1. Purposeful

Like any piece of powerful writing, an effective blog has a specific purpose. The purpose of a blog may be to offer an alternative view on an global event (DailyKos), critique the mainstream media (Instapundit), or supply specialized information to a particular audience (Slashdot). In each of these blogs, the purpose of the blog coincides with the point of view of its writer. Doc in the Box, for example, is written by an American soldier currently serving in Iraq. His unique perspective on military operations informs the central purpose of his blog: to inform the world what the war is really like.

As preservice English teachers, you also have a valuable point of view that will shape the purpose of your blog. You are in a transitional period, your identity caught somewhere between full-time college student and professional English teacher. The purpose of your blog, then, should be to explore class readings, discussions, conversations, and real-world events from the perspective of someone just entering the field. Your blog might attempt to answer some of the questions you have asked yourself about teaching writing: Would this really work in a real classroom? Will my students respect me? How can I motivate my reluctant students to write? Is there any way I can make grammar exciting?

2. Social

As a small but significant part of the blogosphere, your blog should interconnect with the local and global blogging communities. At the local level, your blog should contain meaningful comments from your classmates—at least one comment per entry. You may need to wrangle classmates into posting a comment on your blog. The best way to do so is to offer to comment on their entries. Linking to a classmate’s blog is another good way to connect at the local level.

At the global level, your blog should contain outbound links to relevant online resources, including but not limited to other blogs. An entry responding to a class reading might link to a relevant news article or web site. Who knows: someone out there might even link to your blog. In the blogging world, this is known as an inbound link.

3. Active

You should also update your blog regularly. Not only will this keep your content fresh, but it will also allow you to reflect on your own learning process at the end of the semester. You might notice, for example, that some of your initial fears about teaching lessened as the semester progressed. Or that you stumbled on a larger issue altogether—whether you can assign traditional grades in good conscience, for example. A regularly updated blog will record your mind as it works. Perhaps in this sense, blogging equals learning.

4. Well written

Your blog will be read by me, your classmates, and hopefully, other members of the blogosphere. This means you should pay some attention to the way you write. Low order concerns such as punctuation, spelling, grammar, and usage should not be ignored, though many bloggers treat these conventions somewhat nonchalantly. Ultimately, frequent mechanical mistakes detract from the power of your blog.

More important are the higher order concerns: having a clear purpose and established point of view, engaging the local and global online communities, and exploring relevant ideas with honesty and depth. Keep your entries fairly short: aim for around 300-400 words per post, and something less than this for comments.