Thank you Calvin Burgamy for filming and editing the CTL presentation about blogs and e-portfolios at Agnes Scott on Friday, March 5. Click here to download the full content. Thanks again to everyone who came and joined in!
In case you don’t have the time to watch the footage, here are the main ideas.
Tammy Ingram: History
She’s using blogs in upper level seminars this semester. She uses her class blog as a news-feed and a place for student discussion leaders to post thoughts for the week. Other students respond for the current week’s discussion. Students are also encouraged to keep individual blogs where they publish reading journal entries and assignments related to their final research proposals. Connections to readings are not required but strongly encouraged.
She lists several benefits of blogging:
- students are able to see their peers’ discussion questions and thoughts before coming to class
- students are taking more responsibility for the content they’re producing because it’s published
- she’s already seeing an improvement in the quality of conversations in the class since using the blog
Question posed: How do we help students comment on one another’s blogs and post more content without making it required?
Nell Ruby: Studio Art
Blogs reinforce lessons she already teaches, including:
- writing helps you figure out what you’re learning
- art is not a God-given talent, but work
- part of being an artist is being vulnerable and public
Each student keeps an individual blog which is linked to the class blog. Students post their process after every class period. She looks for students to make connections between classes inside and outside of studio art.
On the class blog, she is transparent about the assignments (explains why they’re doing this project, why using which media, etc). She also pulls content from student blogs to mimic the public acknowledgment and recognition that’s important in the field of studio art.
She hopes to have upper level class blogs that will become a place for her to develop her writing style for reviews (see the sculpture class blog). A challenge is that blogging is not fluid for her yet; there’s still a learning curve. A surprise is that students who are quiet in class suddenly flourish on their blogs. She has discovered quiet students’ senses of humor.
Benefits of blogging:
- Feedback becomes easier for students to receive
- Blogs are a way to let students shine
- Individual blogs will become portfolios in the advanced stages, leading up to the capstone class for majors that shows students’ work and problem-solving
Julianna Jones, peer educator for the Bible and Liberation
Everyone in the class, including the professor, contributes to one class blog. Julianna uses the blog to post the syllabus, presentation groups, and glossary of terms. Tina (professor) posts comments that students write in class that day. The blog is an extension of discussions in class about controversial issues. Students are required to author 6 posts and comment on 4 others.
Students are encouraged to comment about the reading. So far the comments are going really well—students are avoiding simple comments like “great job” and engaging some disagreement.
Because students are not required to post every week, the biggest challenge is getting students to have enough self-direction to space out their posts. Julianna’s expecting a big rush at the end to complete the posting requirement. Another challenge is that some students are taking the class for their distributional requirement, and aren’t as compelled to engage discussion.
David Lawrence: Communication and Rhetoric, director of the Speaking Center
Why use WordPress?
- So much functionality! Even with many years’ experience in coding, he can’t do a lot of the functions WordPress offers, like adding a search box.
- Others can help you build your site. Kelsey Smith, a student aide in the Speaking Center, has a high skill set in technology and has helped build the Speaking Center site.
- People can comment on your content
- Others can publish to your site without being administrators.
- You can change the look/themes with the click of a button. There are lots of look options which are constantly updated and customizable
- Your site can be used as a blog, a WebSite, and/or an e-portfolio
Q: Are there ways to restrict content on the blogs?
Yes. Comments are moderated, meaning an administrator needs to approve them before they become public. Entire blogs and individual posts can be classified under various privacy settings.
Q: Is there authentication control? Outside of campus?
WordPress blogs can be password protected. You can set who you want to have access.
Q: Can we use WordPress to replace the intranet?
Perhaps. We need to do more research to answer this question.
Q: How do you collect analytical data?
On the Speaking Center site, David can see statistics from his hosting site. WordPress also has statistics.
Q: For those of you using class blogs, are you letting them be open to everyone? Do you have a problem with student privacy issues? Or fair use?
- All the work in the studio art classes is original. Students have the option to make their account private.
- Tammy’s public course blog is separate from individual blogs. Students can choose privacy settings for their own sites. She cautions them to think about copyrighted materials and warns about posting what prospective employers may see. Overall, her philosophy is to let students make their own decisions with a lot of warnings, which are also discussed at the blog orientation sessions Shannon gives.
- It’s almost always fair use to link, rather than copying.
- Using blogs presents a good opportunity to teach about copyrighting on the web.
- There’s an option with blogging to contact the author of material and ask permission to use it.
Q: As we expand this, how can we get the college’s name out there in the best way?
- Tag our photos and links as Agnes Scott College.
- The more we tag, the more our brand becomes expansive, innovative material, that is conceptual rather than visual.
- Add a footer that says Agnes Scott.
Q: How do we encourage students to post?
- Have examples of quality posts
- Count posts for credit
- Give students choices about what they can post about/how many posts/how often
- Ask students’ input by including questions on course evaluations about class blogs
- Avoid making the blog a cumbersome addition to the course
- Use past semester course blogs to inform current semester
- Student motivation to post is connected to interest in the class. Blogging isn’t different from any other type of assignment.
- There is a fear of work being public, but making posts private ends up ultimately reducing one’s motivation to post. Having a personal limit or amount that has to be done per week helps (like one per week).
- Having individual blogs motivates students to post more than just having class blog. However, with more use, class blogs may develop into communal conversation spaces.