TCB and student blogging

Though it wasn’t exactly a New Year’s resolution in the traditional sense, I promised myself that when my dissertation was all done, I would stick to a blogging schedule. My dissertation is done in the sense that I’ve graduated, but as all academics know, very little ever actually gets done. So, here it is, almost my bedtime on Monday night, the day I said I would blog, and I haven’t blogged.

I did get a lot done today. I had all of these little errands I’d been putting off and I’m happy to say that many of them are done. TCB, as my old housemate says.

There are a couple of papers I want to read and comment on, but I also really wanted to take today’s post to continue talking about student blogging. I’ve received a lot of support for the idea, from students and other academics, some who are doing something similar in their classes, some who wish they were, some who are just thrilled to watch it unfold.

Despite being the one who is doing it, I’m rather thrilled to watch it unfold. A couple of students have taken initiative and are posting other things–news articles or just general thoughts about school. I know it can be intimidating to think about strangers reading your writing, but I like where it is going. The posts from last week were thoughtful and clearly intended for an audience, which is just fantastic. I haven’t read them all yet, but have great plans for that tomorrow. I’m excited to hear what they have to say, what they’re thinking and learning and how what we do in class affects the way they see their worlds.

In case anyone was wondering, I don’t recommend taking the 8pm train from New York to Harrisburg if you have to teach at 9am in Gettysburg the next morning and are not sure what you’re going to do in class that day.

Tired.

Crowd-sourcing classroom blogging

So, I’ve made some work for myself this semester, I think. In light of the conversation a few weeks ago regarding blogging by academics, and a recent spate of blog posts on LSEImpact on social media, I decided that my students should be blogging.

In reality, I think they should be writing. A lot. And I think they should be reading each other’s writing. It’s amazing to me how many students go through college having had no one read their papers or other written work except their professors. Don’t get me wrong, I have faith in the ability of most professors to present an informed opinion on a work, but those students are missing significant opportunities to improve their skills of crafting an argument if they do not practice and put themselves out there. I can give an opinion on how to write something, but it’s merely one opinion.

It’s a good one, of course, but just one.

So, I have 25 students in two methods classes. They are going to blog about their research projects–still TBD for most, though a few have come to me with interesting ideas. They are going to blog about their reading assignments–mostly from Poor Economics or Freakonomics. Hopefully, they also blog about questions that come up in their textbooks. Hopefully, they blog about interesting things they find in the news. Hopefully, they start reading other blogs and commenting on them as well.

The course blog is here. It has three lists of links. One for each section of my class and one for several economics blogs. Some I read, some were just suggested to me. If your blog is not on there, and you think it should be, let me know. I’m happy to add it. I think the more examples they have, the better.

In addition, I’m totally open to ideas of how to make this work. Assignments that are particularly well-suited to blogging (with an economics or econometrics or research component preferred) are totally welcome. If it worked or if it didn’t, it it was an unmitigated disaster or a resounding success, I’d love to hear about it.

Blogging

There was a bit of discussion last week on the internet on blogging by academics. Particularly for economists, blogging is a relatively new venture and as there is as yet little demonstrated value in the academic job market, it’s a source of debate.

When I decided to start this blog, I started from a much different place than many other economics bloggers. I was still in the midst of writing my dissertation and my advisors were fairly adamant that I not blog. One pointed me to an economics blogger who had just left her university without tenure and with plenty of speculation that her blogging had contributed to that. She also left with a book deal. Call it what you will, but they were worried that blogging would be seen as taking time from serious academic work and would hurt my own chances for tenure and promotion down the line. One even tried to give me a number. Each blog post a week over a year was equivalent to one academic paper, or something like that.

That’s such an economist way to look at things, isn’t it?

Beyond my less-than-junior status, I’ve been blogging for a really long time. Since my first stint in Venezuela in 2003, I’ve kept a personal blog that I used to keep in touch with family and friends. I started that blog to try to stay sane while working as a journalist in Caracas and to make notes for a book project on Venezuelan women. One post, that was reprinted in my former editor’s blog and the Duke economics department bulletin (Oeconophile), is here. It’s over eight years old now. As that blog became more and more personal in nature, it also began to reflect my dual need to write about economics and about my own experiences with graduate school. In my move to a real job, it seemed to make sense to separate the economics-type posts from the personal ones, to use my writing about economics to create a public persona, a space just for economics. I could use it as a tool for organizing research, planning classes, and sharing my thoughts about what was going on in the world. The old one is still active (and private), though the number of posts I write there is lower now as the total is about split between here and there.

I don’t think that blogging is for everyone. I realize that most people are not compelled to write in the way that I am. Most people don’t have the habit of sharing their daily lives and musings–regardless of the topic–with a potentially large, unknown audience. Twitter is changing that, but the format is quite different.

I fully realize that this blog might hurt my chances at tenure, if and when I come to that point. I really hope that it doesn’t, though. I hope that the tenure process expands to include digital scholarship and outreach.

Even in my limited use of this blog and Twitter, I’ve made contacts with other researchers I likely never would have found otherwise. I’m grateful for this and hope that it continues, that it expands into greater opportunities for collaboration, discussion, and more. This blog might lead to other things. It might not.

But old habits die hard, and I can’t imagine not doing it, so here I go.