Tidbits, Resources, and Discussion for ELI Faculty

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How Would You Use a Blog in Teaching?

Blogs and wikis are all the rage these days in people's talk about using technology in teaching. In my experience, everyone throws these out as suggestions (usually along with podcasting...), but they usually aren't very concrete about HOW one might use them in a course, and what benefits they might have. Can we think together about this a bit? (Folks who participated in Charlie Evans' Digital Humanities Seminar this year--please share what you learned!)

Let's start with blogs. How could you use a blog in an ELI course? Here are some things I can think of:
  • Each student could be required to create and keep a blog in which to record thoughts about course material, current events and other course-related items with analytical commentary, reading responses, etc. Other students could be required to post comments to classmates' blogs. (Devil's advocate: how is this any different from what many of us do in Blackboard, having students post short papers or analyses and having classmates comment on them?)
  • The professor could keep a course blog (or a blog for all her/his courses combined--in other words, something like "Dr. Lerner's Sociology Blog" rather than "Dr. Lerner's Soc 266 Blog"), posting relevant news items, pop culture examples, youtube clips, etc. with short analysis. Students could be encouraged, and/or required or incentivized, to comment on the blog or write guest posts.
  • The professor could set up a class blog (either public, or private so that only the students in the class could see it) in which students take turns posting something, and other students have to comment. This would be like the online equivalent of, in f2f classes, requiring a different student each week to be prepared to start the discussion on a text or other course materials. (Devil's advocate: again, couldn't you do this just as well in a Blackboard discussion forum? What's new here about what blogs have to offer teaching and learning?)

What else could you do with a blog in your teaching? Have you used blogs in your classes (as a teacher or a student)? How did you use them, and how well did it work?


Miriam said...

I use blogs as an icebreaker activity:

Using a website such as Blogger.com, create your own personal blog. Introduce yourself, explain why you are in the X, Y, Z program, and why you are looking forward to this course. Additionally, tell us about your most recent vacation. Feel free to upload pictures and links to other industry specific websites you frequent. Be sure you enable comments to be posted so each member of the class can leave a welcome on your page.

Please post a link to your blog in the discussion area. Each student is responsible for visiting all the blogs and leaving a welcome for each student.

If you already have a blog, please feel free to post the information above.

The students always seem to have fun with this one, and I get lots of positive feedback.

Laura said...

I relate to your "devil's advocate" "what's new here?" comments. The advantage of the Bb discussion board for these kinds of student contributions is that the work is kept within the course site. If there were some reason we wanted our students writing for the general public as a audience, then a Blog makes sense. I have had students keep journals, such as you note in your first idea. But I don't expect students to share such potentially personal thoughts with anyone but me (for grading purposes). Some years ago I did have one student who was already a blogger who asked if she could do her journaling on her blog. That was fine with me (that blog still exists: http://religiousmutterings.blogspot.com/)

I can see the professor keeping a continuing "current events" blog that is general for all students in any class in any semester. And then having students comment on any item they care to - a noted news item that they have read, a museum or other such course related event they may have attended. Such response from students could be extra credit ("incentivized"?) or students might be required to follow-up on at least one of the posted "current events" items. In such a case, where the information is general enough to apply to any course the professor might teach, then a Blog would make more sense than a discussion board limited to a specific course, semester. (hmm, maybe I will consider this)