[CITASA] blogs, surveillance and stuff

Amy Bruckman asb at cc.gatech.edu
Thu Oct 22 12:14:10 EDT 2009

Really interesting conversation!

Andrea Forte's dissertation is an empirical study of exactly this 
question: what are the advantages and disadvantages of having students 
write for a public site?  A number of papers are at: 

Email Andrea <aforte at cc.gatech.edu> for a copy of her dissertation, 
which goes into it in more depth.

The short summary is: danah and Barry are, of course, both right. :-)

Students do need a safe space to make mistakes and not have a homework 
they did as a sophomore be part of their 'permanent record.'  (Good gosh 
I'm glad my freshman attempts at fiction writing are not currently 
lurking somewhere in archive.org!)

On the other hand, writing for a real audience can help students think 
about notions of audience and argumentation in much deeper ways.  Who am 
I writing for?  What kinds of sources will they believe, and what kinds 
will they dismiss? It's a powerful learning approach, if handled right.

Ultimately, having researched this for several years, my conclusion is 
that you shouldn't do it all the time, but when appropriate it's a 
potentially powerful approach. But students need lots of explicit 
training in what it means to write online, what the risks are, and how 
to actively manage their online self presentation.

Andrea is home now playing New Mom, but will be starting as an Assistant 
Professor at Drexel this spring.

-- Amy

Ted Welser wrote:
> All-
> I have found this discussion both valuable and interesting.  Since our 
> course (this quarter) is about the social implications of technological 
> change, we are going to use the issues raised in this and the previous 
> thread as material for our discussion tomorrow. Hopefully one of the 
> students will chose to write an entry for the blog about it, in which 
> case I will send a pointer to it.
> Regardless, I agree with Barry that some of what we do in class 
> (discussion especially) should be classified as practice.  I am reminded 
> of my history in rock climbing instruction, where a key to helping 
> others learn new and difficult things is often to lower the stakes so 
> that they feel free to try, to blunder, to make mistakes.  On the other 
> hand, I agree with danah, that learning and expression in a wider social 
> context are skills that I want to help foster.   Again, in climbing, it 
> is often helpful to have moments, creative projects, etc. that are 
> higher stakes, where people can organize their efforts to achieve more 
> than they expected they could.   One thing about recreational rock 
> climbing is that participants are free to color their orientation 
> towards climbing as more or less practice, performance, play etc.   As 
> an instructor, I often found that it was helpful to explicitly 
> communicate this meta information, which is a good general lesson for 
> structuring these electronic assignments.  I think this a big point of 
> Coye's comment-- that smaller, more private electronic contribution 
> spaces provide a key role, one that the full public blogging scene does not.
> In the context of the class we have used google docs and in class 
> discussion as more of staging ground, practice area.  Our blog posts are 
> more occasional contributions, and they are not strictly required, they 
> are one of several strategies open for participation. But they clearly 
> are higher stakes situations, but so far students seem positive about 
> the experience.  I guess the punchlines are to both think about what 
> learning goals are being advanced and to make explicit to the students 
> that different types of contribution will vary across dimensions of 
> practice, performance and play.  
> Interestingly we had a great discussion in class today out our readings 
> on reputation systems, which I was very happy with.  There was also a 
> sub-conversation on the etherpad chat log about the humans vrs zombies 
> game that is kicking off this week and when the ideal time to join the 
> game is. 
> thanks all for your thoughts,
> ted
> On Thu, Oct 22, 2009 at 2:10 AM, Coye Cheshire 
> <coye at ischool.berkeley.edu <mailto:coye at ischool.berkeley.edu>> wrote:
>     Good topic...I wanted to share a few more thoughts on the issue of
>     public
>     blogging in a course.
>      > danah boyd:
>      > With all due respect, I disagree.  I think that we do a disservice to
>      > our students when we don't help them engage with the public world.
>     If the course is specifically *about* learning to use a public
>     voice, this
>     is a great idea. But, for a substantive course that is not specifically
>     about engaging the public, I do not see the benefit for students or
>     instructors if all words and thoughts are open to public critique from
>     anyone.  Some students-- even graduate students in new media and
>     schools of
>     information-- find blogging daunting even when the audience is only
>     other
>     students. I agree with you on the point that putting the public blog
>     requirement in the syllabus is perfectly fine. My issue is more with the
>     pedagogical benefits of public discourse rather than the
>     appropriateness of
>     blogging publicly in a course.
>      > There are indeed consequences to being in public but I think that we
>      > need to train students to have a public voice, especially in a media
>      > ecology where being public is part of everyday life for many.
>     I was trained in a sociology program where no one used a laptop in class
>     _ever_ and I never saw a single lecture on powerpoint. I also walked to
>     class uphill both ways and took notes on stone tablets by
>     candlelight, so
>     take this with a grain of salt:  Personally, I get higher quality
>     critiques
>     and thoughtful consideration of course content when I assign weekly
>     1-page
>     "reaction" papers than when I use blogging. When students aren't worried
>     about public perception, I get as many unique ideas as there are
>     students in
>     the course.  When they blog on the topics I usually get three or
>     four major
>     ideas and a lot of me-too's. They express more ideas when they have a
>     dialogue with the course *content* and are less worried about their
>     public
>     presentation of self.
>     Of course, we all get fantastic stuff with blogs in class... but in many
>     ways it can reward those who are more comfortable posting their
>     ideas first
>     and that is a real danger in a very large class. In some ways, it can
>     disproportionately advantage those who are already comfortable with
>     blogging
>     at the expense of those who came to the course to learn new
>     material, not
>     how to engage the world on the internet. This is a good
>     justification for
>     using smaller blogging groups as Liz and others suggest.
>     Blogging is a great tool to use in class when it is tightly
>     integrated into
>     the curriculum and it serves a clear purpose for the students. Like any
>     classroom tool (e.g., powerpoint or slide rules), I believe the purpose
>     should serve the course goals above all else. We have to be
>     cognizant of why
>     we are choosing one format or medium over another and why we would
>     want to
>     make it public or private. Public discourse of class content is arguably
>     sometimes one of these course goals, but in my view more as an exception
>     than a rule.
>     -Coye
>     --
>     Coye Cheshire
>     Assistant Professor
>     School of Information
>     University of California, Berkeley
>     http://ischool.berkeley.edu/~coye <http://ischool.berkeley.edu/%7Ecoye>
>     coye at ischool.berkeley.edu <mailto:coye at ischool.berkeley.edu>
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