Trump just dropped out of the US presidential race! Are you serious?!
Well, no, I’m not, but it was the best example of an attention-grabber I could think of at the moment.
The importance of attracting 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 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 scholarship – and only in part through the use of more informal (but still clear and articulate) language. On the other hand, constructing scholarly blog posts requires a balance between this accessibility and complexity that is often difficult to master (Alexander 2016, p. 3).
When I first considered writing an ‘example blog post’ for students, I naturally first thought that I’d engage with a topic related to the unit’s content. However, I’m always concerned that something I make will turn into a ‘template’ that gets followed by the majority. 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 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, hence the approach I’m taking here seeks to highlight some general elements of what can make a good blog that demonstrates both critical thinking and creative application, not replicate what students will be doing.
There are far too many aspects of blogging for me to cover everything in detail, 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 the use of both scholarly and creative material in my ‘Using Source Material’ podcast, so I don’t want to touch on that 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).
Bringing in extra content is valuable 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 do embedded podcasts. I don’t have space to write about the latter much here, so I’ve embedded one below to follow up on this:
Experimenting with the different ways media content can be used together to explore, investigate, and examine is the best – and only – way to really learn what those different ways are. Your audience will help, but you have to (to paraphrase Tom Cruise) help them help you by making and sharing first!
And lastly, always try to bring your blogs ‘full circle’ where possible – particularly if it helps reinforce a key point you made at the beginning, which has been backed up all the way through. In the case of this blog, that didn’t really happen, but given how I started I’m afraid I have to come back to Trump. Sorry.
Make blogging great again!!
Oh, I just made myself feel sick…
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.