Greetings to my Comp II students who may have found their way here. If you have some time, I encourage you to poke around to see some of the things I'm interested in--a good place to begin is with "Assemblages," over in the right-hand gutter.
And to regular visitors: I'm still officially on sabbatical, but I'll be teaching a class during this second half of the semester to earn a little extra money and to test drive a couple of things I'm interested in incorporating in my classes in the spring.
The big experiment is that I'm requiring these students to set up and maintain blogs connected in some way to the subjects they choose for their research projects. Writing teachers can yammer about the importance of accounting for audience in their writing all they want, but so long as that writing remains caught within the vacuum of the classroom, their sole "audience" someone who because of his job requirements has to read and comment on their work (that includes peer review, too, by the way), audience remains more an abstraction than something actively to be contended with as they write. So, I thought that their setting up blogs to write about the research they've done and what they think about it might be a way to get them to think about audience from the get-go. Also, since I'm requiring students to post links to pertinent sites and to list their blogs with a couple of directories, I hope that people who share their interests will find their blogs and leave comments. Indeed, as they get them set up, I'll be posting links to their blogs here so that, if you wish, you can go visit them.
[Aside: One thing that occurs to me as I sit here is that I'm not (yet) sure whether the essential blankness of a blog's audience--what I mean by that is that a blog's writer has no prior knowledge of the persons who visit his/her blog; that can only occur over time and if/when/as they comment on posts--is a good or a bad thing. It's my hope that, due to my requiring them to list their blogs in directories, most people who visit them will have some interest in their subjects; but beyond that, they can't presume too much. This, of course, is where discussions of "audience" in the abstract will come in handy.]
We'll see how it goes. I sensed a fair amount of trepidation (usual symptom: near-complete silence) as I have talked about this in class, but I think that it'll work as I want it to . . . most of that "work," of course, occurring beneath the surface as those difficult-to-measure things that nevertheless add up to the je ne sais quoi of Good Writing. While we wait to see what will come of all this, I have some questions for those of you who teach or, in Randall's case, cohabit with one or, in Pam's case, guide research: Do you have students use blogs as a pedagogical tool? Do you have colleagues who do? If so, how? What sort of luck (good or bad--I need to know pitfalls as well as views from the mountantops) have you/they had them? If you're interested in what I'm requiring of them, e-mail me and I'll send you what appears in the syllabus.
UPDATE: For some reason this morning, Blogger is not letting me post comments on my own blog. Here, then, is my response to Pam's comment:
If you're worried about rambling on my blog, you've not been reading with nearly enough attention.
There's a big debate going on in the humanities as well about the place of blogs relative to traditional notions of academic work. I personally (still) err on the side of tradition myself. As you know, I have an "academic" blog where I write about more scholarly preoccupations. In the book project, I'll mention it in the acknowledgments as a place out of which some ideas and content emerged in the book proper, but to jump from that to claiming that that it's a resource on a par with, even, an article in a refereed journal strikes me as, well, presumptuous.
I think of the blog as an electronic version of thinking out loud: a space for speculation, for trying out ideas, and for those who find it and are interested to weigh in, but by no means a finished product.
It's in that sense that I'm pointing my students with regard to their blogs. They still are required to turn in finished, formal papers. I confess that it's also a ploy to make sure that they are doing some initial engaging with sources, as well as with a potential audience, as they write, and not just dumping everything into a paper the night or two before it's due. That's the stick; the carrot, for me if not for them, is that I'm hoping that it will result in better writing--which is to say, a better quality of thinking as reflected in their writing.
Writing in the sciences, I imagine, is more about reporting on the results of having tested hypotheses than on the generating of those hypotheses; yet (as I've seen in your blog), surely the generating of those ideas is crucial to science as well. Perhaps that's an appropriate space for blogs for researchers in the sciences?