Technology Across the Curriculum Program Explores Blogging

Posted: March 17, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Glenda Morgan, director of technology and learning initiatives in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Because of the increasingly important role that blogs play in so many aspects of our lives, it is important that students develop an active, deep and critical understanding of how to blog, how blogs function, and what a blog’s impact is likely to be.

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With these goals in mind, the Technology Across the Curriculum (TAC) program convened a cohort of faculty members who elected to redesign their courses to include the use of blogs as a central feature of the undergraduate course assignments.

Last fall, seven faculty members in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences joined faculty from the College of Health and Human Services in the semester-long technical assistance program. The courses chosen for redesign varied widely, from introductory courses in Spanish to upper-level courses in psychology to an intensive course sequence in New Century College.

The course redesign projects concluded with a half-day workshop for the faculty led by Barbara Ganley of Middlebury College, who has successfully integrated blogging into her English literature and writing courses for the past seven years. Faculty members also learned from the experience of some of those in the blogging cohort, specifically Mills Kelly, History and Art History, and Debra Shutika, English, both of whom have been blogging professionally and in their classes for several years.

The result of the TAC project was that even those faculty members who were new to blogging found the practice to be rewarding and to offer a big payoff in terms of student learning.

Jennifer Leeman, Modern and Classical Languages, used blogging in her upper-level Spanish for Heritage Speakers course. Leeman’s students reported that blogging allowed them to express their opinions (in Spanish) on topics that they found interesting, to continue class discussions outside the classroom, to read the opinions of their classmates and, most important, to write far more frequently than they might otherwise have done.

Given the fact that the class was specifically for native speakers of Spanish who had little or no academic experience in Spanish, gaining experience reading and writing grammatical Spanish was a key part of the student learning experience. The blogging exercise as part of the curriculum was fundamental to making this happen.

Jaime Cooper, Psychology, taught a course on the modern child. Like Leeman, Cooper started the semester with no blogging experience. He took to it quickly and found that it added to the course as a means of providing a forum for students to bring information from outside class — from television, news and magazines — to class discussion.

“Any subject that has real-world implications would benefit from the use of blogging in the class because it helps the learning process continue outside the classroom,” Cooper says. “It was gratifying to see the students’ excitement at finding an interesting and relevant news article to discuss on the blog.”

While most of the faculty participating in the TAC blogging cohort had positive experiences, there were a number of support issues. The TAC program is working with others in the university to address these and establish a greater infrastructure to support instructional use of blogging at Mason in the future.

Other CHSS faculty members in the TAC blogging cohort were Colleen Sweet, Modern and Classical Languages; Robert Bernard, New Century College; and David Beach, English.

This article originally appeared in a slightly different format in the March 12, 2008, CHHS Connection.

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