Hardboiled Blogging and the Art of Communicating

Last night I spent the first twenty minutes of class talking about the art of blogging to the Hardboiled class (you can hear it here). I’m not much for forumlas or pre-fabricated approaches to anything, I think blogging is something students have to struggle with and come to terms with as we go for themselves. My job is to get them excited about the possibilities and encourage them to experiment with it, while at the same time making it part of who they are. Blogging is not writing papers, blogging is a creative form of self expression that encourages “I” but also demands them to articulate an opinion by way of a grounded argument. In this class it means focusing on the texts and starting to ground their positons in the words on the page. This is something we’ve been working at the last three or four weeks, and over the next three or four weeks we’ll be integrating the elements of research into this equation viz-a-viz the Wikipedia projects we’re spinning up now—the first being to bring the Wikipedia article for the Hammett novel The Glass Key up to snuff.

What I noticed this week was just how much the students started to make the blogging their own. And to be honest I don’t think it has much to do with this email I sent out, rather it’s inspired by Paul Bond who has been modeling awesome blogging by thinking creatively and intelligently about the books we are reading and films we are watching. A class can be as massive as one amazing open, online participant! Paul has been animated GIFing, playing with t-shirts, using audio and visuals in all his posts, and regularly keeping up and making sense of this stuff, even more so than me—I’ve fallen behind. What’s more, this is starting to show up in students blog posts throughoput the class. What’s amazing is they are using the media to make their arguments more powerfully. For example, Connor Payne used a series of 3 animated GIFs he found online from Miller’s Crossing to draw the connections between that film and Hammett’s Red Harvest.

Amazing! And while at first I thought this was an isolated incident, I soon realized it is anything but. Look at the way Jesse Lynch is using meme-inspired images and animated GIFs to make his argument that much more emphatic in this post, just brilliant! More and more the ideas of using visual images and animated GIFs to help make an argument are seeping their way into this class. What’s interesting is just how much the web is part of the vernacular undergirding our discussions (and I would imagine most discussions happening in higher ed classrooms around the world). More and more I’ll be encouraging and looking for creative ways to use images, animated GIFs, audio, video, etc., as part of a way to augment the reading experience and enrich the discussion. This is why ds106 should be a required course for every incoming UMW Freshman, and with the Domain of One’s Own ready to go global next Fall, it’s never too soon to start imagining a residential MOOC-like experience at UMW that includes 900-1000 students that all take ds106 as part and parcel of their first year experience.

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