Monday, March 24, 2008
The Professor as Open Book
The NYT has an interesting article about why professor's use the internet to disclose non-academic things about themselves. The article discusses how professors of all ranks use websites, blogs and social networking sites to reveal more personal information about themselves. The article interestingly asserts that it is part of a disturbing trend to treat professors not as teachers but as entertainers. While I agree with this basic statement, and it is a claim I've long used in the classroom, ("I'm not here to entertain you, I'm here to teach you and sometimes I may [unintentionally] do both." ), I don't think it gets at the reasons academics blog.

I am under no illusion that my students visit my blog and think "Kristen is SO funny. How have I not noticed this in class?" On the contrary. I suspect that any student who visits my blog who does not enjoy my class would quickly navigate away from it OR, worse, make fun of it. I do not blog for my students. I never encourage my students to "check out my blog" and am a tad creeped out by professors who attempt to connect with students via the internet. If I can't make a connection with one in the classroom, I certainly don't want to do it virtually. I don't use Facebook to reach out to students. Something that is missing from the NYT article is the idea that professors have friends, too! And we spend a tremendous amount of time on the computer and it helps (and hinders) our writing to have some recreational outlets on the net.

However, I do think my blog serves a pedagogical purpose. First and foremost, it keeps me connected to a more "popular" account of feminism.* What I mean, is that when I think about movies, books, television shows in an in depth way, I can bring in those thoughts to the classroom. Inevitably, my class responds more to a discussion about Juno than they do to a generic reproduction essay we've read for the day.

Blogging also has scholarly purposes. It helps to write. I know a lot of academics who blog daily. The daily blogging gets them started on their daily writing projects. It helps them organize their thoughts and/or try out new arguments that become part of scholarly essays. In short, it helps to write publicly. It also helps to belong to virtual networks. They are both heuristic and enjoyable.

* I use "popular" loosely. Obviously if feminism was popular, I wouldn't have near as much to critique.

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Blogger bethany said...

yeah, I found that article weird too, like the authors thought professors should crawl back into their coffins after class. God forbid we have an identity outside of our classroom persona.

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