Creative Students, Creative Blogging

Creative Students, Creative Blogging

Exciting, creative times.

The on-line, distance second semester course for second-year LANSAD  undergraduates at Paul Valéry University in Montpellier, has just opened in the last couple of weeks (for more information concerning the course see previous post Autonomy, Creativity and Blogging) and I’d like to share with you how it’s been going. T

After having a look at the basic features common to all blogs we continued with  a forum exchange entitled:  ‘Me and Blogging’. It was a joy (and a relief)  to discover that the majority of students seem excited and pleased about the idea of a course based on blogging. Their attitudes concerning blogging range from the sense that blogging is already kind of old-fashioned to being uncomfortable with it because the technology is too advanced for them. Many of them have never dreamt of blogging but others it seems are experienced bloggers. Whilst several students appreciate the fun and playful aspect of blogging, some of them express anxiety about the course, particularly in terms of technical skills needed and how time-consuming it will be. I was happy to reassure them that hardly any technical skills are needed to set up a blog and they absolutely do not need to be a perfect programmer, as they will discover later in the course. The question of how time-consuming it will all prove to be is trickier to answer. To a certain extent it depends on how successfully the students work together in groups. Hopefully, the fact that they will choose their own groups according to the subjects that interest them, will make working together pleasurable.  The idea is that the project will be fun and useful enough in terms of developing English and computer skills to make the time investment worthwhile.  Given that the course depends upon continuous assessment, the time invested in the project will be reflected to a certain extent in the mark.

One student asked the question what is your pleasure to know that anybody, really anybody can read and write anything in your blog. Well, speaking from my own experience, public writing can indeed feel lonely and uncomfortable BUT it is offset by the fact that you hope you are sharing content that might be useful, thought-provoking or simply amusing to others and it may facilitate an enriching exchange between people who share the same interests as yourself. You never know, it may prove itself to be an educational experience, enabling you to see things from a quite different perspective to your own.

I am convinced that blogging, forcing you as it does to write (more or less) regularly, improves your writing skills.  In the words of one student, blogging is about letting your creativity flow and it doesn’t matter if it is not word perfect. Blog writing is more about enjoying a process rather striving for the perfect finished product. After all, our blogs will most likely turn out to be ephemeral creations, gradually becoming ghostly presences, reflections of our former selves until they disappear one day into a virtual vortex leaving not the slightest trace at all. A very unpretentious form of writing indeed.

In the second forum (in week 2, having started to explore some blogs in more detail) the debate continued with:

So, what makes a good or a bad blog according to you: passion, creativity, readability? Doubtless.

Student posts underlined the importance both of form and content and the way in which the two mesh to provide a personal vision. The most original comment here  compared blog content to pizza base and thus needing topping, Italian wine, a perfect tiramisu and even a delicious black chocolate dessert (ie form) in order to provide a satisfying (gourmet?) experience.

High on the list was the writer’s ability to provide a sense of voice and a digital identity, creating a space which offers him/her the freedom to be whatever they wish. Blogging conceptualised as a free zone. The writer’s personality was considered as vital to a blog’s success as was the ability of the author to surprise readers and even bring a little sunshine into their lives. A form of continuity, which may be expressed as an editorial line, is related to this sense of personal voice and is certainly one of the factors that creates coherence to the blog. The adjectives that described content in student posts included interesting, trustworthy, specialised, enthusiastic, passionate about, knowledgeable (yes, the word does exist), well-managed and up-to-date.

On the other hand, some students felt that blogs are not books and that perhaps, the form is more important than the content (clothes make the man as opposed to don’t judge a book by its cover). The words used here were well-structured, colourful, attention-catching, attractive and well-organised.

And of course, the ability of successful blogs to address (fit) a readership was not forgotten. After all, with a myriad of other blogs just a click away, the reader really is king or queen and in this sense a blog must create a readership. Its success will depend not only on being attention-catching but also attention-holding. The use of comments, neglected treasures, should help the blogger interact and with his/her readership (although of course sometimes the problem is receiving comments in the first place).

Any comments?

NB Quotes from students are placed in italics.

Image by Allison Lily Guiraud

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