Flexibility of Content
Blogging: The Leading Online Teaching Tool
A. Cochran Independent Study 2004 Research Project

[Research Main] [Discussion Format] [Flexibility of Content] [Blog Interaction][Concluding Remarks][Works Cited]

Students’ educational blogs also offer, in a general sense, flexibility of content. 

Weblogs, unlike forums or chat room environments in a direct thread with peers and faculty, offer a certain sense of freedom, an individualistic ownership of the material, which all “[bloggers] are…guided by” (Himmer).  

“Without the hurdle of [editing], weblog authors are able to write exactly what they want to, in exactly the way they prefer” (Himmer); the same is true with student webloggers.  On the Seton Hill blogs, for example, students are generally given the same freedoms of webloggers universally, “more motivated and comfortable expressing themselves, dealing with just about any topic imaginable” (Ulicne in Kolberg). 

A Seton Hill blogger wrote, “blogging provide[s] an outlet for student creativity and expression (Kolberg).  However, students are also reined in by the possibility that their peers, faculty, administration, and/or prospective employers, may be viewing what they have written on their Seton Hill-sponsored blog (Cochran). 

Special K: "Blogging provide[s] an outlet for student creativity and expression."

While students have more separation from an authoritative figure in a weblog format, they are writing “in reaction to the responses of readers, whether received through onsite comment mechanisms, offsite email, or responses posted on other weblogs” (Himmer).  The readers are instructors, whose online role is to “establish and maintain a community of learners where the aim [is] to shape the quality of learning, and to promote interactions, peer-learning and reflective thinking” (Dorit 129). 

Demonstrating this role, Dennis G. Jerz, professor of new media journalism at Seton Hill University, commented on Literary Tease, a student’s blog: "I have no intention to give up blogging any time soon... I'll keep blogging with you…By the way, I already blogged your phone booth project, and Dr. Arnzen posted a comment full of praise" (Richardson).

Student webloggers relatively, then, have the option of what they would like to convey on their blogs, “[perhaps unfolding] the many aspects of his or her life and personality, and do[ing] so in the same space in which they offer commentary on politics and culture” (Himmer).  Some blogs have a more personal “aura” (Benjamin quoted in Himmer), such as The Road Leads On: "It’s amazing what sitting up and chatting to friends can do for a person.  I have been feeling very down lately and it seems that simply through talking with friends helped a lot.  We caught each other up on what was going on in our lives, about our concerns for the next semester, and even a little about God" (Brattina).

The Road Leads On: Example of Personal Blogging

Though this is not academic writing, a new level on the blogosphere has been established, “[bringing] that which never before was visible into the light of the day, mingling public information with private tidbits” (Mortensen).

Other bloggers, however, are focused on academic matters.  Some students, for example, post predominately “forced blogs” (Jerz), with titles, such as, “Portfolio Cover Entry 2” or “Panel 2-F: Into the Blogosphere 4”, which are specified in a course’s syllabus outline (Rodriguez).

Roamer's Zone: Example of Academic Blogging

However, some bloggers coalesce both personal and academic writing.  One Seton Hill University blogger, for example, offered personal reflection, in conjunction with her academic response to Willy Lohman in Death of a Salesman: “I know that while my dad was going through that time he was a total mess, so seeing my dad I can understand what Willie was going through” (Brattina).

Whether personal or academic, students benefit from this flexible environment: “students come to see weblogs as a fun communication medium in which they can and want to participate as writers and readers” (Lowe). 

With other forms, such as chat rooms, however, the student is limited to the subject being discussed within the confines of the present thread of conversation.  The same occurs in computer conferencing; the individual is lost, and the group concerns outweigh the individual, and “students wish to portray themselves, as far as possible, as competent in the classroom, rather than emphasizing their weaknesses” (Moody quoted in Lambe 353). 

However, on the Seton Hill blogosphere, students feel at ease to discuss their educational difficulties: “I got my first B, everyone.  I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I’m dealing with it.  It's not a failure in my eyes, although all along that's what I thought I'd feel, is failure” (Kilgore).

Screenshots by Amanda Cochran.

Updated by Amanda Cochran on 12-10-04.