I’m excited to share the first bit of feedback about class e-portfolios in the form of blogs (remember my confused and enthusiastic brainstorming?). Tammy Ingram, Professor of History, has graciously shared her thoughts on our work this semester.
I asked her to consider the following questions:
- Did the blog enhance your teaching? If so, how?
- Did the blog change your teaching? If so, how?
- What were the challenges of using a blog and if/how were they overcome?
- What was the impact the blog had on student writing and participation in class, if any?
- As the course tutor, was I helpful? How could I be more helpful?
- Is it a good idea to have the course tutor help manage the blog?
- What are your thoughts on using WordPress as the host (possibly compared to the Moodle blog function, if you’re familiar with it)?
Her thoughtful response:
Re: the blog . . .I think it’s a great tool and I plan to use it again. Because this was the first time I had ever used a class blog, I think it was far from perfect. But it was a more reliable, more aesthetically pleasing, and simpler medium through which students could share their work and comment on other people’s work. If anything, I didn’t use it enough in class. It has occurred to me that I might like to pull up the blog on the overhead and actually use the work students have posted on the blog to organize our class discussions. That would require a bit of rethinking of assignments for this particular course, but I think I could use it very effectively in my seminars, in which I generally have students submit weekly discussion questions (and answers) to guide the second class meeting every week.
I think it’s difficult to measure how (or whether) the blog had an impact on student writing, but I strongly believe that students edit more carefully if they know their peers are reading their work. In order to emphasize this aspect of the blog’s usefulness in the future, I think I’d like to pick one or two student contributions each week and highlight them. That way they’re rewarded for good work, and students are made more aware of the fact that everyone’s reading their work closely. I could tell some students were reading the blog in class discussions, but there need to be more consequences for not reading it regularly. I will have to work on this, but it’s part of the larger goal of better integrating the blog into the class. I intend to use WordPress blogs in place of Moodle next semester in both of my seminars, and I’m thinking about how to tie assignments and grades more closely to the work students submit (and respond to) on the blog.
You did a great job of setting up the blog and organizing it, and I think it was critical to the course. Given the demands on my time this semester, I don’t think I could have used the blog at all without your help setting it up and refining it throughout the semester. Because course tutors are so rare, it’s certainly important that professors themselves learn how to manage the blogs, but the FYS courses are great ways of introducing students and professors to blogs. I’d encourage tutors to volunteer to run the blogs themselves if professors don’t want to participate, and perhaps if they’re done well more professors will try to incorporate them into their classes in the future. As far as what tutors should contribute, however, I think it’s critical to take the time before the semester begins to figure out how to organize assignments on the blog. We obviously didn’t do that, because this was new to us both, but it would have gotten students off to a better start using the blog. It seemed too experimental the way we approached it, and I think that influenced the rather casual attitude many students had towards using it. I also think having tutors provide consistent feedback to students’ writing is very helpful. Because you met with more of them in your office hours than I did, you knew their work more intimately in many ways and could comment more accurately on what they were doing well or what they had made significant improvements on. However, I think it’s important that the tutor’s role be clearly defined (she comments on 5-7 posts a week; checks the blog a couple of times a week to make sure posts are organized properly and fixes them if they’re not, etc) or this could turn into a huge workload. The students are really the ones who should be managing the blog, not tutors or instructors. I see us as administrators.
I agree that the blog should be incorporated more into class assignments. If the blog is used in this way, it will not only demonstrate learning, but enhance it. I also like the idea of using the blog to reward students for strong work… I certainly would have been motivated by this as a student! I also love that we’re beginning discussions about ways tutors may use blogs. The writing center has been so booked this semester that now may be the time to consider how blogs can help both tutors and students, especially in first-year seminars and ENG 110.
Tammy and I are chatting next week about how she may use blogs in two seminars next semester. Yay for the journey continuing!