Should Students Blog?

There have been several blog posts – and many more discussions not posted publicly on blogs – on the question of whether students should blog.

The issue arises in particular for those studying subjects like Biblical studies. Will your thoughts that you post get you into some sort of trouble, for instance with your denomination’s gatekeepers of orthodoxy? Could they affect future employment?

My own view is that the risks involved in blogging – putting your thoughts out there for all to see – are outweighed by the benefits, such as getting feedback on your ideas – assuming you can acquire a readership that will provide such interaction.

Here are some of the recent posts on this topic around the biblioblogosphere:

Brian LePort has posted on the pros of blogging as a student and the cons of blogging as a student. Both posts are related to the topic of a conference paper he hopes to read at SBL, and I am beginning to think that it could be a wonderful thing if we had more submissions on the same subject, allowing a whole “Blogger and Online Publications” session to be devoted to the question of student blogging. I would love to hear some professors with experience comment on the subject from their viewpoint. And we could potentially also connect this with the role blogging has played in cases of faculty being asked to resign by conservative constituents in the leadership of their institutions.

Tom Verenna recently began “clogging” – i.e. blogging about a course he is taking, “course blogging” = “clogging.” This raises a neglected question about student blogging: What does it mean for there to be this sort of public commentary about what goes on in the classroom? And how could more students posting about their classroom potentially benefit – or perhaps in other ways impact and change – the dynamics of the classroom as it has been cultivated up until now, without such technology?

Also of interest: Joshua Mann has blogged on the subject of starting a blog, and Jeremy Myers has a post about people telling you that you should stop blogging.

  • Mike Aubrey

    Well, I’m a student who blogs, though technically biblical studies-proper isn’t my field. I’m in the closely related field of historical linguistics. And in my case, blogging has provided me opportunities for scholarly interaction (including invitations to international conferences and employment offers) that I would not have had otherwise. The caveat here is that my work is unique, virtually nobody else is doing it, and I blog as a researcher, not a student…and because my blogging is merely in a related field, the question of getting in trouble over theological questions isn’t an issue. I don’t blog theological issues.

  • PrickliestPear

    I blogged as a student, but I did it anonymously, as I still do. It’s not ideal, but I don’t have a choice. I knew that, as someone then aiming to teach (and now teaching) in the public school system, anything that I wrote was capable of offending someone who might possibly have some say in whether I get hired somewhere down the road. I know for a fact that if the first principal who ever hired me–a very religiously conservative woman–had read my blog, she wouldn’t have hired me.

  • Brandon Wason

    James, this is very similar to a session we are putting together for SBL (co-sponsored by the Student Advisory Board and the Career Development Committee). The session is concerned how students as well as recent PhDs in the field should present themselves in the digital age. Thus, the issue of blogging, using twitter, facebook and other media are all part of what will be addressed. If you’re interested in participating, let me know.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Would it make sense to talk about having one joint session? It might make sense to combine efforts rather than overlap.

      • Brandon Wason

        I agree. I have to figure out some of the logistics, but I’ll get in contact with you very soon.

  • Ian

    I think we’ve a generally pretty poor handle on data permanence. As the first generation of people to grow up with the internet gets towards middle age, it isn’t clear what digital fingerprints will be left behind.

    I would encourage students to blog. The interaction is great, and a discipline of expressing yourself in shorter form is good practice. But, as Pear said, I’d strongly encourage students to do so anonymously or pseudonymously. Even if you’re not going to get a job in a religious context, having your inner theological journey pop up when a potential employer searches for you could be a problem.

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    Yep, simple solution, blog anonymously. I do that because many Christians are dangerous. Lots of bad stories in my town. I can’t let people know what I think. If I were a Christian, it would probably be very safe to blog.

    • newenglandsun

      I blog anonymously too. Not because I hold myself to holding duplicity, but rather because I don’t want some whacko commentor on my blogs getting my ID and personal information. (You can actually google some of this stuff nowadays – scary!)

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I have been online since before the web. And aside from a brief stint as “Marxist Hacker 42″ on slashdot and before that, FidoNet, I have left plenty of digital footprints.

    There was only ONCE it came up in an employment decision, and even that, I was fired, allowed to resign, got six months back pay, and agreed never to work at that government job again.

    “excessive use of internet” they called it. Every advert was coming up in their logs as a separate website. If I had actually gone to all of them, I would not have been able to eat, sleep, or spend time with my family, let alone my job, in October 2006.

    Which is what got me the back pay. The judgement based on server logs alone was obviously false. The investigator was completely tech ignorant- made such claims as “any url with a www in it had to be typed in”

  • newenglandsun

    Here’s a better question – should blogs be used for more scholarly purposes, or should blogs be used to vent and get out your ideas to help you on producing your scholarly ideas. Also, how formal should your blog be? For instance, should you try to go for the most sanitized (no cussing or pornography), slightly sanitized (maybe a curse here and there), or no sanitization period. All interesting questions. I’m heading into my junior year of college btw.


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