Where Are the Humanities Classroom Blogs?

Food for thought:

“…Technological products are rhetorical devices that present demonstrative arguments. They articulate, in both sense of that term, practical meaning that shapes attitudes and encourages future action through interactive engagement with users. Addressing cultural articulations through the demonstrative mode of design practice provides new perspectives on the ideological effect of those articulations, perspectives that are conveyed experientially rather than textually. This mode is one we cannot afford to dismiss in an age in which information and insight increasingly are conveyed in nontextual form. Doing so would mean isolating the humanities from contemporary concerns at a time when insight from the humanities is needed most.”
Strain and VanHoosier-Carey “Eloquent Interfaces: Humanities-based Analysis in the Age of Hypermedia” in Eloquent Images: Word and Image in the Age of New Media

I am flailing about a bit with the end-of the semester mayhem with my students: having two classes propose and then embark on independent projects must be a sign that I am, indeed, nuts. But I have to say, the students are excited by the opportunity to try out something with little intervention on my part.

And once again they surprise me– In my creative writing class, eleven of the eighteen students have opted to do multimedia projects (based on one presentation by two students from last year’s class, who were two of the three who opted for digital stories last year)–I’m wondering about that shift, whether because they could see models from last year they felt pulled in that direction. I will certainly have them discuss their reasons in their final reflective essays.

I’m also feeling a little pressed due to three upcoming conference papers and/or presentations two weekends in a row right when classes end–enthusiatic as I am about them, I’m wondering a little about my sanity right about now.

And then there’s the wee talk I’m giving on campus tomorrow:

I am presenting to interested Middlebury faculty on “Technology and Pedagogy” as a part of the Talking about Teaching Series. It’s a good exercise for me to think about what colleagues who don’t use social software, multimedia authoring, podcasting and even, perhaps, course management tools might want and need to hear about the impacts of fully integrating technology right into the fabric of the humanities classroom course design. I have a reputation, after all, for scaring people with my passion for integrating technology into humanities courses–and I’m going to try to invite them rather than urge them, let’s just say, emphatically 😉

Lately I’ve been immersed in communities of practiced bloggers or attending to my bold student bloggers and haven’t really been thinking about those still finding their way around blogs and wikis, RSS and tagging. And I’m finding it a good thing to have to take stock, to review the relationship between technology integration and pedagogy in the liberal arts classroom, to slow down here a minute. During a swing around my blogosphere route to see what others who hang out in the second-wave blogging classrooms (places where social software, in particular, has been used for several years) are saying about bringing blogs, wikis and folksonomies to their colleagues across the curriculum, I still had some difficulty finding many examples of faculty employing these tools in classrooms outside the composition and media-studies, technology and education departments. I find a smattering here and there, a professor or two in one department or another, a biologist or a mathematician, a historian or a geographer. For all the blogs out there and the rising numbers of primary and secondary school classrooms adopting blogs and other social software, movement continues to be slow slow slow across the campuses of our liberal arts colleges as far as I can see. And I’m not talking about CMTs. I’m talking about blogs, wikis, podcasting, folksonomies–multimedia authoring on the Web for the Web, the kind of work my students have embraced in my creative writing, arts writing and Irish literature first-year classes and a couple of my close colleagues’ classes. I guess I figured that since blog-related tracks and full blogging-in-education conferences not to mention SIGs are sprouting up, I would find far more examples of interesting uses of classroom blogging in the disciplines. I’ll keep searching…

Some things I did turn up:

Mark Phillipson’s inspired use of blogs in his Bowdoin classrooms

The Educause Blogs, the growing ranks.

CultureCat’s blogging of CCCC’s blog-centered sessions illustrates the emerging trend of at least talking about blogs in education.

Thanks to Emerson College’s excellent Blogging resources page, I found a link to the Encyclopedia of Educational Technology edited by Bob Hoffman at San Diego State University.

The April issue of D-Lib Magazine includes two helpful articles on Social Bookmarking Tools

And here, then, are the notes to my little talk in hopes that I entice and encourage my colleagues to use social software and multimedia authoring in their classrooms:


Technology and Pedagogy

“The Web gives us an opportunity to rethink many of our presuppositions about our nature and our world’s nature.” Dave Weinberger, Small Pieces Loosely Joined

The new works do not have a single linear order, corresponding to the pages of the book or the columns of the papyrus roll, and so there is no order to violate…For writers of the new dialogue, the task will be to build, in place of a single argument, a structure of possibilities. The new dialogue will be, as Plato demanded, interactive; it will provide different answers to each reader and may also, in Plato’s words know ‘before whom to be silent.’” Jay David Bolter “The New Dialogue”

By extending and enhancing our educational contexts and by creating altogether new opportunities for learning, integrating technology into our course design we enrich the learning experience for our students and for us as teachers.

Forms of technology considered: Social software and Course Management Systems, Multimedia authoring, Podcasting

Course Content Delivery
Using a course management tool such as Segue or social software such as blogs or wikis:
–Creates a single, organized, updatable locus for the delivery of course content and the retrieval of student work, including outside sources and eReserve;
–Accelerates Inquiry through its efficiency

Community Building as a Means of Intensifying and Diversifying the Learning Experience
Several features of Segue and Blogs lend themselves to establishing an effective learning collaborative from the opening of the semester, creating a community of what Pierre Lévy calls “reciprocal apprenticeships”

–Linking features allow students to connect to one another’s work

–Online response/workshop/editing groups create workshop and modeling opportunities

–Collaborative project workspaces allow for the development of effective processes

–Discussion spaces, both informal and formal, assigned and free-forming, lead to a sense of vibrant community and ever-deepening critical inquiry

–Connectivity creates the continuous course: the class as a group is in constant contact throughout the semester—class never ends

–Digital storytelling as a means of learning about and respecting the community of learners

Opportunities to Introduce, and Model Multiple Modes of Learning and Expression

–The visual quality of the blog allows the professor to teach to the moment, having access to the most recent student work before class instead of after; and having the work from all previous semesters, the current semester, the day available in class to point to examples, both in terms of content and execution

–Professors can teach and thus students can experience writing in a variety of voices (informal to formal), genres (discussion to reflection to journal entry to essay) and forms (traditional analysis to multimedia essays) for a range of audiences (self to peer to teacher to the world) all within the same portfolio space if each student has his/her own space and alongside the work of his/her peers on a Motherblog

–Podcasting students reading their work aloud provides opportunities for self-evaluation of style, structure and argument; podcasting oral presentations develops oral skills as well ass providing the professor with assembling exemplary examples

–Teachers can post models of good writing, or link to examples archived on the blog from previous semesters

–Multimedia authoring integrated within or in addition to more traditional forms of writing teach visual literacy as well as deepening inquiry

Impact on Class Time

–The intensifying of class discussions: rarely is there a warm-up period because students have been engaging with the material and each other online

–The accelerating of inquiry: professors can immediately detect gaps and weaknesses in the students’ grasp of the material and address them in lecture, demonstration and discussion;

–Student-centered, constructivist pedagogy emerges naturally from such a collaborative atmosphere

Opportunities for Service-Learning in a Time-Strapped Course

–Online interactions and connectivity with area organizations can accomplish positive outcomes for the collaboration

RESOURCES:

CTLR’s LINK to Courseblogs and Course Management Tools

A Sampling of BG’s Presentations and Papers on Technology and Pedagogy:
BG’s professional blog
Notes from Educause’s National Leaders Conference, January 2005 with Héctor Vila: Beauty and the Beast: Bringing Blogs into Higher Education
Paper published in BLOGTALKS2: Blogging as a Dynamic Transformative Medium in an American Liberal Arts Classroom

A Sampling of BG’s Courses Using Blogs, Podcasting and Digital Storytelling:
EL170, Introduction to Creative Writing
FYS 2003 Contemporary Ireland through Fiction and Film

WP200: Writing Across the Arts

Web Resources:
Kairos Journal: Rhetoric, Technology, Pedagogy

Karen Hyatt Sibley, University of Pennsylvania: Dissertation on Impacts of Technology on Pedagogy

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4 Responses

  1. the D-lib link is broke! 🙂

  2. Thanks, Joe–It’s fixed…

  3. I’ll be teaching a course on blogging in the fall in a freshman writing course at Bryn Mawr College. I have been thinking a lot about the issue of technology in the liberal arts and have, in fact, started work on a paper about this issue. I have branched out lately and have been focusing on blogging in the sciences and the ways that blogging can help create virtual scientific community, public outreach forums, and perhaps even be embedded in a course. I’ve given two presentations on this issue now and am working out my thoughts on all of this. When asked, “Why the sciences?” I have sometimes responded, “Because the humanities don’t get it yet.” Which may be a little unfair considering the research that’s being done in composition right now. But still, in talking to science faculty, I’ve seen them all have an aha moment. They can see good reasons for these social software technologies. As a humanities person myself, I’m not giving up, but I do find it somewhat frustrating to keep having to explain myself.

  4. Thanks, Laura, for chiming in here–it’s always a relief to know that I’m not swimming in this liberal arts pond alone, the odd duck in a world little interested in the blogging revolution except as something to comment on and read.

    I’m glad that you are having some success bringing blogs to the sciences–I’ll follow your progress on blogging in the humanities! My talk at middlebury this week brought up something that Sarah Lohnes and I have talked about over the past six months or so–how the more I understand how deeply anchored blogging is within the pedagogy, the more difficult I find it is to talk about blogs in the classroom without sounding the constructivist bell in a way that is unsettling to many…

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