Presentation on Blogging in the Classroom

On Monday, 25 April, I'm scheduled to do a presentation at the Academy of Distinguished Teachers' annual conference on using weblogs in the classroom. I've done presentations before on this topic, but I don't want to do the same talk; I'd like to build on it, taking into consideration the feedback I've gotten on assessment and on posting my experience last fall, and the panels from CCCC, including the blogging SIG and Evaluating Academic Weblogs: Using Empirical Data to Assess Pedagogy and Student Achievement.

Also, there's a lively TechRhet discussion going on about FERPA's implications for the use of weblogs in college courses. Maybe I'll speak to those concerns, or just make some notes on the issue in case someone in the audience asks about it. Any suggestions for what I should cover? This group will have an interest in instructional technology but might not have much background with weblogs, which makes me wonder how I'll approach some of the points raised at CCCC, especially the claim that when teachers are not bloggers themselves and don't actively read or comment on other blogs, their use of weblogs in the classroom will likely be less effective and fulfilling than it would have had the teacher engaged at length with the technology beforehand. It's an argument I'm inclined to agree with, to be honest, but I don't want to intimidate or discourage anyone. I'd appreciate any help.


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Geeky Mom Yes, it's an int

Geeky Mom

Yes, it's an interesting dilemma. I've been doing this kind of presentation all semester, am doing one again tomorrow. Perhaps there's a way you could suggest that if someone is interested in using blogs that they spend some time reading and blogging themselves the semester prior to when they are thinking about incorporating them into a class. I think the community aspect of blogging is probably the hardest for people to grasp unless they've been part of an online community before.

The other thing that I've tended to focus on is audience. I'm an advocate of opening up student blogs to the whole web, but some people are leary of that. Even if the audience is just the class, it's much more than the just the teacher, which is the usual transaction, especially in classes that aren't strictly composition classes. I think that audience is a key reason why some students really enjoy class discussion better than lectures. They want an audience for their ideas. In a way, then, blogging provides yet another opportunity for having their ideas heard by more people--and because it's writing, they can shape those ideas more formally than when they're speaking off the cuff in class.

I've really enjoyed reading your posts on this issue. I am going to be teaching a class about and with blogs. I've been out of the classroom for two years. I did a home-grown blog-like thing the last time I taught and it went pretty well. I'm looking forward to doing it again. I am concerned about the Ferpa stuff. I'll have to go read that TechRhet thread.


Do you have a link to the discussion re: FERPA implications?

I'd be interested in reading, and perhaps contributing, to that discussion. FERPA's really not all that complicated, but administrators who are afraid of the federal law make a much bigger ado than needs to be made (many of them have never really read the law - their understanding of it has been passed down by other administrators who have also not read it) and they pass their fears through regulations to faculty.

At the end of the day, even if a school violates FERPA, the worst that can happen is they lose all their federal funding. It hasn't happened. But yeah, I'd like to see some of this discourse. ;-)

Happy Friday,


Happy Friday indeed! :)

Khalil, I've emailed you with instructions on how to access the FERPA discussion. I'd love to hear your response, either here or on TechRhet.

Laura, right on with this statement: "Even if the audience is just the class, it's much more than the just the teacher, which is the usual transaction, especially in classes that aren't strictly composition classes." But, while I'm very willing to call something a blog that doesn't have links in the posts (many quibble with me here), I'm becoming less willing to support the idea of a password-protected blog that only the class can read (and actually, in my experience talking with teachers and students about using weblogs in the classroom, I find it's teachers who are far more afraid of the public nature of weblogs than students). I guess I need a good argument as to why someone wouldn't just use a password-protected discussion board or friends-only LJ community instead, if the teacher doesn't want anyone outside the class to access the posts. The only arguments I can think of would be aesthetic (most blog templates in MT, Drupal, WordPress, etc. do indeed look better than the crappy WebCT interface) and, if one were making it a point to use an open-source content management system like Drupal, ideological.

On the TechRhet thread, some people are bringing up hypothetical situations (like, closeted gay student might be outed to family through having to post on public class blog, or abusive ex might find student through her postings on a public class blog, and the argument that students need a simulated space in which to try out thinking and writing with a kind of safety net). Those are all plausible situations, of course, but I also see the value in writing for a public audience. Some of the arguments on the TechRhet thread make me wonder if those making them would also object to service learning projects. Anyway, the discussion has influenced my thinking in useful ways; for example, I might have students review some cases in which someone put something out there that got picked up on a lot of sites, like the Ailee Slater article. Sort of cautionary-tale cases.

Closed blogging

Geeky Mom

I'm inclined to agree with you on the audience thing. It's just not as useful if the blog is only for the class. Every time I mention class blogging, though, I always get someone asking if they can protect the blog. I always say, yes, you can but I don't recommend it.

At my blog presentation today, no one really brought that up. They were inclined to keep everything open despite the risks. These were scientists talking about blogging their own research (some worried about being "scooped") and about letting a class blog. In the end, they saw great value in being completely out there.

The cautionary tales are a good idea. I might incorporate some of those as well. By the way, when I get my own blogging class put together, I'll post a wiki address. I'm co-teaching it with my husband, a computer science prof. It's going to be very interesting! :)

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