ask a scatterbrain: blogging for class assignments

Look, two scatterbrain questions in 24 hours!

This fall I’ll be teaching my first-year seminar, “Citizenship and Society in the United States.” It’s great fun, and the basic framework stays the same each time. However last time around (Fall ’08) I added a blogging component where the students were to write weekly entries on a class blog. I’d say the results were OK, but not as exciting as I’d hoped. The students, too, commented that they found it more a chore than an intellectual stretch.

So… have you used blogging of any sort as an assignment in class? Other than the anonymity question which we’ve discussed before, what worked well? I want to insure that they take it seriously and work at it, and that the overall effort is similar to that of a final paper. But I also want it to be flexible enough that it doesn’t end up forced.

Author: andrewperrin

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

3 thoughts on “ask a scatterbrain: blogging for class assignments”

  1. My experiment with this was mind-blowingly great.



    But, I’m not sure exactly what the secret to success was. I claim no expertise, only a lucky outcome! Part of it was the topic, I think–it was set up some that what they were blogging about mattered to them–so I suppose setting that up makes a difference.

    I also didn’t have many demands about the structure, length, or formality. To me, blogs work better if they are informal and allow for a conversational feel. Thus, I would worry about thinking of them as substituting for formal writing assignments, because I’d be afraid that such an expectation would stymie organic participation.


  2. I’ve used blogs for classes and have found anything you can do to make posting easier helps. Even for a younger, supposedly tech-savvy generation, going through the WP backend can be a confusing or at least a chore that makes posting less fun. For example, if you’re using, try out the p2 theme. It kind of “twitterizes” posting to the blog, and it also highlights comments in a way encourages people to read them (new comments appear inline with posts on the blog’s front page). Alternatively, posterous and tumblr have more simplified interfaces.

    I also found the interest in the blog had a lot to do with how often I brought it into class discussions. Bringing points made in posts or comments into class discussions helped, and it also helped get some of the brighter, but more shy students to speak up in class. (If they write something great on the blog and you bring it up, it makes it easier for them to jump into the conversation.)


  3. I use a blog for my grad course’s weekly writing. Rather than have each student post every week, two or three students write a post and all the rest must make a comment or two. It stimulates discussion, and it allows me to see what they are missing before we get to class. I grade the posts as weekly memos, and the students get credit for discussion via the comments.

    Personally, I feel uncomfortable requiring students to write in a public forum–their half-baked ideas might embarrass them somehow–so I block the blog to outsiders. Perhaps I am just being paranoid, though.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.