An anonymous poster (always curious — as I can only think of a minimal number of reasons one would wish to remain anonymous on a post about summer reading) asked the following:
Would students be able to read the responses posted by their peers? This could create a plethora of problems. First off, many students are self consious about their work, so they could be very hesitant about posting. Second, some students are lazy, so they may just look at other students posts and use them to write their papers. Third, even if these students happen to not be lazy, they could be still influenced by the other posts, hindering their creativity. Therefore, I believe that either the posts should be blocked until the due date is past. That way, students could look at other peoples thoughts only after they have turned in their own.
Rather than comment on the comment, I think a direct response in a post will best serve the dialogue.
Yes, students would be able to read responses posted by their peers.
Believe me when I say, I recognize a student’s self-consciousness; however, a student needs to recognize that his work, regardless of what he chooses as a career, will be public. If that student chooses university level course work at any point in his life, then I can almost guarantee that student’s writing will become public — for every writing course I took at an undergraduate and graduate level required copies of individual papers to be made and distributed. A colleague has informed me his child’s intro comp course at the University has included a blog requirement, and I’m just trying to get my students ready.
As for students’ laziness, I recognize that too. Been there. Been that way. Might they use their peers’ writing to write their own papers? What’s to stop them from e-mailing their papers to one another if we don’t blog? Essentially, I want to move from papers for the summer reading component anyway. I just want to try to guide the thinking and discourse and have a way to be in touch with my students over the course of the summer as we gear up for the fall. At present students succumb to SparkNotes as an aide to their writing if not in lieu of their reading anyway. This way, I’m a bit more involved in the conversation.
As for the final concern about a student’s creativity, I think some students need that extra assistance. Current students, for instance, would not have necessarily caught — on their own — the moment in Henry IV, Part I when Hal breaks out of prose and speaks in poetry to Falstaff to which Falstaff responds after Hal’s departure in a short poetic soliloquy beginning with the words, “strange words.” They got it, and — frankly — I got it, only after class discussion. Similarly, some got, and some did not, the moment in Henry IV, Part I when Hotspur refers to Hal in a parody of the Greek epic stock epithet as: “The nimble-footed madcap Prince of Wales” (IV, i).
In short, I want this to serve as merely a tool for discussion purposes. The question is, how to do that?