Students blog about service work

Online blogs are created by a diverse group of people on an equally diverse group of topics. There are blogs for every interest group, sports team, or political movement; all of them serve some purpose on the Internet.

For a winter 2010 English course entitled “Blogging as Self Literary Narrative,” the purpose was more focused on academics and service learning activities.

The class, taught by special instructor Rachel Smydra, looks to explore the relationship of blogging to more traditional forms of writing, like journals, memoirs and personal essays.

At the start of the semester, students created blogs, hoping to mimic elements such as voice, persona, credibility, and persuasion — traits that are typically found in self-narrative genres. The students have frequently updated their blogs, all the while seeing if they can become a legitimate layer of self-narrative writing.

“Posting becomes difficult for students because they have to decide how much of themselves to put out there for public consumption,” Smydra said. “Do you share your true feelings as you would in a journal or do you mask these feelings?”

She said the blogging process makes students pay closer attention to how they wrote their blogs and what details they provided in their work.

“With instantaneous readers who can comment at will on posts, the blogging experience really makes students think carefully and critically about not only what they say, but how they say it.”

Currently, the students are working on persuasive personal essays.

Smydra has incorporated service learning into the class to create a unique volunteer experience for her students to blog about.

The service included a class trip to the Baldwin Center in Pontiac to assist in stocking the food pantry and sorting clothes. The students are now in the process of creating blogs that include strategies to try to persuade readers to take on service learning and outreach.

Many of the blogs include information specific to the Baldwin Center.

“Moving the students out of the classroom gives them not only a common experience, but insight into how to construct a persuasive document,” said Smydra. “Even more importantly, however, is that working at the Baldwin Center introduced students to the fact that there are real needs three miles away from our campus and that, even in small ways or short durations, they can have a lasting impact on what goes on around them.”

Smydra believes that service learning could be integrated into any class at OU, allowing the Oakland community to create beneficial partnerships with local businesses, all the while helping students apply concepts that they learn in class.

More information about the Baldwin Center and how to do work similar to that done by Smydra’s students is available at