An interesting new website has been launched by the University of Dayton. “MyLife“, described by URLWire as a “student blogging service”, features the blogs and podcasts of six current “student bloggers (who) were hand picked by administrators and earn $500 a semester for writing at least one blog entry per week.”
While this could be something worthwhile for UD, and it’s great to see a University integrate podcasts and student voices into a service for students, I have a feeling that the approach may be a bit flawed. For me when I think of bloggers that that I follow regularly, there are a few “criteria of appeal” that seem relevant.
– I usually have something in common with the blogger, other than being a professor, student, educational technologist, etc. Those I read express views that I share, or put forward ideas that help to disrupt the views I hold. I have a feeling if anyone chose six bloggers for me to read, it just wouldn’t hold my interest.
– Bloggers that I read (as far as I know) aren’t paid to blog. Rather, they blog because they love to write and have found themselves empowered by the medium. While I have nothing against writers being paid for their craft, I wonder if students as “professional” bloggers may lose the sincerity, spontaneity and irregularity that I find most appealing in the feeds I choose to read.
– Blogs that I read are written in an environment that is entirely unregulated. Writing formally for a University will certainly shape the posts that appear. While it does appear that the administration of UD is promoting a hands-off approach (“In the spirit of free and open communication, we’re not editing or approving anything they write. We’ll read them, and if there’s something horrifically egregious, we’ll address it”), I have a feeling that the hired bloggers will still be particular in what they put forth, and may therefore lack the cutting critique that makes so many blogs interesting to follow.
I do agree with one statement, however. Vice President Robert Johnson of UD states, “The people in the best position to tell the UD story are UD students.” Yet, the stories of only six students aren’t going tell very much of the story. Offer this service to the entire campus, let the popular, the most critical and the best-written blogs surface to the top through social selection and reputation … then you will start to see “the real deal”.
As I read your initial description of this program I had the same thought about the issue of being unregulated. The fact that the administration hand picks these bloggers is sort of like a government picking who sits in the press pool.
I also agree that they should open the service to the entire student body.
I am considering introducing all the teachers in my school (Canadian) to blogger to use for posting assignments. Would administration find a downside to this? I would also like to get some ESL teenagers blogging in their home language.
I would discuss further details in an email.
Well, I’ve been using Blogger.com (I think that’s what you meant) with my preservice teachers, and there are a couple of issues.
First, this year I noticed a lot more comment spam than I ever have before. Sometimes, as soon as one of my students posts something, the spam is there. Although I haven’t noticed any real (sexually) inappropriate stuff, it is annoying, and certain is an issue.
Second, the “next blog” in the Blogger navbar could potentially take students to a Blogger blog with some innappropriate content. Luckily, it is easy to remove and I could help you with that … however, it’s one extra thing to do, and it’s still an issue.
I tried edublogs.org by James Farmer, and I think this will be an excellent service that may avoid some of this stuff due to it being educationally oriented from the get-go. However, I am still waiting for a few improvements in the service before I bite in a bit deeper with it.
Please feel free to send me an email if you require further info. alec [dot] couros [at] uregina.ca
Dayton Alumni Students have also hosted an event: http://www.dayton2daytonaalumni.com