On Pedagogical Goals and Blogging
This year has been full of blogging experiments, and sometimes I sit back and wonder if it’s all worth the effort.
I think we do have to be careful that we have firm pedagogical goals motivating our use of technology. Sometimes it’s just fun to project an image while we lecture or engage in class discussion. It gives students something to look at, something to focus their thoughts on when they inevitably stray. But blogging for the sake of blogging is a distraction from learning. It’s important to tie individual assignments to specific learning goals–and to tie blogging as a structure to our larger pedagogical ideology.
In my literature course, I focused on blogging as a source of empowerment for students and as a supplement to their presentations and group work. Seeing the words and ideas they thought were important on that kind of public stage encouraged them to recognize that their voices were indeed powerful. In my gender and women’s studies course, I’ve made blogging a much more central aspect of the course organization, and it seems that too was an excellent decision.
A brief story
Shortly after my gender and women’s studies students had posted their introductions posts, I projected the blog on the screen. It was the last five minutes of class, and I was reminding them to post their papers to the blog by the deadline. We’d just spent the class period talking about medical textbooks from the second half of the nineteenth century, and we’d been questioning the biases and authoritative views of the medical establishment.
I spoke to the class from the front of the room and told them that because this is a gender and women’s studies class, I try to hold feminist ideals in the forefront of my mind when structuring the class. I told them feminism seeks to disrupt power structures and place value on all perspectives, not just the perspectives of the “authorities” who are supposedly objective and all-wise. I told them I am trained to teach them about gender, but that I am just one person. I cannot know all the things they know, I cannot experience all the things they’ve experienced and do experience. I cannot see from their standpoint.
Then I turned to the screen and explained how the blog allows us to learn about gender from multiple perspectives. It allows us to have cause to think about our own perspectives on gender and communicate those thoughts to ourselves and others.
I looked out onto those 40 faces staring at the blog projected on the screen in front of them–it seemed like a movie theater full to capacity with enraptured viewers. I watched their eyes as they were connecting their blog posts with what I’d said and what’d we’d been discussing that day. I saw them see their own posts on the screen and the posts of their classmates. I saw their heads nod with pride and awe at their own capacity to teach and learn from many different kinds of people. And it seemed my career might possibly be over because it couldn’t get much better than this.