries placed at the top, updated frequently--sometimes several times a day. Often at the side of the page is a list of links pointing to similar sites..." (1). In her oft-cited history "Weblogs: a History and Perspective," Blood explains that the genre evolved when new technologies facilitated easy self-publishing. According to Blood, "The original weblogs were link-driven sites. Each was a mixture in unique proportions of links, commentary, and personal thoughts and essays." In the early days, blogs were maintained by mostly web enthusiasts who understood enough about Internet technology to write their own code daily, in order to provide these "web filters" for other Internet users. Although these "filters" included personal reflections, their primary function--filtering and disseminating information for other users--was a public and social one. Once the technology evolved to allow easy self-publishing, however, many blogs lost elements of this public filter and instead featured more individually motivated content--the personal blog. These personal blogs can be seen as more "private" writing on Elbow's continuum, because their content was largely aimed at a smaller, more specific audience, if any at all, despite their default public status by virtue of being published on the web . These changes in motivation for blogging along with composition scholars' own preference for the private have impacted current methodologies for incorporating blogs in to the classroom (Lowe and Williams).
  9. In their article, "Remediation, Genre, and Motivation: Key Concepts for Teaching with Weblogs," Brooks, Nichols, and Preibe categorize this "original model" of blogging as the "filter" subgenre. Working from the assumption that "motivated, engaged weblogging will result in stronger writing" they attempt to determine "which weblog genre(s) (if any) engage or motivate students to make significant contributions to their personal or class weblog..." Although we disagree with their preference for the journal method, their discussion of blog subgenres as "remediated print genres" already familiar to students is valuable. Their schema, based on Blood's typology, connects the "filter" weblog subgenre with research notecards (which ostensibly should be familiar to college students). They roughly correlate the "notebook" subgenre with the handwritten "classroom notebook" used to jot down ideas and important notes. The "notebook blog" is distinguished from the journal model, which correlates with print journals where the content is the writer's "daily life with links subordinate to the text," by posting length--notebook entries include longer and more-focused written content. According to the authors' field work, students most enjoy the journal subgenre.
  10. The expressivist options that the journal subgenre provides have been touted not just by composition teachers and students, but by bloggers themselves. Blood recounts the benefits of blogging for a hypothetical blogger's writing:
  11. The blogger, by virtue of simply writing down whatever is on his mind, will be confronted with his own thoughts and opinions. Blogging every day, he will become a more confident writer. A community of 100 or 20 or 3 people may spring up around the public record of his thoughts. Being met with friendly voices, he may gain more confidence in his view of the world; he may begin to experiment with longer forms of writing, to play with haiku, or to begin a creative project--one that he would have dismissed as being inconsequential or doubted he could complete only a few months before.

    ...Accustomed to expressing his thoughts on his website, he will be able to more fully articulate his opinions to himself and others. He will become impatient with waiting to see what others think before he decides, and will begin to act in accordance with his inner voice instead. Ideally, he will become less reflexive and more reflective, and find his own opinions and ideas worthy of serious consideration.
    Although Blood is not speaking of classroom writing pedagogy, this kind of narrative is also implicit in much pedagogical and other writing on blogs.

  12. The connection between "inner voices," "authentic voices," and the blurred public/private nature of blogs is illustrated in Emily Nussbaum's New York Times Magazine article, "My So-Called Blog." Nussbaum's article chronicles how teens employ blogs to accomplish contradictory aims, some of which might make expressionists applaud. Teens experiment with new senses of self by literally revising the way they "write" themselves; blogs provide a medium for teens to switch identities as quickly as they flip channels. To this end, blogs fulfill the expressionist vision of "discovering the authentic self" through writing. In Nussbaum's article, an anonymous blogger called "J" maintains that his blog is wholly personal, despite its publication on the web and despite the presence of others' comments appended to his entries: J "didn't write for an audience, he said; he just wrote what he was feeling." Yet the very public nature of blogs belies J's logic. Herein lies both the paradoxical tension and pedagogical potential for the blog as a writing classroom tool. The medium allows a blogger to maintain a sense of autonomous self and authorship while simultaneously engaging in the public realm of social discourse. As illustrated by J's example, blogs enable authors to exercise a sense of autonomy while engaging in a larger, social community. J's blog is a quintessential example of what many people, especially younger ones, create blogs for--an online public diary. The term "public diary" seems like an oxymoron, but it is the best characterization for an emerging genre of discourse that transcends familiar distinctions between the purely "private" and expressive, and the public realm of the social.
  13. This tendency to blur conventional distinctions between the public and private has been widely noted by instructors and other critics who discuss blogs. Charlie Lowe and Terra Williams explain that "[t]hese electronic spaces are not quite private; however, they are not quite public, either." Lowe and Williams marshal a number of sources to underscore the importance of making writing public in order to introduce greater degrees of interaction. Of particular value for this article is their inclusion of Isaacs and Jackson's characterization of Kenneth Bruffee in which Isaacs and Jackson claim that "Bruffee argues strenuously for students to go public with their writing to receive feedback, on the grounds that public writing in classrooms deemphasizes teacher authority and promotes student-writers' ability to see themselves as responsible writers and to view writing as a social activitity" (xii). Lowe and Williams also quote Mark Federman, who contends that,"[u]nlike normal conversation that is essentially private but interactive, and unlike broadcast that is inherently not interactive but public, blogging is interactive, public, and of course networked--that is to say, interconnected. " The implications of this new, emerging relationship require us to re-examine our field's assumptions about public and private writing.
  14. Toward a Blog Pedagogy

  15. Many current pedagogical uses of blogs tend to serve largely expressivist purposes.6 To some extent, this is due to students' expectations and understandings of the genre. According to Brooks et al., students who respond to blogs also respond to journaling, a classically expressivist method: "[t ]he preference for journal weblogging is a generic issue (in terms of form and motivation) that instructors will want to heed." 7 Though their limited study found that "first-year students at [their] institution were not particularly interested in the academic potential of weblogging" and that students "were interested in the personal and expressive dimensions," we would like to suggest that instructors can use student motivation in these personal and expressive elements to push students into the more social, interactive, and collaborative potential of blogs: to create a new subgenre based on academic interchange. Since, as Bazerman argues, "our strategic choice of genres to bring into the classroom can help introduce students into new realms of discourse just beyond the edge of their current linguistic habit" (25), we might employ blogs to join individual expression and socially constructed discourse. We contend that blogs might be used to pursue a much more complicated relationship between the public and private than traditional journaling, and they require both a more sophisticated theoretical framework and more rigorous application in the classroom.
  16. Rather than create a cacophony of individual student blogs, we suggest designing a central class blog as the main interface for the class: a locus of civil discourse bound by social rules, but constituted by individual expression. Bazerman write that as teachers,
  17. we constantly welcome strangers into the discursive landscapes we value. But places that are familiar and important to us may not appear intelligible or hospitable to students we try to bring into our worlds. Students, bringing their own road maps of familiar communicative places and desires, would benefit from signs posted by those familiar with the new academic landscape. However, guideposts are only there when we construct them, are only useful if others know how to read them, and will only be used if they point toward destinations students are attracted to. (19)

  18. Blogs are well-suited to introduce students to the genre of academic discourse, where they must "enter the conversation of history" as Kenneth Burke aptly terms it. Burke's description of the conversations in the "parlor" represent the interactive, social discourse we see blogs helping to facilitate:

    Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. . . . You listen for awhile, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending on the quality of your ally's assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress. (110-111)

    We implement single, multiply-authored course blogs to act as a virtual analogue of, and catalyst to the classroom community. In this way, the class blog becomes a Burkean parlor where class conversations are begun and continued, before and after face-to-face meetings.
  19. As the parlor example suggests, the ideal community we advocate and attempt to create in our classrooms is agonistic, deliberative, and collaborative, and hopefully less likely to fall into the trap Trish Roberts-Miller terms the "mystique of progressivism," or the belief that somehow "a lively discussion" necessarily indicates that "people are actually learning about difference" (555). Rather, we aim to establish classrooms that function as "a public space in which people do not simply speak to each other but one in which they [also] listen. And one in which they argue" (Roberts-Miller 555). This kind of class, actual or virtual--whether fostered by blogs or other means--should prompt students not only to express their positions, but also to acknowledge and then engage the positions and opinions others express. Ideally, students would then revise their positions, both argumentative and subjective, based on these "real" and virtual classroom interactions, thus evolving the depth of their understanding, opinions, and constructions to account for the differences they encounter. For us, this classroom would encourage students to express their points of view freely and civilly, but civility would not be emphasized to the extent that it precluded "true" argument, which we imagine as allowing and encouraging genuine dissent. Within such an agonistic classroom space a productive argument is recognizable because it "raises interesting questions, brings up injustices, or draws attention to points of view that have been obscured" (Roberts-Miller 546). Such classrooms would value not only expression, but also deliberation that "requires that interlocutors pay attention to one another, interleaving others' arguments with their own" (Roberts-Miller 547).
  20. With this goal in mind, we began using blogs in our Fall 2003 classes, with varying degrees of success. We hoped that our frequent posts in response to class activities and conversations would encourage students to reflect on the course, and that they would express these reflections as written comments. Both Fernheimer, in her sophomore literature course on women's popular genres, and Nelson, in his freshman rhetoric and composition course, posted regular reflections on class discussion and activities. In general, we would discuss what happened in class that day and make connections between that day's events and other class activities, class discussions, and course materials. Our "daily reflections" sometimes discussed the pedagogical goals and justification for the course activities themselves. Students were invited and encouraged to "talk back" to us as instructors, remarking on their experiences of the course activities--whether or not the activities had the desired effects we had envisioned them to--improving close reading skills, facilitating greater peer-to-peer interaction during the drafting process, or increasing the level and sophistication of face-to-face course conversations. In this way, the course blog provided an entrée into academic discourse and the individual course's daily activities.
  21. Rather than reading a blog of haphazard personal reflections, students would read, and by posting comments, participate in, on-going academic practice based on course-specific content. While comments were always open, we would occasionally require that students post responses to a prompt. In Fernheimer's class, these required responses were generally effective in responding to the prompt and taking others' responses in account, in part perhaps because students were required to post their own response and respond to someone else's response. However, Nelson's students, mostly freshmen, responded more sporadically and superficially. His students seemed unable to accept the blog as an extension of face-to-face class. As students new to the world of academic discourse, the transformation from traditional work (that was turned in, graded, and handed back--fostering a student-to-teacher interaction) to agonistic blog postings (that were not necessarily graded but were intended to foster student-to-student interaction mediated less by the instructor) was something that students in first-year writing courses had a harder time envisioning and enacting.8
  22. As indicated by our experiences, as well as those of other instructors, for such virtual class space to work, it must be a public space governed by rules (Roberts-Miller 555)--rules that make the classroom a space where students feel comfortable enough to speak, to vacillate, to change their minds based on the better argument. The instructor must ensure that the classroom blog has rules, and, perhaps more importantly, that the rules are clearly articulated and also enforced. 9Steven D. Krause summarizes a number of recent classroom uses of blogs and notes that "many writing teachers seem to be using blog spaces as places to facilitate dynamic and interactive writing experiences." However, he ultimately argues that blogs "do not work well as a facilitator of dynamic discussion and interaction between members of a specific discourse community (a writing class, for example)...they do not have the truly interactive or 'collaborative' writing potential of an electronic mailing list." He attributes a non-interactive, non-collaborative nature to the genre. Krause thinks that his use of blogs "failed most interestingly in its inability to generate a dynamic discussion, particularly in comparison to an emailing list," though he speculates that his "open-ended [blog] assignment translated into vagueness" and uneven student participation. He notes that "there was very little writing that could be described as reflective, dynamic, collaborative, or interactive." Without deliberately planned, consciously modeled classroom use, it is understandable that students might fall back on their understanding of the blogs as an electronic version of the print-journal, a genre without interactive or collaborative potential. However, we contend blogs can impact the writing classroom effectively, if their integration and function are clearly structured and articulated. We argue they can be interactive and agonistic, but only if instructors work to facilitate these qualities by carefully structuring their prompts for assignments and the purposes and goals they are meant to accomplish.
  23. To foster the agonistic community, we insisted that students read and respond to one another's posts, and even that they respond to one another's responses; the model of discourse is one that requires response. Interleaved written responses mitigate against the tendency to see one's writing as a lone "voice in the wilderness." These required interactions also help prevent the class blog from becoming merely another enclave where students simply re-enforce one another's already-determined positions (see Roberts-Miller "Blogging"). By forcing students to not only acknowledge but also account for others' perspectives in their own posts, the "rules" the instructor sets forth establish classroom community norms that embrace engagement with others. This classroom community may at times be difficult, controversial, and challenging--a community that students might otherwise shy away from creating or becoming a participant in, but that ultimately might be one which better prepares them to engage in public arguments. Classrooms, like blogs, are a kind of intermediary realm between public and private, so, if incorporated under the terms we set forth here, blogs might prove to be the technology best-suited to bridging the expressionist/post-process divide and fostering agonistic classroom discourse.
  24. In Citizen Critics , Rosa Eberly argues that "classrooms can never be truly public spaces because of the presence of the teacher and because of the institutional constraints and supports that necessarily follow from that structure... at best, the classroom can be a protopublic space, or a space where students can engage in the praxis of rhetoric, an art whose telos is krisis , or judgment" (169). For Eberly, " proto- " suggests the "institutional structures" inherent in the classroom--- the conditions of instructor /student relationships and the power dynamics implicit in them--differentiate classrooms from truly "public space," although they emulate the power differentials of actual publics. Eberly argues for a more publics-based approach to pedagogy and the distinctions she draws between "publics" and degrees of "publicness" and participation are relevant to our conversation here. As she eloquently explains, "Notions of publics and counterpublics encourage a productive combination of expressivist and public discourse in classrooms; and classroom as a protopublic spaces rather than as communities allow teachers and students--and citizen critics--to engage in education as practice for democratic public life" (172).
  25. Following on Eberly's heels, we suggest that instructors can use their authority to employ blogs in way that increases student interactivity and engagement and collaboration between both instructors and students and students with other students. In so doing, blogs can help to mitigate the severity of the power differential between instructors and students.10 Eberly notes that,

    The most difficult part of realizing the classroom as a proto-public space is helping students learn to practice discoursing with one another, in speech as well as writing, in the shared space of the classroom. Similarly, it takes much of the term for most students to realize not only that their thoughts are valued in the classroom as much as the published writers we read but also that entering public deliberations on all kinds of public issues is as straightforward as sending a letter or op-ed to the local newspaper (170).

    Or, one might add, posting to a blog. Our use of central class blogs accomplishes this greater cohesion and sense of collective intellectual investment.
  26. Indeed, student writing about the blog culled from mid-term portfolio suggests that both our hypothesis and Eberly's observations were correct. Jenna Abodeely, a representative student in Fernheimer's spring 2004 sophomore literature course, eloquently reflects upon the effects of blogging in the class:11

    The use of blogs in the classroom has helped me to better articulate my ideas and interpretations of the text as well as to bond with my fellow classmates. The blog has served like a series of student journal entries, unifying our class in our quest for knowledge and understanding. The blog format has helped me to be more concise and get right to the point of what I'm trying to say. Also, the blog is significantly more informal than short essay assignments, allowing me to express my ideas in a raw form, then refine them later and make them suitable for a formal paper.

    In this passage, Abodeely describes how blogs have improved both her writing and relationships with her peers. Likening the blog posts to "journal entries" she explicitly claims the format helped to "unify the class" in a collaborative intellectual investment. Her use of the words "raw" and "informal" and her comparison to journals suggest that she perceived this writing in terms similar to the ones Elbow uses to describe "free writing" or "private writing." Her suggestion that ideas expressed on the blog will later be "refined" illustrates that she perceives her posts to the blog as what Elbow would term "private to a degree." Yet her acknowledgment that the format "helped her be more concise and get right to the point" suggests an implicit recognition that the posts will be read by an audience of her peers. Continuing her reflection, she highlights the way this collaborative impulse challenged her to engage with others while helping to contribute to arguments that the class as a whole pursued:

    The blog also has given me the opportunity to view my peers' responses and observe their diverse styles of writing and diction. The group responses also allowed me to react to and build upon my classmates' ideas. For example, on March 11, I commented on Cindy's response to Uncle Tom's Cabin because I found her argument particularly insightful. In my response, I was able to comment and expand upon her ideas. This exercise allows [ sic ] me to examine by [ sic ] peer's ideas, formulate my own arguments, and get ideas for future essays.

    She concludes this portion of her reflection by emphasizing both the pleasure and intellectual rigor inspired by the blog format and the agonistic, collaborative classroom:

    It is wonderful to be in a class that realizes that learning is a group effort, and that we as students can learn from and teach each other as well as be taught by a professor. The use of blog technology in the classroom has instilled in me a kind of positive peer pressure in that I have a strong desire to contribute good ideas to the blog "discussion" and take a greater interest in what my classmates have to say in their responses.

  27. Abodeely's comments show that the blog format helped realize the collaborative and agonistic approach to intellectual inquiry that we sought to create. Her heightened interest in her peers' responses illustrates her deep understanding that the quality of intellectual work depends on the participation and investment of the community creating it. Finally, her recognition that her voice is one of many exemplifies how successful class blogs enable students to situate their individual voices and subject positions within the larger social and protopublic context the classroom provides. While we recognize that her voice is only one of many in our classes, we also believe the enthusiasm implicit in her claims suggests the broad potential of blog pedagogy.


  1. His piece privileges the social epistemic approach, though later scholars such as Sherrie Gradin will criticize him for misunderstanding and oversimplifying the case for the expressivists (Gradin).
  2. In the piece itself, Elbow offers four possible interpretations of the assumptions girding social constructivists' claim that "all writing is social": 1) "all writing is eventually read by someone other than the writer;" 2) "all writing is consciously shaped for other readers--even when other readers never see it;" 3) "all writing is unconsciously shaped for readers" a point which he further elaborates into four subdivisions of its own: a) "When people write, they are always thinking . . .about future readers. . . but thinking them unconsciously" b) "Everything we write is unconsciously shaped for strong readers from the past who now live on as 'readers in the head,'" c) "Everything we write had textually implied readers , and d) "Everything we write is shaped by the minds, attitudes, values, and consciousness around us--family, institutions, and, above all, culture. . . .This is the provenance of ideology or what I like to call culture-in-the-head: writing as channeling," e) "All writing betrays the shaping effect of society and culture through the medium of language itself," i.e. language is a "deeply public, social medium;" and 4) "even when people write only for themselves and keep their words from any other eyes, the writing is still social in that it has an audience of self" (143-144).

  3. See Brooks et al.

  4. There is nevertheless an emerging body of work in the field. See Barrios, Barton, Brooks et al, Jerz, Krause, Lowe and Williams, Raitcliff

  5. See Krause.

  6. There are significant exceptions. Will Richardson finds that "students create meaningful content for audiences wider than just a teacher and a small group of peers. In the process, they learn to negotiate meaning and knowledge in real and relevant ways, preparing them for the connected world..." Matt Barton finds Internet genres as tools for enabling critical-rational debate. He believes that "[f]requent blogging of the self-reflective kind will help students develop subjectivity and explore their thoughts and feelings in a writing space that is public, yet controlled by the student..." Charlie Lowe and Terra Williams, see that using blogs for journals only limits the potential of blogs for public writing and so consciously extend "the discourse to a large community outside the classroom...[leading students to] confront 'real' rhetorical situations in a very social, supportive setting." Lowe and Williams see blogs as a "social, public genre...[with]equal if not more appeal to a generation who enjoys seeing the private made public [on reality television] while also fulfilling the pedagogical goal of expanding audience outside of the classroom." They also allude to the "divide": "While composition theory and practice now recognizes the importance of collaboration and social interaction more than it did twenty or even ten years ago, we still suspect that our field's expressivist heritage may lead many writing teachers to put the private unnecessarily in front of the public, partially because writing teachers are themselves more comfortable with the private." On the other hand, "[b]logging. .. .with its networked, informal conversational style, is less thought, and more externalized public and social talk." (emphasis in original). On her blog "Technosophist," Laura Cadle, author of the dissertation A Public View of Private Writing: Personal Weblogs and Adolescent Girls , discusses her use of blogs in multiple writing classrooms and emphasizes that "students have built a sense of community by both posting and commenting regularly." Finally, Clancy Ratliff notes that "[b]logging, particularly if the whole class posts to one community blogs, is a way for knowledge constructed within the institution of the university to be made more public."
  7. Pedagogical uses of journaling are most fully articulated by Toby Fulwiler's Journal Book. The primary use of journals for Fulwiler is to "articulate connections between new information and what [students] they already know."
  8. In Spring of 2005, Fernheimer also used a class blog as the interface for her first-year writing course, and despite the fact that assignment prompts still required interactivity, students were less likely to write to the blogs without the pressing requirement of a specific assignment. Students were also less likely to "talk back" to the class blog itself. Fernheimer did not post feedback as regularly in this section, as she did in the sophomore literature courses, and thus our contention that blog behavior must be modeled is further supported.
  9. A corollary to rules, at least as far as enforcement goes, is assessment. Dennis Jerz, an early classroom blogger. In a blog posting, he outlines a six-stage model for assessing blogs incorporating coverage of assigned material, depth of commentary, interaction with other posts, the ability to initiate discussion, and providing substantive comments in peer blogs.
  10. While we maintain it is possible to increase student participation and the validity of student contribution in the classroom, the nature of this intellectual partnership is inevitably influenced by the looming spectre of grades.
  11. Aboodely's comments are excerpted, with her permission, from her Learning Record Online (LRO). For more information on the LRO, see <>