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Monday, August 11, 2008

Getting ready for the fall

One of my reasons for starting this blog was to get some experience with blogging before the fall, when I will be having some of my students blog. Originally, I had been thinking of incorporating blogs into my 500-seater but I have decided to hold off on that until I've seen how it works in a smaller class first (students in the big class will contribute to discussion boards on Blackboard instead, which will allow me to track their posts and comments more easily than just free-for-all blogs). However, my upper-division Economics for Teachers class, which will hopefully be no more than 40 students, will be required to set up blogs. I will also encourage them to read and comment on this blog - I am not sure whether their presence will affect what I choose to write but that will be an experiment too. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting a few entries specifically for my students so to everyone else, please bear with me (or maybe they'll be helpful to you too!).

I'd certainly love to hear from anyone who has used blogs in their courses. I'm still trying to decide how much guidance to give students. For example, should I tell them they must set up their blogs on one site (like Blogger or Edublogs), or give them several options and let them decide? The former is a lot less work for me, the latter gives them more freedom to express themselves as they wish. If I encourage them to all use one site, which one? I'm more familiar with Blogger (and could therefore give them more help if technical issues arise) but again, other sites give them more options for personalizing their blogs easily. And of course, how do I assess their blogs? This first semester is certainly going to involve a whole lot of learning by trial and error...


  1. I've not yet asked my students to create or use blogs. This is in part due to my own status as amateur blogger but also because I'm not yet convinced that this tool is the best for accomplishing my language course goals. [I am going to implement VoiceThread in Intermediate Spanish this fall with assignments focused on speaking skills.]

    Having said this, reflective writing is a big part of the gen. ed. course I teach with first-year students. We do lots of informal writing for which a blog might be a useful tool, but I'm still not convinced that it's better than, say, sharing comments via forum posts in Moodle or even creating a Google doc and sharing it with me or the class for feedback/comments. Both Moodle and Google Apps are prevalent on my campus, and students are mostly familiar with them.

    I have a hard enough time getting students motivated to post to a forum, so I'm very apprehensive about asking them to set up and maintain their own blogs. I suppose it would require laying out clear goals, providing detailed instructions and creating specific post assignments, followed by assessment with a rubric that reflects the goals for this kind of writing.

  2. Whether your students use one or several blog hosts, Bloglines (or a similar tool) is a super easy way to track updates.

    Good luck!

  3. @dispersemos: I definitely think blogs are more useful for some classes than others and I share your apprehension about how motivated they will be. I plan to give them weekly topics - I'm curious to see whether students do the bare minimum or if they will actually embrace this. Since this class is for future teachers, I certainly hope they will have a natural interest but we'll see!
    @Robin: thanks, you read my mind! I'm working on a post about RSS that I'll probably put up the first week of class and was going to suggest students start with Bloglines or Google Reader. Seems like those are the easiest for folks brand new to the idea of feeds.


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