Blogs vs. Term Papers
The format — supposed to force students in order to 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 up against the form in her own 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 utilization of the blog therefore the ethos it represents of public, interactive discourse. In place of writing a quarterly term essay writers paper, students now regularly publish 500- to 1,500-word entries on an inside class blog in regards to the issues and readings they are studying in class, along with essays for public consumption.
She’s in good company. Around the world, blog writing is becoming a basic requirement in everything from M.B.A. to literature courses. On its face, who could disagree with the transformation? Why not replace a staid writing exercise with a medium that provides the writer the immediacy of an audience, a sense 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?
Because, say defenders of rigorous writing, the brief, sometimes personally expressive blog post fails sorely to teach key aspects of thinking and writing. They argue that the format that is old less about how exactly Sherman surely got to the ocean and much more exactly how the writer organized the points, fashioned a quarrel, showed grasp of substance and evidence of its origin. Its rigidity wasn’t punishment but pedagogy.
Their reductio ad absurdum: why not just bypass the blog, too, and move right on to 140 characters about Shermn’s Mrch?
“Writing term papers is a dying art, but people who do write them have a dramatic leg up when it comes to critical thinking, argumentation while the sort of expression required not only in college, however in the task market,” says Douglas B. Reeves, a columnist when it comes to American School Board Journal and founder regarding the Leadership and Learning Center, the school-consulting division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “It doesn’t mean there blogs that are aren’t interesting. But nobody would conflate writing that is interesting premise, evidence, argument and conclusion.”
The National Survey of Student Engagement unearthed that last year, 82 percent of first-year university students and more than 1 / 2 of seniors weren’t asked to complete a single paper of 20 pages or higher, as the majority of writing assignments were for papers of just one to five pages.
The word paper has been falling from favor for some time. A research in 2002 estimated that about 80 percent of senior high school students are not asked to write a history term paper greater than 15 pages. William H. Fitzhugh, the study’s author and founder regarding the Concord Review, a journal that publishes school that is high’ research papers, says that, more broadly, educators shy away 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 that is literary focus a phrase paper on.
He proposes what he calls the “page a 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 forms of discourse and training; “new literacy” stretches from your blog and tweet to multimedia presentation with PowerPoint and audio essay.
“We’re at a crux at this time of where we have to find out as teachers what an element of the old literacy is worth preserving,” says Andrea A. Lunsford, a professor of English at Stanford. “We’re racking your brains on simple tips 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 the fact that students feel a great deal more impassioned by the literacy that is new. They love writing for an audience, engaging with it. They feel as though they’re actually producing something personally rewarding and valuable, whereas once they write a term paper, they feel as if they do so simply to produce a grade.
So Professor Lunsford is playing to student passions. Her writing class for second-year students, a necessity at Stanford, used to revolve around a paper constructed over the term that is entire. Now, the students start by writing a paper that is 15-page a particular subject in the 1st couple of weeks. Once that’s done, they use the ideas in it to construct blogs, those sites, and PowerPoint and audio and presentations that are oral. The students often find their ideas much more crystallized after expressing these with new media, she says, and then, most startling, they plead to revise their essays.
“What I’m asking myself is, ‘Will we must keep carefully the 15-page paper forever or move right to this new way?’ ” she says. “Stanford’s writing program won’t be making that change straight away, since our students still appear to take advantage of learning how exactly to present their research findings both in traditional print and new media.”
As Professor Lunsford illustrates, deciding to educate using either blogs or term papers is something of a false opposition. Teachers may use both. And blogs, a platform that seems to encourage rambling exercises in personal expression, can also be well crafted and meticulously researched. The debate is not a false one: while some educators fear that informal communication styles are increasing duress on traditional training, others find the actual paper fundamentally anachronistic at the same time.
“I was 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 sure that writing a essay that is five-paragraph discipline a great deal as standardization. It’s a formula, but good writing plays with formulas, and changes formulas.”
Today, she attempts to keep herself grounded in the experiences of a variety of students by tutoring at a residential district college. Recently, one student she tutors was given an assignment with prescribed sentence length and structure that is rigid. 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 when you look at the art world, brilliance within 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 right times, writes often about information technology when you look at the classroom.
a type of this short article appears in print on January 22, 2012, on Page ED28 of Education Life with all the headline: Term Paper Blogging. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
We’re interested in your feedback on this page. Inform us what you think.