Classroom Blogging: The Pedagogy and The Technology

David Parry bio photo By David Parry

The Short Explanation:

I am working with Jenn on a project about using blogs in the classroom. (Really this doesn’t capture the idea so just read the long explanation below.)

The Long Explanation:

There has been a lot of talk recently online regarding the patent filing by Blackboard, a patent which could create serious hurdles for those in academia who want to use technology to open education rather than close it off, or profit from it. (If you can’t tell I really don’t like closed/corporate education.) You can read about the contrevorsy over at e-literate, Michael Feldstein has done an excellent job of posting about the issue as well as collecting links to other places to look. Also, if you are interested in using technology in the classroom, particularly blogs I highly recommend readings James Farmer’s blog Incorporated Subversion specifically see his presentation both the audio and slides of which can be downloaded. James lays out the problems with the way technology has been used, and points towards better directions.

And so it turns out that Blackboard has incorporated in its product a module that allows teachers to have students blog for class. This seems like a good idea, as many professors I know would be interested in using blogs in the classroom especially if they were easy to use, presented a low “entry barrier.” But here’s the catch, Blackboard doesn’t let you use blogs. They offer blog “inspired” software, the blog would not be public, students wouldn’t have the flexibility to modify the blogs in the same way, and all of the content will be stored in a propeitary form, which means the students can’t take it with them. This hardly sounds like a blog to me (and they want a patent for this???). Which is just really ridiculous since there are many sites which allow people to set up blogs for free.

Enter Jenn. Jenn is both a colleague and friend of mine who I respect as someone who is commited to teaching, and as the saying goes she has forgotten far more about the pedagogy of rhetoric than I will ever learn. (In other words she knows her stuff.) Jenn wanted to use blogs in her classroom this semester, but was cautious about the technical hurdles that this would require.

The Plan.

Jenn has 60 students spread across 3 classes at Saint Rose college in Albany, New York. Jenn is going to have all of the students blog for class, it is a writing class, and I will leave the explanation at that. Jenn can say more about this and her goals for the class. What I am going to do is help Jen figure out how to get all the students set up, with minimal technical difficulties, and to help Jen figure out how to track all of the students postings.

There are a lot of details here which I will get into in future posts. But as an overview, I will be posting here on Academhack about the technical side. I am going to try outline step by step how this gets done. I will also hopefully create screencasts so that others can reproduce the efforts, borrow or change as they see fit. My goal is to create the tutorials on the level of web browser interface. This means if you are familiar with a web browser, can use Firefox, IE, Safari . . .than you should be able to follow the steps. Like I said, low entry barrier, open source.

Jenn is going to cover the pedagogy end, figure out how this all works into the pedagogy of teaching students to write. And all of this is going to get done in an open access way, no Blackboard. And if I can handle the technical side, hopefully help other professors who want to do the same. After all education should be as open as possible. So, in an invite I will recreate often here, if you are interested and are confused, having problems with any of the steps that get outlined here please feel free to email me. Also if you have ideas/contributions you would like to make, ways to make things easier, experinces to share please send them this way.

So stayed tuned throughout the semester for these posts. They will be filed here under the category blogs, as well as the category “Blog Project” this way people can follow this thread easily. Also you might want to start by checking out Expos-i-story this is the blog for the class, and you might also want to suscribe to or start reading Jenn’s blog as this is where she will discuss the pedagody of her experience.