Blogging Class…During Class?

Lydia Loren reminds her Cyberlaw students during the first class to sign up for an account on her blog. What happens? Students sign up right then and thereduring class! (She knows because the account sign-ups are time-stamped). She wonders about the future: “Will my students be blogging my class during class?”

I think we all know the answer. Students engage in the full range of human activities during class–they sleep, they eat, they talk to others (especially over IM, although back in my day we used to pass notes), they play (especially computer games, although I was a crossword puzzle kind of guy myself), they flirt (not aware of that going further in class, although with cybersex, who knows?), they take care of administrative errands (in Lydia’s case, signing up for accounts) and, yes, they probably even blog on all of the foregoing during class.

Frankly, of all of the foregoing activities, I think blogging about the class during class would be most consistent with my pedagogical goals. I’m happy any time a student does something a little extra with class-related material. But, no question, I’d also prefer if students could defer the blogging until after class. Personally, I’ve tried blogging on conferences real-time and I simply can’t do it–I can’t split my brain that way. Maybe my students are more skilled than I am, but if not, classroom-learning and blogging may be a zero sum game where one task wins at the other’s expense.

Lydia’s post is also a reminder that our activities in cyberspace leave data trails that others can notice and observe. In particular, this may be a reminder to students that we as professors are developing new ways to monitor your behavior. Personally, I’d love a to have digital avatar that could automatically detect a student engaging in an IM chat and insert a picture of my smiling face in the conversation saying “Hi! You might want to chat later. You’ve got some classroom learning to do first!” (Some of you may recall that the RIAA did something similar with P2P file sharers).

UPDATE: Gordon makes some similar observations about the attention pie problem. Then again, he blogs during faculty meetings