Lunch with Ralph

Yeah, I’m pretty much cribbing Ralph Luker’s title, but just wanted to mention that I had lunch with a fellow blogger over Spring Break. It’s always fun to meet fellow bloggers, and I was especially interested in talking with Ralph because he’s working on an article about blogging for the American Historical Association’s Perspectives.

As Ralph mentions, we first ran into each other in blogworld almost two years ago (at least in academic time), when I first started using blogs in a freshman composition classroom in Fall 2003, and back then, Ralph didn’t think it was a good idea (scroll down for the original entry). In fact, as he so eloquently puts it, he thought it was “a form of madness.” I’m not sure he’s wrong about the “madness” part, but I have found that blogging supplements many of my composition classes rather nicely.

At any rate, I just wanted to respond to Ralph’s question about plagiarism, mostly because we didn’t really talk about that particular topic all that much at lunch. I think he’s right that writing online can encourage plagiarism, but that will happen with any online form of writing, whether WebCT or any other format, and because the grades for blogging are a relatively small percentage of my grade, there’s really no incentive to plagiarize. In fact, from what I hear (and I’ve rarely had this happen), students are far more likely to copy text from the Web into their major papers than into journal entries.

Ralph also comments on blogging’s immediacy and the degree to which it might work against the process of revision. That’s probably fair, and in my specific case, I do have other assignments that require multiple drafts, but in some of my classes, the “immediacy” of blogging has been the object of study, to discuss with my students what kinds of writing that encourages and discourages, as well as what “rules” develop in specific blogging communities (there are, of course, vast numbers of communities even if a few A-listers get most of the press).

At any rate, this is a long way of saying that I very much enjoyed meeting Ralph who lives basically within walking distance of my apartment, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the artcile when he completes it. And I’m very much lamenting the fact that my Spring Break is basically over, although I am very pleased with how productive I’ve been–getting lots of writing done even if very little of it is showing up here.


  1. Jonathan Said,

    March 28, 2005 @ 3:05 pm

    Probably lives within walking distance of me too. Where’s my lunch invite? I’m interesting.

  2. Chuck Said,

    March 28, 2005 @ 3:58 pm

    Jonathan, you’re most certainly interesting, but rumor has it you were out of town.

  3. Jennifer Said,

    March 29, 2005 @ 11:44 am

    I’m glad to find others who have used and are using blogs in the composition classroom. I’m planning on doing the same next fall and I’d appreciate any links and advice on the subject. I’m really looking forward to utilizing the web blog for discussion purposes and journal writing and to expand the idea of writing to the world outside of the classroom. Seems more democratic in ways–though maybe I’m a little idealistic at this point.

  4. Chuck Said,

    March 30, 2005 @ 9:52 am

    Jennifer, I think Ralph’s entry isn’t a bad place to start. I’ll try to track down a few other links, but I’m pretty swamped this week with job applications, grading, and such. I think it can support a more democratic classroom, but you might be able to get similar results with WebCT or other class management programs, at least in terms of allowing students to introduce discussion topics, reframe certain class conversations, etc.

    My major reason for preferring blogs is that I wanted students to get the experience of writing for a more public audience, as you point out. On that level, I do think that blogs work very well.

  5. Jennifer Said,

    March 31, 2005 @ 3:01 pm

    No rush! Ralph’s blog does seem like a good place to start. Good luck with the job search and grading–I know exactly the pressure of which you speak.

  6. cynthia Said,

    March 31, 2005 @ 3:18 pm

    i have caught at least one student EVERY SEMESTER plagiarizing whole chunks of text from the web in their papers.

  7. Chuck Said,

    March 31, 2005 @ 4:42 pm

    Cynthia, I’ve caught a similar number plagiarizing from the web, but it has happened only once for online writing assignments (in a course where I used WebCT), which is why I don’t think that writing for blogs is the primary culprit so much as the ease of copying and pasting from the web. It’s still really annoying–I just gave my plagiarism mini-lecture this afternoon.

    Jennifer, here are one or two more links while I’m thinking about it: My first (brainstorming) discussion of using blogs, and in case I haven’t mentioned it before, the Into the Blogosphere collection is quite good, though many of the essays are less focused on pedagogy. Austin Lingerfelt’s paper is also a great, generally optomistic resource.

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