That's mad as in crazy as I am committed. The syllabus is made. I notified my students. We are using Blogger and Twitter this semester in addition to BlackBoard -- and I'm making YouTube videos like crazy to support my instruction. What is up with that?
That is exactly what one of my students just asked me. She had me for Writing I in the spring and signed up for my Writing II class this fall -- assuming she knew what she was getting into. And then came my Challenge video and she is pretty confused.
I can't blame her.
Of course, change has become my habit ever since I started this whole Ph.D. thing. The more I study, contemplate, and conduct my own research about the teaching of writing (or the learning of writing, after all which came first, the chicken or the egg) then the more I want to do for my students.
So why Twitter? A couple reasons.
First, I believe it can be an easily monitored channel of communication that will allow any of us (teacher and students) to send a message to the group. If information is being generated in two different areas (Blogger and BlackBoard) then announcing changes and additions via Twitter means we can all still check just one place. This is actually an improvement on BlackBoard as there is not just one place information is posted in BB.
So simple communication is one reason, but perhaps more important, I think using Twitter with its limited character count combined with its open access will help my students get away from the traditional English essay mindset and perhaps (hopefully?) think a bit differently about audience and genre -- focusing on the message and not the medium or perhaps more accurately how the medium impacts the message. We'll find out!
So why Blogger?
This is perhaps the least radical change. For several semesters now I have required students to present some final web presentation of some sort and for many students that meant a blog. So requiring all students to blog (instead of create web pages, slide presentations, or Squidoo lenses for example) might actually be a step back. I am experimenting with the use of a class blog as a way to help two sections of the same class interact with our subject matter. That is a radical change. We'll see how that works. I'm requiring all students to make their web presentations of their project via blog in hopes that if we all use the same program we will be able to explore in greater depth the many ways this simple format can be adapted and changed. My reasons for sharing their presentations on the web as opposed to a final paper turned in via BlackBoard's gradebook are the same. I want my students to develop an understanding and appreciation for writing for a real audience -- not me -- and how the needs and knowledge of the real audience drive real communication. I've been striving for that goal for some time and still haven't reached it. I'm not sure you truly can in any writing class (after all, students know they are writing for the teacher) but every semester I hope I can do better.
And so, dear students, never fear. There is a method to my madness. Of course, that is exactly what I would say if I was indeed mad...