A RhetNet SnapShot Reply:
Why did Beth Baldwin write this snapshot given what she says about the essay being extinct? Is not this snapshot an instance of "polished prose"? Yes, perhaps it's a merger of "several notes posted to MBU-L," but taking it from that conversational context and repositioning it as a snapshot (which is really like an essay) alters the nature of the text. It has moved from being a dialogic discourse of give-and-take to a monologic text of extended prose in which Beth makes her point. Exactly what she argues against!
Why can't students use conversation in the same way? Why can't they write essays that follow the same pattern as Beth's? Why must we argue one way for our students to write and then our way is different, at least an extension of the student's way. To limit students to "polished conversation" is to limit them. Well-- sometimes solitude is not so bad--sometimes writing as a solitary activity might lead to surprising discoveries. Sometimes we can have discussions with ourselves, and when we do that we are talking with other selves, those within us.
A tendency of electronic pedagogy is to priviledge talk and instant exchange of words: MOOs, email, lists, electronic chats. And there be new genres knocking at our screens. On the other hand, those electronic forms of discourse need not necessarily replace the traditional essay. Instead, they can inform it, even make it possible, just as MBU-L made Beth's essay/snapshot possible. Without the list there would be no snapshot!
I see no reason for not enabling the same process for student writers.