Writing an Assignment Example, which isn’t, but kind of is, but isn’t really

Trump just decided not to be President anymore! Seriously?!

Well, no, I’m not serious, but it was the best example of an attention-grabber that I could think of at the moment.

The importance of gaining and maintaining a reader’s attention when you’re writing online is a fairly standard point to make, but I thought it was worth mentioning here given that students can become very accustomed to essay-writing and its expectations of a rigid structure and formal word choice. Blogs are generally much more ‘accessible’ than academic scholarship – and only in part through the use of more informal (but still clear and articulate) language. On the other hand, creating blog posts that draw on research requires you to strike a balance between a blog’s necessary accessibility and the need to express complex ideas that is often difficult to master (Alexander 2016, p. 3).

When I first considered writing an ‘example blog post’ for students of this kind, I naturally first thought that I’d engage with a topic related to the unit’s content. That’s what assignment examples would usually do – they wouldn’t get all meta up-in-your-face like this one. However, I’m always concerned that something I make will turn into a ‘template’ that gets followed by the majority of a student cohort. Creative media-making should always be more flexible than this; it has to be if people are going to be able to show initiative and develop their own style within certain parameters. Further to this, I can’t really ‘teach’ people how to do this kind of thing anyway…

An emphasis on ‘learning by doing’ by making and sharing media, and then giving/receiving feedback via peer review, can make teacher examples very risky. As Jonathan Kirby highlights in his discussion of contemporary pedagogical approaches:

an overarching example can be counterproductive to the learning process and might even stifle initiative and creativity (Kirby 2016, p. 17).

I’ve seen this happen before when students seemed to think they needed to replicate my own work – particularly when it came to providing examples of written, essay-based assessment. Therefore, the approach I’m taking here seeks not to replicate what students will be doing, but to highlight some general elements of what can make a good blog that demonstrates both critical thinking and creative application. After all, inspiration is always better than imitation, and often the best thing about making things is making them your own.

Bella making gingerbread man.png
Photograph by Adam Brown

There are far too many aspects of blogging for me to cover everything in detail – my more recent post on ‘Blogging as Content Creation‘ gives lots more guidance than I do here – but I’ll mention a few through the useful (but not essential) strategy of dot points:

  • Form short paragraphs to build an argument
  • Use italics (not bold) for occasional emphasis
  • Proofread carefully to eliminate errors
  • Make your blogs more interactive by hyperlinking and embedding
  • Integrate vibrant media content

I’ve covered various aspects of the use of source material in a recent podcast called ‘Blogging‘, so I don’t want to go into that too much here, but the integration of other media content deserves a little more consideration. There are countless ways in which this could be done, and the key advice I want to emphasise here is that the nature and positioning of media content should make sense within the context of the overall post (Thompson 2008, pp. 9-10).

Dynamic content integrated into your blogs not only engages your audience, but can expand on and enhance the points you want to get across. In other words, bringing in extra content is valuable not only for reasons of aesthetics and interactivity, but also for enabling one to cover more subject matter than is possible within a relatively small word count. Videos in embedded tweets offer a lot of scope to play around creatively and analytically, as I highlighted in another recent blog.

Teamwork.jpg
Teamwork by Campus of Excellence (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Above all, experimenting with the different ways media content can be used together to explore, illustrate, investigate, and examine is the best – and only – way to really learn what those different ways are. Your audience will help when they give you feedback, but you have to (to paraphrase Tom Cruise) help them help you by making and sharing first! It’s always a matter of learning by doing…

And lastly, always try to bring your blogs ‘full circle’ where possible so that their beginnings and endings have some connection to each other. This is particularly valuable if it helps reinforce a theme, metaphor, or key point you drew on at the beginning, which has been backed up all the way through. In the case of this blog, that didn’t really happen on a ‘higher level’, but I can at least visualise the a connection and draw out a theme from it…

Make blogging great again!!

Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

References

Alexander, D 2016, ‘A made up source to show how a point can be paraphrased’, Journal of Still Use Specific Page Numbers When Paraphrasing, vol. 7. No. 2, pp. 1-15.

Kirby, J 2008, ‘Quotations are useful when something is uniquely/significantly worded’, The collection of ‘Perfect Your Referencing!’ and other invented essays, Deakin University Press, Wakanda City, pp. 15-27.

Thompson, A 2015, A Book Revealing That You Can Always Go Beyond the Bare Minimum, Embrace Your Potential Press, Melbourne.

 

Featured image: Donald Trump in Ottumwa, Iowa by Evan Guest (CC BY 2.0)

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Joe Bovalino says:

    I don’t think I need to offer constructive comments (ha!). Carry on!

  2. Emma Whatman says:

    How about some active hyperlinks? (A part from your embedded tweets..)

    1. Adam Brown says:

      Thanks, I wrote the blog first and forgot to link the podcast. You also prompted me to link those earlier videos as well – thanks! Further evidence the peer review process works! 🙂 (and I think you meant ‘apart’ rather than ‘a part’ ;P

      1. Emma Whatman says:

        Peer reviewing the peer review comment.. I love it.

  3. Karen Schelbach says:

    It really makes me want to get a dog!!

  4. Kathlene says:

    I think my comments are working again!!! (please feel free to delete this of course)

    1. Adam Brown says:

      That’s great to hear! All good, I’ll just not approve it… btw, I recommend only moderating comments if you check your media often (a category you may well fall into 🙂

  5. bsidebernie says:

    I like the idea of hyper linking to other content if trying to stick to a small word count.. This could be very helpful for me lol!!!! 👍👍

    Thanks as always for the other tips 🙂

    1. Adam Brown says:

      No worries, thanks for reading! While a marker won’t necessarily read ‘supplementary’ content in the case of formal assessment, showing connections and evolutions between your content like that can flag initiative and be a great practice. I found myself linking to a few blogs on my new Digital Learning site on a number of posts – shows you’re productive, even if it doesn’t increase engagement 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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