Sunday, September 24, 2006

Summary of a Cmap

I created a CMap about blogging and composition. This is my first draft. Would love to hear any comments.

This is an executive summary for a CMap that outlines the focus question: How are composition and blogging practices connected? The CMap is informed by my pilot study conducted in spring 2006, recent articles on blogging, and seminal readings in composition.

Blogs share similar characteristics to journals as outlined in Fulwiler’s (1987) The Journal Book. He cites Britton (1975) when he compares journals to “speech written down,” and he notes five language features of journals: colloquial diction, first person pronouns, informal punctuation, rhythms of everyday speech, and experimentation. (p. 2-3). He outlines five cognitive activities of journal writing: observations, questions, speculation, self-awareness, digression, synthesis, revision, information (p. 3). Fulwiler outlines four formal features of journals: frequent entries, long entries, self-sponsored entries, and chronology of entries (p. 3) He also outlines a pedagogy for using journals including journals usefulness as a place to articulate connections (Bruner), think through ideas through different types of language (speaking, listening, reading, speaking) (Vygotsky); writing to learn and understanding ideas better (Emig); and collect ideas that writers care about (Moffett) (p. 5-6). In Fulwiler’s “Guidelines for Assigning Journals,” he describes journals as “neither ‘diaries’ nor ‘class notebooks’ but borrow[ing] features from each: like the diary, journals are written in the first person about issues the writer cares about; like the class notebook, journals are concerned with the content of a particular course” (p. 7).

In the same book, Berthoff describes dialectical journals, dual entry journals with notes, impressions, and quotations on one side, and notes about the notes, or “meta-comments,” on the facing column. Kist (2004) in his describes the New Literacy classroom as a place for students to engage in “ongoing metadialogues as they think through problems and create products in an atmosphere recognizing cognitive pluralism.” More recent articles focusing on educational blogging connect journal writing and blogging (Fernheimer & Nelson, 2005; Kajaer & Bull, 2004; Downes, 2004). Downes (2004) explains that blogs are more than a personal journal, adding to the diary form with the ability to hyperlink and the writer’s sense of style reflected through the types of links chosen to share with readers. He calls this “personal publishing” (p. 18).

Blogs have characteristics of expressive and transactional writing. Britton ( 1975) describes transactional writing:

writing to get things done: to inform people (telling them what they need or want to know or what we think they ought to know), to advise or persuade or instruct people. Thus the transactional is used for example to record facts, exchange opinions, explain and explore ideas, construct theories; to transact business; conduct campaigns; change public opinions. (p. 88).

Britton describes expressive language in writing as “thinking aloud on paper”; a “diary entry that attempts to record and explore the writer’s feelings, mood, opinions, preoccupations of the moment”; and “personal letters to friends . . . “ (p. 89). Also, blogs would allow for what Kist calls, multiple forms of representation (2000). A blog post could be linked to an audio file or a graph.

Blogs increase fluency and the ability to generate ideas quickly and connect reading to writing. Elbow (1989) writes, “When I write responses to papers by colleagues or students, I don’t freewrite strictly (never pausing), but I sort-of-freewrite” (p. 123). Using Elbow’s ideas of freewriting and movies of the mind assist student writers’ ability to respond to and to generate ideas quickly. Blogging isn’t strictly “freewriting.” Even Elbow pauses as he “freewrites” responses, and for blogging, it is important to write more publicly with an audience in mind to correct minor errors in punctuation and grammar. So, in a sense, it is much more reader-based prose (Flower & Hayes, ).

Blogs are a social tool (Vygotsky) with the potential to create collaborative communities (Bruffee). Readers comment, and thus, build knowledge on the subject. Readers and writers work together to add to knowledge (Knobel & Lankshear, 2003). The group of bloggers become a community of practice (Lave & Wenger). The collaboration is not only student to student, but teacher to student, where the relationship changes to a “cognitive apprenticeship” (qtd. in Kist, 2000). Kist (2000) relies heavily on John-Steiner, who studied the cognition of famous thinkers, when he describes how new literacy classrooms include both individual and collaborative activities.

Blogs democratize classrooms because they don’t depend on the teacher transmission of knowledge to students (Friere, ). Although teachers have to fight against students’ dependence on traditional pedagogy (hooks ) where failure isn’t and option, and where students who use writing to explore aren’t supported. Blogs create have a democratizing effect for those students who may be quiet in face-to-face conversations and classroom discussions (Downes, 2004). Writing and conversational space are equalized on a blog.

Blogs allow writers to experience an authentic audience. Moffett (1968) writes, “Ideally, a student would write because he was intent on saying something for real reasons of his own and because he wanted to get certain effects on a definite audience. He would write only authentic kinds of discourse such as exist outside of school [my italics]l. A maximum amount of feedback would be provided him in the form of audience response” (p. 193). Britton (1975) explains that the only audience a teacher typically writes for is the teacher (p. 128).

Blogs support critical thinking and connections through linking. When bloggers link their thinking to other websites or blogs that they have read, they are participating in a more authentic research process than allowed for in a traditional research paper. Blood compares filter blogs as “research note cards” that show the connection of knowledge in a visual manner.


Tom Hoffman said...

Good work.

Glen said...

I like it. Couple of items missing in my experience. Blogs are fun and engaging ala Flow.

Christopher D. Sessums said...

Indeed, this is a terrific map and analysis.

You've pulled together a great number of theories which is helpful in my own investigations of weblogs as a medium that supports cognitive activity.


Keri said...

I appreciate your comments. They were very encouraging at a time when I needed to hear it. Glen--I would love to hear what you see as missing from your experience. I would like to work on filling in the gaps.

Thanks again.

TERRY said...

The more of this you do, the better you will internalize the tools, the sooner you can forget about the analysis. The tools and the research rational must recede in the end and your personal teaching identity my subsume the "map". This map may indeed become your territory.