As most of my colleagues and students know, I use a blog in all of my classes. I use it to communicate and discuss with my students. I also use it for a variety of student assignments. This semester, I’m teaching our intro to web design class (standards based, XHTML, and CSS). In the case of this class, my students have a series of what I call IDMs (Inspirational Design Models) assigned to them throughout the semester. Basically, the IDMs are websites on which they have to write a critique that they then post to the course blog (due on a Monday). By the following Friday, they need to respond to one of their fellow student’s posts.A couple of weeks back, my students had to critique Jason Santa Maria’s blog ( www.jasonsantamaria.com). Unbeknownst to my students, Jason had actually noticed a referrer to his site from my course blog awhile back, and was watching as student’s wrote their critiques on his work. He reciprocated by writing a rather extensive post on his own site, responding to many of my student’s thoughts. Unfortunately, some of my students were not that polite in how they critiqued his site. In many cases, what was supposed to be a critique turned into a criticism. To Jason’s credit, he was incredibly professional in how he responded to some of my student’s posts.
He addressed specific posts directly (and actually identified the students by name), admitting that they were right in some cases, and gently and tactfully explained why they were wrong in other cases.What was even more interesting with the fact that Jason’s post generated a flurry of comments from people all around the web. Some comments were amused by the whole thing, some comments were very constructive, and some comments (surprisingly) were downright nasty (both to me and to my students) What was even more interesting was the fact that the South by Southwest site metablogged his entry, thereby pushing it further and further out into the blogsphere.I talked about the event extensively with my students after the fact. Some were uninterested, some were shocked, and some were amused by the whole situation. The punchline that I tried to get across is that you can’t write anything on the web without it at least having the potential of being noticed. And in todays age of blog trackbacks, pings, and referrer statistics, posts almost never go unnoticed.