Forgive me for being late to the party on the whole New York Times blogs vs. term papers thing. I actually don’t read the NYT much anymore. [Strangely enough, I don’t miss it.] Therefore, I read Cathy Davidson’s response before I saw the actual hit piece. The obvious resolution to this “dispute” is to assign both kinds of writing and that solution is right there in the article (as proposed by Andrea Lunsford of Stanford). But that’s not the real problem here. The real problem is that the reporter is working from the assumption that writing term papers is harder than blogging while the exact opposite is abundantly clear if you teach writing through blogging as Davidson describes it.
If you want an indication that Davidson’s blogging pedagogy methods are more common than the NYT bothered to indicate, examine the advice at the end of this long article on the subject which I saved a while back to help my own teaching (and be sure to read the original for more detailed advice if you really do want to teach with blogs):
1. Have a clear pedagogical purpose for incorporating blogs into the instruction, and clearly state the purpose and requirements of student blogging on the class syllabus….
2. Blog contributions and comments should be a graded element of the course….
3. Don’t assume that students are familiar with the practical aspects of blogging….
All of these suggestions require a significant amount of class time to explain and implement. The link between them is that you have to put the blogs, posts and comments that students write front and center in your classroom so that everybody will take it seriously and so that nobody will get lost. If students don’t learn how to post in the first place, they’ll never be able to learn how to write well because they’ll be too busy pulling out their hair trying to get the tech skills down. Thank goodness they can ask their teacher when they see you in class.
But what if they never see you in class? Imagine what it would be like having to explain the tools needed to make new educational technology work and the actual educational concepts themselves, and you have to do all of this through the technology that you’re trying to teach. This situation exists almost by definition with distance education. It’s kind of ironic when you think about it closely: Teaching writing on and for the Internet requires more face-to-face time to do it well than just teaching writing.