Blogs vs. Term Papers

The format — designed to force students to help make a point, explain it, defend it, repeat it (whether in 20 pages or 5 paragraphs) — feels to a lot of 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 about how exactly best to teach writing in the era that is digital.

“This mechanistic writing is an actual disincentive to creative but untrained writers,” says Professor Davidson, who rails up against the form inside her new book, “Now The thing is that 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 and also the ethos it represents of public, interactive discourse. In place of writing a term that is quarterly, students now regularly publish 500- to 1,500-word entries on an interior class blog about 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 requirement that is basic everything from M.B.A. to literature courses. On its face, who could disagree because of the transformation? Why not replace a writing that is staid with a medium that offers 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?

Because, say defenders of rigorous writing, the brief, sometimes personally expressive blog post fails sorely to show key facets of thinking and writing. They argue that the format that is old less exactly how Sherman got to the sea and more about how the writer organized the points, fashioned a quarrel, showed grasp of substance and evidence of its origin. Its rigidity was punishment that is n’t pedagogy.

Their reductio ad absurdum: why not merely bypass the blog, too, and move right on to 140 characters about Shermn’s Mrch?

“Writing term papers is a dying art, but those that do write them have a dramatic leg up in terms of critical thinking, argumentation additionally the type of expression required not only in college, but in the work market,” says Douglas B. Reeves, a columnist when it comes to American School Board Journal and founder associated with the 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 interesting writing with premise, evidence, argument and conclusion.”

The National Survey of Student Engagement found that in 2011, 82 percent of first-year college students and much more than half of seniors weren’t asked to accomplish a single paper of 20 pages or more, as the bulk of writing assignments were for papers of 1 to five pages.

The word paper has been falling from favor for quite a while. A research in 2002 estimated that about 80 percent of high school students were not asked to write a past history term paper greater than 15 pages. William H. Fitzhugh, the research’s author and founder regarding the 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 phrase 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 types of discourse and training; “new literacy” stretches from the blog and tweet to multimedia presentation with PowerPoint and audio essay.

“We’re at a crux at this time of where we need to find out as teachers what part 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 with the most exciting and promising new literacies.”

Professor Lunsford has collected 16,000 writing samples from 189 Stanford students from 2001 to 2007, and is studying how their writing abilities and passions evolved as blogs along with other multimedia tools crept within their lives and classrooms. She’s also solicited student feedback about their experiences.

Her conclusion is that students feel far more impassioned by the new literacy. They love writing for an audience, engaging with it. They feel just as if they’re actually producing something personally rewarding and valuable, whereas once they write a phrase paper, they feel like 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 necessity at Stanford, used to revolve around a paper constructed within the entire term. Now, the students begin by writing a 15-page paper on a particular subject in the first couple weeks. Once that is done, they use the ideas with it to build blogs, Web sites, and PowerPoint and audio and oral presentations. The students often find their ideas a whole lot more crystallized after expressing them 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 the 15-page paper forever or move directly to the latest way?’ ” she says. “Stanford’s writing program won’t be making that change right away, since our students still seem to benefit from learning how to present their research findings both in 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 rambling exercises in personal expression, can also be well crafted and meticulously researched. In addition, the debate is certainly not a false one: while some educators fear that informal communication styles are increasing duress on traditional training, others get the actual paper fundamentally anachronistic.

“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 so much as standardization. It’s a formula, but writing that is good with formulas, and changes formulas.”

Today, she attempts to keep herself grounded in the experiences of a range of students by tutoring at a community college. Recently, one student she tutors was presented with an assignment with prescribed sentence length and structure that is rigid. “I urged him to check out all the rules,” she says. “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 was brilliance into 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 occasions, writes often about I . t when you look at the classroom.

a version of this short article appears in publications on January 22, 2012, on Page ED28 of Education Life utilizing the headline: Term Paper Blogging. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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