Professors can be people of very strong opinions. We spent years in graduate school honing our analytical abilities and then sharing our critiques, and we bring this into our professional practices. That’s why it’s no surprise that many professors have taken up blogging as an extension of their roles in the classroom and academic community.
However, not all professors’ blogs are equal. A student who wants to learn from a professor’s blog must be cautious and evaluate its usefulness. Many professor blogs focus on professional issues for professors themselves, including job search tips, etc.-none of which will help students with their academic work. Also, some professors use blogs to vent their frustrations with academic politics or grouse about students and colleagues. In fact, at conferences, in scholarship, and in departmental exchanges professors sometimes express their opinions vociferously and contentiously.
In some departments, intellectual quarrels have endured to the point of legend, with everyone in the department pressured to take sides. I’m currently reading Faculty Incivility: The Rise of the Academic Bully Culture and What to Do about It by Darla J. Twale and Barbara M. De Luca, which deals with this problem. Blogs often become similar battlegrounds, and that’s not especially useful for students.
That’s why I’ve collected this list of ten of the most useful professor blogs for students who want to learn outside the classroom, get the inside scoop on how instructors think, or learn from another expert in the field. These blogs are entertaining, informative, and in some cases contain crucial tips and knowledge from which every student can benefit:
- Amardeep Singh is a professor at Lehigh University who blogs about literature often in a more personal way that many literary critics. While he covers many different works that are assigned in literature courses, addressing important writers such as Katharine Mansfield, Philip Roth, and Joyce Carol Oates, his blog is particularly useful when it comes to understanding international writers, especially those from India. His Introduction to Edward Said, Orientalism, and Post-Colonial Studies is a popular reading assignment given by other professors.
- Robert Salomon blogs about current issues in business when he’s not teaching his students at New York University. He covers a real variety of topics that are covered in business courses, including bankruptcy, international financial strategies, and many others. You can find a lot of information here that will show you how what you learn in your courses is relevant to real-world situation.
- Nerdy Science Blog is a compendium of all kinds of useful science information from many different contributors, emphasizing current news and the ways that college students can use what they learn. For example, recent topics include “Should the Meningitis Vaccine be Mandatory for All College Students?” and “Skype Your Way to College Lectures.”
- CampusTalkBlog is a site I’ve contributed to in the past, and it’s a great resource for all kinds of study tips, college student health and well-being advice, and ways to develop student leadership. This blog unique in that it’s written by many different professors and learning experts, so there is a variety of approaches and ideas for you to draw upon.
- The Chatty Professor is Ellen Bremen, who teaches Communication Studies at Highline Community College outside Seattle. Her posts focus on helping students learn and communicate better, and include incredibly useful explanations of common communication errors and how to fix them. She’s just moved to a new website so be sure to check it out!
- Dr. Wes by Westby G. Fisher, MD, FACC provides the kind of information that medical students will want to read to stay-up-to-date. A practicing cardiologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago’s medical school, Fisher’s posts are not always focused entirely on medicine, but are worth sorting through to find such practical topics as “The Other Cause of Cardiac Arrest” and “Lessons from EKG Class.”
- The Chutry Experiment focuses on the ways in which new forms of media affect popular culture, especially film. Written by Assistant Professor Chuck Tryon at Fayetteville State University, this blog includes such gems as Tryon’s analysis of Clint Eastwood’s “bizarre, ad-libbed campaign performance art at the Republican National Convention” to the larger Internet meme culture: “I’ve been fascinated by political memes for a long time, in part because they invite citizen participation, but also because they allow untapped political meanings to gain expression, often through coded language associated with popular culture.”
- Information Aesthetics is an intriguing blog by Andrew Vande Moere, associate professor at K.U. Leuven University in Belgium. As Moere explains, his blog “explores the symbiotic relationship between creative design and the field of information visualization. More specifically, it collects projects that represent data or information in original or intriguing ways.” Students interested in art, advertising, and many other fields can plumb the depths of visual analysis by examining how different people and groups are using new visualization tools, such as online infographics, to share knowledge.
- Confessions of an Aca-fan is the weblog of University of Southern California professor Henry Jenkins, whose expertise in new media and media spectatorship led to his expert testimony at congressional hearings on violence in media targeted at youth. But his broad-ranging interests mean that students interested in popular culture, especially science fiction can find such entertaining and informative posts as his interview with Will Brooker, aka “Dr. Batman.” Professor Jenkins makes his blog an example of how to apply critical analysis to everyday culture. You can learn a lot not only about the world around you, but also how to think critically about it.
- Informed Comment: When Juan Cole isn’t teaching at the University of Michigan or making a guest appearance on such media outlets as PBS’s Lehrer News Hour, the Colbert Report, and Nightline, he writes this valuable blog offering pointed analysis of the relationship between the Middle East and western nations, including commentary on culture clashes, news briefs, and interesting explanations of the ways that religion and history shape current events. His views are often controversial, which makes this blog all the more provocative. Contrary to expectations about someone with such impressive credentials, Professor Cole writes in a breezy, casual way that will not intimidate readers.
Do you know of any other useful and interesting professor blogs? Share them
here. [Bonus points if you suggest The Open Academic!]