Writing does not receive the credit it deserves. (I mean, it’s not like it’s rocket science. You’ve been doing it since you first put crayon to paper in kindergarten, right?) But in my experience, the words rarely seem to lay themselves out on the page in a way that’s coherent–read, lots of backspacing, cutting and pasting, and rewriting–but writing is easy breezy, right? I’ve come to recognize this awkward struggle to find a way to say something is writing. The stuff that finally makes its way into being, well that’s the finished product. Writing is the struggle.

HF and I conceived the blogging writing assignment at the end of the’06-’07 school year. I’ve been teaching Senior English for three years and had yet to find a satisfactory method of preparing students for their final exam–an eight-page senior thesis. No matter how much hands-on assistance I provided or how carefully I staged the assignment, the overall results were lacking. Naturally there were exceptions, but by an large I always came away disappointed. Another person might have walked away conceding that it was unrealistic to expect much from students on their first major research paper, but I concluded that the disorganized, poorly executed, sometimes just plain awful writing was the result of my failure to adequately prepare them for this task. Which brings us to today. Blogging is writing, but with a twist. In a blog it is easy to connect your ideas to someone else’s, because rather than relying on an antiquated system of creating a Works Cited page that would have the reader scurrying off to the library to find your source–don’t worry we’ll get to do one this Spring anyways–the writer simply provides a hotlink that takes the reader immediately to the text in question. Guess what? This (without the fun hotlinks) is what writing a research paper is all about.

I know what you are thinking: Yippee skippy. Who gives a hoot (or something less savory) that I can provide some stinkin’ digital link to some other page on the world wide web? However, as far as educational theory is concerned, by reading, understanding and analyzing or evaluating what someone else wrote and then incorporating their ideas into your own to form something new and original, you have reached thought processing nirvana. In 1956 an education researcher, Benjamin Bloom, devised a schema (pictured below) to describe the types of intellectual behavior important in learning.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Here’s the scary part. He also discovered that over 95% of the questions students encounter prompt them to think only at the lowest (easiest) level of the spectrum. I don’t know if he speculated why, but here’s my take. It’s easy on the everyone involved. If the students can spit back the information the teacher, they are happy (good grades and that nice warm feeling of getting the answer right) and the teacher is happy (she must be good at her job, the students know all the answers = more warm and fuzzy feelings). Unfortunately warm and fuzzy doesn’t equal education that’s worth anything; after all, a parrot can repeat back information it hears.

So, what’s my point? Blogging is a challenge because to do it well you must engage at least three of Bloom’s levels of understanding: comprehension, analysis and /or evaluation, and synthesis. Notice how you’re not spending much time at the bottom of the pyramid? That’s good news for your brain, not so good news if decided to loaf through this year. But if I were you, I’d be pissed at anyone who didn’t challenge me to stay at the top because they’d be wasting my time.

Sources: The image of the Bloom’s pyramid came from this website. And if you want to read more about Bloom’s theories, see the following paper by Mary Forehand from the University of Georgia.

Advertisements