I think this is a great idea. Dave at academhack lays out the way he’s using a blog to help students refine their paper topics through peer discussion. That’s only one of the applications blogs could have for a classroom, though. He briefly mentions posting syllabi, assignments, updates, links, etc. True, there is software in schools that do some of this stuff–we use Blackboard, and he also mentions one called WebCT, which I don’t know about, but let me tell you something. Blackboard is crap, man. I hate it. It’s not intuitive (is the syllabus under “assignments” or “class documents”? What about assigned readings?), only the teacher can update it (with things like the link I e-mailed my teacher upon her request a month ago and still isn’t up), it’s fugly, and it’s just…very institutional. I know, I know, part of my resistance to Blackboard is my innate rebellion against whatever the school (or business, or whatever) provides, but part of it is also that it’s crap.
Another good application of blogs, similar to the one Dave talks about, is a reading-journal type thing. Last semester I had a class with an e-mail reading journal, which was basically “write a couple of paragraphs about each assigned reading and e-mail them to the teacher.” I loved doing this, because I love writing about what I’m reading, especially in less-formal-than-an-essay ways. The only thing that would’ve made it better is more interaction between students–a way to read and respond to other students’ written thoughts and get feedback on your own. I suppose the downside would be that not every student would feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with the whole class (I wouldn’t have in college, a lot of the time), and I’d want to figure out a way to accommodate that (or overcome it), but for those who did want to continue the discussion further, it would be outstanding. I’m torn on this, really, because I have always hated peer-review sessions; for some reason, teachers threaten me less than peers. But I think in written format, I’d have been fine. I’m sure there are other students like me who shy away from speaking in class, but might blossom if given less threatening ways to interact.
If I were going to teach ever, I’d have blogs and wikis all over the place. This sort of thing really excites me. I wish there were a way I could teach without the whole, you know, having to teach part. I would explain my feelings on teaching better if they were clear to me, but they’re not, so I can’t.