Blogs vs. Term Papers
The format — designed to force students which will make a point, explain it, defend it, repeat it (whether in 20 pages or 5 paragraphs) — feels to many like an exercise in rigidity and boredom, like practicing piano scales in a key that is minor.
Her provocative positions have lent kindling to an intensifying debate on how better to teach writing when you look at the era that is digital.
“This mechanistic writing is a real disincentive to creative but untrained writers,” says Professor Davidson, who rails against the form inside her new book, “Now you notice It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn.”
“As a writer, it offends me deeply.”
Professor Davidson makes heavy use of the blog and the ethos it represents of public, interactive discourse. In the place of writing a term that is quarterly, students now regularly publish 500- to 1,500-word entries on an interior class blog concerning the issues and readings these are generally studying in class, along with essays for public consumption.
She’s in good company. In the united states, blog writing is now a requirement that is basic anything from M.B.A. to literature courses. On its face, who could disagree with all the transformation? Have you thought to replace a writing that is staid with a medium that provides the writer the immediacy of an audience, a feeling of relevancy, instant feedback from classmates or readers, and a practical connection to contemporary communications? Pointedly, why punish with a paper when a blog is, relatively, fun?
The brief, sometimes personally expressive blog post fails sorely to teach key aspects of thinking and writing because, say defenders of rigorous writing. They argue that the format that is old less about how precisely Sherman got to the sea and more exactly how the writer organized the points, fashioned an argument, showed grasp of substance and evidence of its origin. Its rigidity wasn’t punishment but pedagogy.
Their reductio ad absurdum: why not only bypass the blog, too, and move right on to 140 characters about Shermn’s Mrch?
“Writing term papers is a art that is dying but those who do write them have a dramatic leg up with regards to critical thinking, argumentation together with kind of expression required not only in college, but in the task market,” says Douglas B. Reeves, a columnist for the American School Board Journal and founder associated with Leadership and Learning Center, the school-consulting division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “It doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting blogs. But nobody would conflate writing that is interesting premise, evidence, argument and conclusion.”
The National Survey of Student Engagement found that last year, 82 percent of first-year university students and much more than 50 % of seniors weren’t asked to complete a single paper of 20 pages or more, although the bulk of writing assignments were for papers of one to five pages.
The definition of paper happens to be falling from favor for some time. A report in 2002 estimated that about 80 percent of senior high school students were not asked to write a history term paper of more than 15 pages. William H. Fitzhugh, the study’s author and founder associated with Concord Review, a journal that publishes senior high school students’ research papers, says that, more broadly, educators shy far from rigorous academic writing, giving students the relative ease of writing short essays. He argues that the main problem is that teachers are asking students to read less, which means less substance — whether historical, political or literary — to focus a term paper on.
He proposes what he calls the “page per year” solution: in first grade, a one-page paper using one source; by fifth grade, five pages and five sources.
The debate about academic writing has given rise to new terminology: “old literacy” refers to more traditional kinds of discourse and training; “new literacy” stretches from the blog and tweet to multimedia presentation with PowerPoint and essay that is audio.
“We’re at a crux at this time of where we need to find out as teachers what area of the literacy that is old worth preserving,” says Andrea A. Lunsford, a professor of English at Stanford. “We’re trying to figure out just how to preserve sustained, logical, carefully articulated arguments while engaging most abundant in exciting and promising new literacies.”
Professor Lunsford has collected 16,000 writing samples from 189 Stanford students from 2001 to 2007, and it is studying how their writing abilities and passions evolved as blogs along with other multimedia tools crept into their lives and classrooms. She’s also solicited student feedback about their experiences.
Her conclusion is that students feel alot more impassioned by the new literacy. They love writing for a gathering, engaging along with it. They feel as though they’re actually producing something personally rewarding and valuable, whereas if they write a term paper, they feel as if they are doing so simply to produce a grade.
So Professor Lunsford is playing to student passions. Her writing class for second-year students, a requirement at Stanford, used to revolve around a paper constructed over the term that is entire. Now, the students start with writing a 15-page paper on a particular subject in the 1st couple weeks. Once that’s done, they normally use the ideas inside ninjaessays it to construct blogs, internet sites, and PowerPoint and audio and oral presentations. The students often find their ideas way more crystallized after expressing all of them with new media, she says, and then, most startling, they plead to revise their essays.
“What I’m asking myself is, ‘Will we have to maintain the paper that is 15-page or move directly to the newest way?’ ” she says. “Stanford’s writing program won’t be making that change right away, since our students still seem to take advantage of learning just how to present their research findings in both traditional print and new media.”
As Professor Lunsford illustrates, choosing to educate using either blogs or term papers is one thing of a false opposition. Teachers can use both. And blogs, a platform that appears to encourage exercises that are rambling personal expression, can certainly be well crafted and meticulously researched. At exactly the same time, the debate is certainly not a false one: while many educators fear that informal communication styles are increasing duress on traditional training, others discover the actual paper fundamentally anachronistic.
“I happened to be basically kicked out of the writing program for thinking that was more important than writing a five-paragraph essay,” she says. “I’m not against discipline. I’m not certain that writing a five-paragraph essay is discipline so much as standardization. It’s a formula, but good writing plays with formulas, and changes formulas.”
Today, she tries to keep herself grounded in the experiences of a selection of students by tutoring at a community college. Recently, one student she tutors was handed an assignment with prescribed sentence length and rigid structure. Him to follow all the rules,” she says“ I urged. “If he’d done it my way, I don’t know he’d have passed the class.
“The sad thing is, he’s now convinced there is brilliance in the art world, brilliance when you look at the multimedia world, brilliance in the music world and that writing is boring,” Professor Davidson says. “I hated teaching him bad writing.”
Matt Richtel, a reporter at The Times, writes often about I . t within the classroom.
a type of this short article appears in publications on January 22, 2012, on Page ED28 of Education Life aided by the headline: Term Paper Blogging. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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