Victorian Poetry Network "much to do with Victorian poetry"

Should you have a course blog?
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For the first time this semester I’ve been experimenting with a course blog for my upper-level Victorian poetry seminar at UVic. In the past I’ve tried out Moodle on many occasions and, for a year-long (and very demanding) Honours seminar in close reading, I actively encouraged my small group of students to write for and respond to my course wordpress blog.

Until this semester my experience has been hit and miss. I’ve often found a radical disconnect between the world of the blog — with its often well-researched, feisty and extensive blog posts and comments from students, responding both to my blog posts and to each other’s — and the world of the seminar. Even when I’ve tried to intervene overtly to bring the blog and the live classroom together (by photocopying and distributing paper copies of comment streams in class, or prompting classroom discussion on the website) there’s often an awkward tension between the students’ digital presence and their contributions in person.

And then I decided not to fight this disconnect, especially after hearing from other colleagues that it was common. Instead, this semester, I’ve set up a Victorian poetry wordpress blog to fulfil more limited functions: to create an archive of course material, to blog my summaries of class discussion and pose further questions, to offer more research material and resources, and to try to support student poetry reading and comprehension. Although I’ve invited students to comment, I’m not expected it or requiring it. Let’s see what happens. Sometimes, students are so overloaded with course reading, preparing for assignments, getting their thoughts straight for classroom discussion and workshops, that remembering to post blog comments can be too much pressure. Perhaps in the future I’ll require that student blog posts and comments are part of the course assignments, but at the moment I feel more committed to my assignment mixture of close readings, wiki entries (more about this coming soon) and research essays. I’m content to experiment with this course blog as a supplementary resource rather than a required student talking-shop. Perhaps that’s one of the problems with new pedagogical digital tools, that the expectation of (or pressure to) participate can be counter productive.

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