In our shop we have WordPress MU installed and available for anyone (in the languages and elsewhere) who would like to use blogs for teaching. I am just now beginning to think of how I will use blogs in my “spring” semester class, and what I want the outcome of that blogging experience (and work, let us not forget the WORK that is involved) to be.
Up until now I have been using the “motherblog” concept, with students having access to that blog but also the responsibility of maintaining their own blogs. Their posts, their tags, and their comments on each others’ blogs bubble up to the “motherblog” front page thanks to a couple of widgets created by my colleague Justin for precisely this purpose. (If you want more info on how they work, let me know…)
Faculty outside of the languages have also come to play and explore. Most notably is the work of one colleague in Ethnomusicology in her “Ethn 210 class: Music and Politics of Identity.” The professor used the motherblog idea as a central spot that pulled in all of the information being created by the class. Instead of students just having a couple of places to post (as was the case in my class) in this class, all of the blogs were organized by task : some were assignment-based; some were dedicated to the countries participating in the Eurovision 2009 Song Contest; some were project-based.
If students chose to keep their work private, they could password protect their posts. Many become accustomed to blogging openly after a few weeks, some never do but blog cautiously, and others simply choose to keep things behind closed doors. So be it. The object of the game is to get experience writing and to write as a way to communicate and to share in and amongst your class… if you choose not to share with the outside world then blogging is not a failure. Writing within a closed circuit blog is still, I believe, many steps above and beyond what usually happens in a linear, vertical, constricting, and media-poor discussion board…
Today I received an email from a writer in Germany who was asking for the name of one of the bloggers from the ETHN 210 class. Why? Well it seems that she wanted to cite the student’s final project in a paper she was writing…and needed a name to attach to the scholarship so she could cite it properly.
This is not something that would have happened it that project were on 8 1/2 X 11 inch paper and slid under the prof’s office door or gathering dust under the lock and key of an LMS.
This is another reason why I like to teach with blogs: blogs allow us to share our students’ brilliance with the world around us, and they, in turn, can enrich the scholarship of others. Yay.