Kim Bartling, professor of communication studies and theater at the University of Sioux Falls, posts the blogs of her students in USF’s CST409 Theatre of Social Change:

In Sioux Falls:
In New York:

The course description:

This class will expose students to the critical issues and creative methods that lead to theatre of social change. Through research, writing and empirical exercises, the class will explore the connection between the artist and his/her community.

This J-term course fascinates me. It’s grounded in experience: students get out of the classroom to see and use theater as a means to understand and change the community. They use blogs to simultaneously reflect on their experiences and connect with the world they hope to affect through their learning.

Kim’s project appears to epitomize the sort of methodology Toby and I believe in, an approach to knowledge that values our personal experience yet always directs us outward to connect with the community. Kim’s use of blogs in this course puts her students’ learning in the spotlight, challenging them to analyze and explain their experiences in ways that will be valuable beyond the classroom, in ways that everyone of us can learn from.

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Freshly minted Augie communications major Andrew Brynjulson tells ThePostSD‘s Heather Mangan about his design blog, Brenni Fresh. By conducting interviews with oher deisgners, Brynjulson sees his blog as a way “to collect and distribute a wealth of knowledge that goes beyond what I have to offer” (sounds like social knowledge management to me!).

But Brenni Fresh isn’t just a contribution to society. Brynjulson sees his blog as his résumé:

It is my hope that employers are looking to hire people, not resumes. People are expressive communicators by nature, and blogs are a form of expression…. To put it bluntly, I see my blog as a way to prove to employers that I’m more than a resume, more than the sum of my past employments. It’s a matter of showing people that they are investing in you as a potential industry dynamo versus an industry drone [Andrew Brynjuson, interviewed by Heather Mangan, “Blog of the Week: Blogging for a Job,” ThePostSD.com, 2009.10.14].

As Brynjuson acknowledges, not every employer is plugged in to the online world. Some will remain stuck in tradition and conformity. You’ll still need to know how to distill your talent and experience into a nicely formatted sheet of paper or two.

However, if you’re coming from DSU, you’re probably aiming at tech-savvy employers who will spend more time Googling you than perusing the painstakingly-crafted bullet points on that cream-colored paper you send in (if they take paper apps at all). If you have your Web-wits about you, that could serve you well: your online presence can more richly and dynamically capture your talents and experience than any “fancy piece of paper.”

But catch the flipside: an online presence is a lot more content to manage than a two-page résumé. You can perhaps get by with updating that résumé once or twice a year, just when you go out looking for jobs. Maintaining an authentic online presence is an ongoing project. When your blog is out there, it’s out there all day, every day, for anyone, anywhere, subject to scrutiny and criticism in ways traditional résumés never are. Pieces of paper sit in a file folder in a drawer; your blog lays you bare in public, in context, linked to other documents and people in ways you cannot fully control.

Note also that you can’t target a blog the way you can target a résumé. You can craft each paper résumé to each employer’s unique corporate culture and demands. Your online presence is a big picture of yourself, available to everybody. Hmm… if I’m an employer, that’s one more plus I see for blogs over résumés: more authenticity.

Résumés exist because employers needed some artifact that would introduce them to a candidate for a job. Brynjulson recognizes that the Web can do the job of that piece of paper more effectively. But you have to pay attention: putting your words and images online creates a broader, more complex public persona that you must be ready to answer for at every turn.

When we’re all connected, you can’t control the message. The Internet generation will see through and skewer silly marketing messages.

M.I.T. kens the zen of marketing to some of the Web-savviest customers in the world: the august genius haven incorporates student blogs, complete with open, unedited comments, on its Web site. The result: authentic content and conversation with current and prospective students.

But oh my, don’t you run the risk of someone saying something—gasp!—negative? Don’t you need to screen out those potential naysayers?

“You want people who can communicate and who are going to be involved in different parts of campus life,” [MIT admissions director of communications Fred McOwen] said. “You want them to be positive, but it’s not mandatory.”

And not all posts are positive. Ms. Kim once wrote about how the resident advising system was making it impossible for her to move out of her housing — expressing enough irritation that the housing office requested that the admissions office take her post down. Officials refused,instead having the housing office post a rebuttal of her accusations; eventually, the system was changed [Tamar Lewin, “MIT Taking Student Blogs to Nth Degree,” New York Times, 2009.10.01].

When everyone can talk to everyone, the truth comes out. If you try hiding the truth behind a slogan or an editorial policy, you will come out looking like a dope. Your only option is to simply perform, and let your actions—and your students, your clients, whoever—speak for themselves. And if you’re doing things right, you’ll get the good word:

But most of the blogs are exuberant, lyrical expressions of the joys of M.I.T. life, like last month’s post on returning as a sophomore:

“Something’s changed,” wrote Chris Mills. “Now you know what you’re in for, you know the sleepless nights and frustrations are never far away, but this knowledge can’t seem to remove the exhilarating smile on your face. And it’s in that masochistic moment that you realize who you are. That this is what you’re made for” [Lewin 2009.10.01].

Exuberant, lyrical… when’s the last time your marketing department turned out text that won descriptions like that from the New York Times? M.I.T. gets text like that from students for $10 an hour.

By the way, DSU Admissions is hosting some student blogs. One post by Jordan Frisch suggests “a true DSU student” celebrates homecoming by going “to the bars… to hang out with my friends and tip a few back.” Note drinks and bars, plural.

Perhaps not lyrical, but at least exuberant and authentic….