While the presence of digital writing technologies and citizenship pedagogies are not inherently innovative, the ways in which I direct student practice and configure their relationships are. For example, blogging in a writing pedagogy context is typically associated with self-centered modes of exigence: students are expected to “respond” to readings or “rant” about sociopolitical topics important to them. These blogs are often left unread without genuine, organic connection to anything meaningful beyond the pseudotransactional nature of the exchange.
My frustration with this mode of writing and my experimentation with alternative uses of blogs resulted in the publication of a webtext article in Computers and Composition Online, a respected journal in the field of rhetoric and composition. My webtext, “Digitizing Dewey: Blogging an Ethic of Community,” outlines the theory and my experiences of approaching blogging from the angle of a different kind of social action: having students engage in a community-based action (e.g., volunteer at a homeless shelter, raise awareness of local environmental issues, challenge the perception of domestic abuse) and then use a blog as an online, public-oriented space that responsibly argues for a position on the issue and that links to external resources that provides routes for readers to engage in similar action. In doing so, students challenged the typical usage of blogs and also challenged what educators typically mean when they say “public” and “social action” and, of course, “blogging.”
Naturally, with new projects come new assessment challenges. While blogs have thrived, educators have struggled to identify stable criteria upon which to assess these digital creations (G. Middlebrook, 2010) mainly because the criteria are so context-specific (RCL at Penn State). In a more recent blogging project for professional writing, I created a rubric aimed at the assessment of blogs that accounts for the context, aesthetic, and networked natures of the digital artifacts (read my blog post on it here). The rubric itself is pictured below.
The assessment of digital writing is a blind spot in the field of writing pedagogy. Teachers have found ways to engage creatively with digital writing technologies but have found it difficult to work towards the inevitable question of assessment. My rubric above attempts to fill that gap by moving towards a more objective measure of assessing a textual/aesthetic/networked artifact of student creation.