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Student Publishing and the Web Context

Last night I was bopping from site to site, and decided to check in on the Two Week Timeline to see what’s up. I saw four interesting-looking titles, and went to give them a peek. On one level, I was delighted, of course, at the expression and reflection at work in them. But then I realized. HEY! WHERE’S THE LINKS?!

That’s not just a matter of wanting to look at what they are referring to (though I do). It’s a matter of the absense of relationship-expressing between their thoughts and what prompts them. In the four posts I looked at, there were exactly zero (0) links. Take a look at some excerpts.

From Black Power to the First Black President

Professor Countryman’s speech began with a mention of Obama’s Spring 2008 speech denouncing black nationalism. Still, Countryman argues that Obama and his success cannot be separated from black politics and process.

Which speech? What was the quotation? What was the speech? What was the mention? I don’t know anything about ‘black nationalism’, could ya help me out?

Middle Earth as a Second World

Both Carroll’s and Barrie’s “Secondary Worlds” are more child-like and removed from the real world than Tolkien’s Middle Earth; a giant man is easier to come across than a talking Cheshire cat or a fairy. Tolkien creates a “Secondary World” that brings to life the dangers of growing up with the awareness there’s no turning back.

Whose? Where’s the texts? I’d like to follow up! Throw a man a bone! Or at least a link!

If I Hear the Word Contradiction One More Time, I’ll Scream

If I hear the word contradiction one more time, I am going to scream. Seriously.

I am going to be upfront with you all: I absolutely hated this reading. It felt disorganized, rushed, and repetitive. There were very few moments of actual clarity, where Lowe actually tells us something worth making note of.

Umm…what reading? Who’s Lowe? Does he or she sell home improvement products?

Screencast: How to Make a Graph

I made my screencast on how to make a graph in excel because it is something that I have always struggled with when using excel. I know I always have to review the steps and usually still end up forgetting one and getting frustrated. I ran into some problems getting my screencast to upload. Everytime I tried to upload it would ask me to login and then just take me right back to the login page. I am in the processing of emailing our professor to try and figure out whats going on. As soon as I can fix the problem I will post the URL.

In reflection over the whole process I actually enjoyed the process of making the screencast. I never even knew that something like this existed where I could make my own tutorial videos. I think they are great things to have as extras for you class. I was nervous about the doing a screencast but everything went very smoothly until I had uploading problems. I agree that you need to practice. I practiced creating my chart a few times before I actually recorded myself to help everything go more smoothly once I recorded. I really like this site and making the screencast. I plan on finding a way to encorporate it into one of my lessons.

OK, I know you can’t get it posted up right now. But presumably you are discovering new tools to use to make the screencast? How about a link to the tools?

Sorry for being so grumpy and persnickety. But I really am intrigued. These are good thoughts. I want to understand them better. Especially so I can respond to them better. But without a way to get at the context, I’m stymied.

First, there are just technological failures. There isn’t a quick and easy way to generate the links to the people, texts, or concepts implicit here. We’re working on that. But it’s worth the time to copy in some links.

I worry about something a bit more fundamental, though. These examples seem to reflect a writing process of just writing for classmates (or, worse, just the teacher). In each case, the references are taken as known. In a document printed out and handed to the instructor, that might be appropriate. In the web context, though, I’d really like to see more of the links. Yeah, it adds a little to the writing time to look up some links (but even now, it doesn’t take that long to at least throw in a wikipedia reference. I’d even be happy with the error-prone plugin that tries to make a good guess about links.) That would at least show an awareness that these blog posts, by virtue of being on the web, do not exist in isolation or in the limited context of just a group of students gathered for one course in one semester.

My greatest fear is that this might reflect the idea that faculty are treating student blogging as just a transfer of traditional ‘response paper’ type assignments from print to the web. If we printed these posts, there would be nothing to suggest an incongruity between web and print.

We — yeah, okay, ME — as an instructional technology guy and blogger, need to do more to bring faculty and students into seeing their content as being born-web, as opposed to born-print, being more aware of the implications, and acting on them in the writing process. If we don’t do that, student web publishing will end up being little more than a quicker, cheaper, and easier Blackboard. Those are good things. But they’re also not the point.


I saw this morning that the screencast mentioned in the fourth example above is up. There’s something instructive about that post, too:

Ok. I got it to work. Wooohooo! I made mine on how to make a line graph using Excel. Enjoy.

Compare this with the post that was the reflection. Here, we see enthusiasm, excitement, and a desire to have others view and enjoy it. In comparison, the first post about it seems awfully lifeless and wooden. How do we bring the enthusiasm and desire to share that comes from a sense of accomplishment into more posts?


  1. I’m also an instructional designer helping faculty figure out how best to use blogs. One of the things that you lament here (the lack of links and connections) stems from the fact that students assume you are inside their head. Note, they are chronicling their mental journey and not actually blogging. In working with students and with faculty, one of the things that as become apparent to me is that expectations have to be made clear–provide links to the referred content! One such (effective) way of doing that has been to provide faculty and in turn the students with wiki rubrics. Rubrics help all to recognize what parts contribute towards an effective blog. In some way, I’m sure you already knew that. I started giving my faculty a few sample rubrics for blogging and a email follow-up with a link to Rubistar (free rubric maker) and so far, so good. If you’d like a copy of the sample rubrics I provide to faculty shoot me an email (or search the web for many good and not-so-good ones).

  2. Amber,
    Interesting distinction between ‘chronicling their mental journey’ and ‘blogging’ — lots of bloggers (like me) consider the two deeply intertwined. Excellent reminder that to many new bloggers, they aren’t. But I think that should be the ultimate outcome.
    I’ve always been ambivalent about rubrics. I see how they help to recognize the parts of an effective post/essay/presentation etc. But I’ve also seen them distract from the big picture — or worse, discourage students from doing really creative and innovative things beyond the rubrics. So I hedge away from rubrics and try to stick with the longwinded “practices you’ll see from experienced bloggers” With something as protean and evolving as blogging, there’s quite a variety there and always should be. Linking is right near the top of that list.