Professor copes, teaches by writing online
Bev Hogue lives in the country and often spends her drive to work writing a blog entry in her head.
The Associate Professor keeps a “potpourri of things that interest (her)” in a blog titled “Excelsior” after a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem. Hogue initially encountered the piece in the first book she ever purchased with her own money.
“I read it in James Thurber’s illustrated version, which is really funny,” she says. “He has very funny illustrations of it. The people, they look like lumps, like big old potatoes or something.”
“Excelsior” means upward, and readers can see the influence of the word in Hogue’s writing. Hogue was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, and the blog became a coping mechanism for her.
“Cancer is a situation in which your body is really outside your control,” she says. “Sometimes I couldn’t walk across the room because I was so sick, and trying to take that out-of-control situation and put it into words is a way of kind of exerting control. I can’t control all these other things in my life, but I can make a pretty good story out of it, and so it was a way of dealing with the pain.”
While her audience primarily consists of her family members, friends and colleagues, Hogue discovered readership for her blog nearly doubled when she was writing about cancer, jumping from about 25 readers to more than 50. One of her readers’ favorite posts from that time was her chronicle of a day in the life of a chemotherapy patient.
“That was fun because it talked about teaching and treatment and trying to connect it with some larger issues about human suffering,” Hogue says. “Something about that experience connects with people, so I don’t know if it’s helpful to anybody or not, but it was helpful to me.”
For Hogue, writing for an immediate audience is refreshing. She used to be a reporter and most enjoyed crafting a weekly column about her family and events happening in the news.
“I missed it when I went into teaching,” she says. “Academic writing is very different because you work on projects for a long time, and you submit them, and then you wait for six months before you get a response, and it just is really difficult to have a sense of an audience because then it’s another year before it gets published. What a pain.”
While the audience may be different, academia has a place in the blogosphere. Hogue uses her blog to talk about teaching decisions and methods implemented at the College. Occasionally, other educators will ask for her materials or have her explain a classroom activity. In February, she’ll be leading a workshop about blogging as an academic tool for Marietta College faculty and staff as part of the Worthington’s Center’s “Tech Savvy” series.
“I think it’s something that can be used educationally more than it is,” she says.
One way Hogue brings her blog into her classroom is by composing posts that are pertinent to her students. For example, she wrote about the use of the letter ‘u’ instead of the word ‘you’ in formal writing, and she made it required reading for her freshmen writing classes.
“The funny thing is, the students will read it and not pay attention to who wrote it,” she says. “I’ll have 15 people in a class, and only one realizes, hey, that’s Dr. Hogue.”
Readers can check Hogue’s “u” post and others at http://excelsiorbev.blogspot.com/.