Yesterday I posted about how some students have retitled their blogs to reflect the course they are in this semester rather than last. That got me thinking about continuity of intellectual life and development from semester to semester — or lack thereof — and the blogging practices that could reflect and/or facilitate it.
Here’s a place where, perhaps, we should think about student blogging and the practices for it as something a little different from general blogging practices. Or maybe not different, but with some particular focus and emphasis. The particular thing I have in mind is linking, something I’ve also written about in “Links–They’re Not Just For Breakfast and Google Anymore!”. (Like how I went meta on that one?)
Experienced bloggers do a lot of linking to other bloggers and sites. But often enough we also link back to ourselves. That’s not a vanity thing, it reflects the fact that our blogs are a part of our own intellectual development. We work through ideas there, and so in the blogs history you can see the development of our thoughts. It’s quite natural, then, for us to link back to older posts. That linking is just the manifestation of our reflection on previous ideas.
That, I think, is the practice and philosophy that should be emphasized as good student blogging practices. This struck me particularly with the example of a blog that contains material from last semester’s Historical Methods class and this semester’s The Politics and Culture of the 1960s. Perhaps it’s only because there are few posts so far, but that is a place where I would hope for many many many back-links. It seems like the intellectual connections between the two classes should be there — that that is part of the organization of the entire curriculum — and so that should be manifested in the actual links. Pedagogically, pushing students to back-link to previous posts is just a way of saying, “Hey…let’s make the connections between different elements of the curriculum. That’s what it’s designed for.”
About year ago, I did a poster session at ELI along with Steve Greenlaw about a similar idea he and Gardner Campbell cooked up to encourage their advisees to talk about the connections they see between their different courses during a semester. Instead of this taking place in a separate web app during one semester, I’m talking about the connections being manifested within a space they are already using, UMWBlogs, and across many semesters.
This is a real place where encouraging a good blogging practice is also encouraging a good pedagogy and a goal of higher education.
Looks like the next Exhibit I build for Semantic UMW should be something like a “Links History” timeline for each blog.