Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Model Blog Post

I came up with this idea to make students blog about the lectures at a whim.

When I first came up with the idea, I wasn't quite sure what it would achieve, but it seemed like a good idea, so we just try loh. Such is life.

We don't always have to have a good idea of what we're doing. Sometimes we need to be a little reckless and to be willing to make things up as we go along. As they say, "No guts, no glory".

To recap, these CS3216 class blogs were meant to address two key issues from last Semester:

  1. IVLE Discussion Forum Reflections didn't seem to work well. We didn't seem to be able to achieve the sorts of participation that I had hoped for or generate as much discussion as I had anticipated. It got worse towards the end of the Semester;
  2. Some students started skipping lectures from the middle of the Semester and notwithstanding my efforts at arranging for interesting lecturers to come talk to the students, I had some nagging doubts about whether people were really learning anything. Learning is hard. It takes effort and it is really quite easy to go sit into a lecture and switch off. These blogs serve two purposes: (i) make sure that people come to class, or else they would have to be a real genius to be able to blog about a lesson in abstentia; and (ii) make sure people actually pay attention and learn something.

Sometimes we have to be honest when we don't know for sure what we're doing. This is one (well, another one :-P) of those instances where I thought I was doing the right thing, but I wasn't completely sure.

Then I saw this post: http://zhouwenhan.com/2009/01/cs3216-platforms/, and I'm sure. :-P

All students please refer to Wenhan's post as the model post for CS3216 class blog. It's not the content so much, but the PROCESS, that matters.

What you're supposed to be doing during lectures is to jot down notes, points and questions. About what? Whatever that comes to mind and that you think is interesting.

Thereafter, take stock of what you have and say something that demonstrates that you have thought deeply about some of the questions and/or issues.

What you say doesn't have to be right. It's okay to say the wrong things and have your friends drop by and tell you so.

It is not what you say that really matters. What matters is that you have taken time to think.

Do you really want to come to school and learn to get smarter? Well, then starting thinking. I don't know of any other way. Once again, it's not so much the substance of what is said, but the PROCESS.

Wenhan has actually highlighted a significant number of questions or problems that he didn't address in his main blog post. The other students who haven't written their posts and who are thinking about what to write can consider thinking about some of those points and addressing them as well.

This brings us to a second point. Another way of getting smarter besides thinking about stuff ourselves is exchanging ideas with others. Again, it is a process.

I'm quite happy today. I think I did something right. It all started as a random idea - but I decided to bite the bullet and acted on it, notwithstanding my understanding of student psychology, i.e. that some students are really going to hate me for inflicting this blog thing on them.

Ah well, I am grateful that I'm not a politician. Being a teacher is not a popularity contest.

I have a job to do. I try to earn my pay. :-)


  1. Did I mention that I loved the fact that blogging is part of the module? Forced me to start sharing ideas and it is coming to me a lot more naturally since forcing myself to do so on the 12th.

    It has definitely been a pleasure for me blogging, knowing that you and a few others will gladly discuss the ideas and thoughts with me the moment I pen them down. Thank you. :-)

    P.S. The new U.S. President thinks that blogs are important too! The new website (that changed at 12pm EST exactly) has an excellent blog to for Obama to share his ideas: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/

  2. Thanks for the link HT!!! I just dropped by the white house blog though, and I feel that its more of a newsletter/newschannel than a blog per se.

    My personal definition of a blog is one where the blogger shares his own opinions; something rather personal. However, the white house blog is very formal (and it has to be)... "Corporate" blogs always have that difficulty of balancing political correctess and the human touch.

  3. Wei Man,

    My personal definition of a blog is one where the blogger shares his own opinions; something rather personal .... "Corporate" blogs always have that difficulty of balancing political correctess and the human touch.

    Correct. What makes a blog a blog is that a blog must have an inner voice. When you read a blog, you need to be able to connect with a person. :-P