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This is a standard assignment many educators have long-used in conjunction with their campus Learning Management System (LMS). I include a sample assignment here since Blog posts can be a key scaffolding component for many more complex digital assignments. They can also be an end unto themselves, as key tools for individual reflection, peer communication, and possibly broader audience and community considerations if posted to the web.
Have very clear expectations for length and content of blog posts unless you want them to be free-writing exercises. Expectations for student responses to their peers’ comment are also vital. Allowing for varied forms of expression (written, video or sound recording) can also address accessibility issues for students with special needs. As always, recognize that technology can resolve accessibility issues for some students… and can create issues for others.
Skill Level and Tools
Beginner: Use the platform provided by your university LMS (eg., Canvas, Blackboard).
Intermediate: Use your website’s blog platform or another open-source technology with the aim of creating public content. One creative use of Pinterst or Tumblr in literature classes, for example, is to have students create an analogue to the early modern Commonplace Book.
Sample Due Dates and Prompts from my First Year Seminar on Adapting Austen
These will be due mostly in the first half to two thirds of the semester and again at the very end so that towards the end of the term we can focus on our final projects. Prompts will be partially driven by class discussion and thus subject to change, but here are drafts of questions as they stand now:
- What is “the greater good” and how might we look for it in novels that seem to focus on individual desires? (you can use as a starting point for discussion of your own hopes for learning in this class and at Xavier). Posts Due Tuesday 1/13 by 9:00 am, responses due Wednesday 1/14 by 9:00 am.
- Find one example of irony in Pride and Prejudice that we have not yet discussed and explain how and why you think Austen uses it. Posts Due Tuesday 1/20 by 9:00 am, responses due Wednesday 1/21 by 9:00 am.
- Choose one historical annotation in the Interactive P&P that we have not discussed in class and explain how it has helped you to better understand the novel. Posts Due Sunday 1/25 5:00 pm, responses due Monday 1/26 9:00 am.
- What makes a good adaptation and why? Posts Due Sunday 2/1 5:00 pm, responses due Monday 2/2 9:00 am.
- After having read her brother’s posthumous “Biographical Notice” and a few of her letters to her sister, how would you characterize Jane Austen the person? What are the consistencies and discrepancies between the letters and the biography and what accounts for the latter in particular? How do the biography and the letters change or confirm your sense of who Austen was before our class began? Posts Due Sunday 2/8 5:00 pm, responses due Monday 2/9 9:00 am.
Sample Blog or Vlog Post Assignment
Craft a brief but thoughtful response, in writing or with video, to each of the provided prompts and post your response to the LMS discussion board. Then, respond to at least two of your peers’ posts. There will usually be 1 blog entry due per week over the course of the semester. See pp. 3-4 for due dates and prompts.
- Reflect upon each of the readings or course topics in a focused, intentional manner
- Facilitate deeper understanding of the course readings and themes
- Practice your written and oral communication skills
- Generate ideas for further exploration, particularly potential ideas for the final project
- Identify questions and discussion points for in-class discussions
- Participate in a thoughtful and respectful online community
Instructions for Writing or Recording and Posting your Response to the Prompt:
Written Blog format (You must choose this option at least once unless you have a documented need for Vlogging only)
- Responses should reflect thought and care, recognizing that they are for an audience of your peers and your instructor. Write them in a word processing program first so you can revise for content, style, and length, then post to the LMS.
- Responses should be one well-formed paragraph, 250-300 words in length, or what would translate to approximately ¾ to 1 typed, double-spaced, word-processed page with 1-inch margins using 12-point font.
- Write in grammatically correct, fluid prose.
- Please write with a clear purpose (i.e. thesis!) and avoid making sweeping general statements. Use specifics to support any claims you make.
- You can also pose pointed questions after you’ve responded to the prompt.
- If you use an outside source for some reason, any reason, cite it.
- Responses should be uploaded in .doc, docx, .rtf, .pdf, or .txt format.
Recorded Vlog format (You must choose this option at least once unless you have a documented need to blog only)
- Responses should still reflect thought and care, recognizing that they are for an audience of your peers and your instructor. Here, you will record your responses using the video function in the LMS. Write your response first so you can revise for content, style, and length. Then practice it before posting the video.
- Your video should be at least 1 minute long but no more than 2 minutes. That is about how long it would take you to read ¾ to 1 page of writing, but DON’T READ! Use note cards and look at the camera! Speak coherently, don’t rush, don’t ramble unnecessarily, and don’t simply read text.
Instructions for Responding to Your Peers’ Posts:
- You should thoughtfully respond to at least two (but you can respond to more than two!) of the posted blog or vlog entries.
- Every posted entry should have at least two responses. So, if no one has responded to anything yet when you log on, respond to whatever entries strike you. If there are already responses to some but not others, choose the ones that don’t yet have responses. The idea is that everyone should have at least two responses from peers. There is no limit to the number of response posts you write, so if you find that the assignment parameters require you to respond to two entries that didn’t strike you as much as two others that already have responses, go ahead and write four responses.
- You can respond in writing or via video. Respond respectfully and thoughtfully, addressing your comments to the ideas presented rather than the bloggers or vloggers themselves. No trolling allowed!
Grading Criteria for Posts:
- This is meant to be a venue to encourage critical thinking, so the grading will largely be about effort, thought, and care. Evaluative considerations include:
- Did you produce something for each prompt that thoughtfully addresses the prompt without simply rehashing what we said in class or appearing to have been dashed off right before it was due? Creativity and experimentation are encouraged.
- Did you articulate a clear purpose or focus, usually in the form of a specific thesis that demonstrates your understanding of the issue, text, etc. being addressed? Is your response presented in an organized manner, appropriate to its form (written or spoken), purpose, and style? Responses should be substantial, and not simply yes or no. If you agree or disagree, explain why, Use concrete examples to support your stance.
- Do you make use of specific textual references from the course materials, using quotations and paraphrase when appropriate, or otherwise draw clear connections to our reading and discussions?
- Is your writing or speech clear, concise, and engaging (this covers things like spelling, punctuation, diction, and proofreading for writing; diction, pacing, articulation, and eye contact for videos).
Criteria for Responses to Peers’ Posts:
- Write in a spirit of helpfulness and kindness.
- Consider yourselves part of an intellectual community and thus take all ideas seriously.
- If you disagree, do so professionally and constructively—don’t post any comments you wouldn’t want to see made on your own posts.
- Point out grammar & spelling issues in private notes, for writer’s assistance.
- Be specific and substantive. An “ain’t that the truth” or “ you crushed it” won’t cut it: why is this post so great—what points are valid, what specifically do you take issue with and why, etc.
- Note that writing ten responses to peers’ posts won’t necessarily earn you a 5. The idea here is that you want to strive for substance and quality in the responses you write, which is why you only need to write two.
Each time you post, you will get earn between 1 and 5 points. Your two (or more) responses to your peers’ posts will also earn you up to 5 points. Thus every post adds up to ten points, and the ten posts together add up to 100 points. Here’s a rubric:
- 5: Fully completed work. A thoughtful entry that very clearly evidences time and care. You’ve got some inspiring stuff here that goes above and beyond! It’s super creative! It’s really smart! If this were a full numerical grade it would be a 100. For responses: You’ve completed at least 2 and they are very thoughtful (in both senses of the word), respectful, intelligent, and substantive.
- 4: Fully completed work. A thoughtful entry that evidences time and care. You are getting the job done. If you want to strive for the realm of the 5, try to stretch your mind a bit more, develop your ideas more, or come up with something more original. If this were a full numerical grade it would be an 80. For responses: You’ve completed at least 2 and they are thoughtful (in both senses of the word), respectful, smart, and make some good points or provide some specific feedback.
- 3: Some of this may be good, but the work is incomplete, or sloppy, or in some other way lame or slapdash. The numerical grade equivalent is a 60. For responses: You’ve completed only 1, or the 2 you’ve posted are anemic or in some other way inappropriate.
- 2 or 1: For posts and responses that are really lacking in some way and would translate into a 40 or 20 in the world of numerical grades. So, yeah, we’re not going to see these too often.
- Zero: You didn’t do anything.