Our Course Blog Will Eat Your Brains

One of our goals in supporting Blogs@Baruch is to generate new models for online and hybrid instruction. We encourage the faculty we work with to confront the challenging question of what’s made pedagogically possible by using an online publishing platform.

The potential answers are vast. They include, but are not limited to, extending the classroom by tying together face-to-face meetings; creating opportunities for the social consideration of course material; imagining a range of audiences; staging larger assignments; inviting and providing a platform for students to easily create and share work that is visual and/or aural in nature; providing a tool for nurturing, reinforcing, and tapping into the sense of community in a course; and, of course, easily sharing course materials with students.

Faculty who are relatively new to teaching with technology usually design course sites that take advantage of one or maybe two of the possibilities above. So, I have to give it up for Mikhail Gershovich and his students, who are absolutely killing it on the course blog for “Topics in Film: Fear, Anxiety, and Paranoia.” I’ve tried not to blog about this course blog because I don’t want to be seen as buttering up the boss. But when students showed up this week for a presentation dressed as zombies and attacked one of their classmates, I simply had to bite the bullet and write about this awesomeness.

They’re using their blog for a variety of purposes:

First, Mikhail uses it to share information with his students so that they can easily access course readings and find their way to a wide range of required and recommended films, compiled from disparate locations.

Second, the students are posting in a rotation to very specific prompts that he spent much time designing, and which mix an emphasis on close readings of text and film, allow students to write to reflect, and encourage students to find visual representations of their ideas.

Third, Mikhail has very much constructed the blog as a kind of social glue, tying students together by encouraging all to get Gravatars (though only some haveā€¦ I’m surprised Dr. G hasn’t docked their grades), to comment regularly, and to write freely.

Fourth, the students will be using the blog to develop and present remixes or re-enactments of short sections of films they’ve engaged this semester, and will write to reflect upon how going inside the productive process impacts their perspectives on both the themes of the course, and the art of film overall.

So, kudos to this group: this is a ton of work they’ve taken on, and they’ve done so openly, creatively, and collaboratively. Mikhail has taken advantage of various support services in the most productive way, from the library’s subscription to the film repository Swank.com, to his Twitter network (where he crowd sourced ideas for films, readings, and discussion), to his awesome educational technologist — me — who he’s consulted on both technology and assignment design. We’re lucky to have their model to build upon.

I encourage you all to check out the site, and to scare the students by leaving some spooky comments.

*note: Jim Groom posted about this course blog simultaneously.

Blogs@Baruch Semester in Review: Part Three, Course Blogging

Blogs@Baruch was used in approximately two dozen courses this semester, in disciplines that included Fine and Performing Arts, English, Sociology/Anthropology, Journalism, Library Information Systems, Communication, History, and Management.

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WPMu continues to provide a flexible platform for our faculty members to structure and explore online communication and composition in their courses. Course blogs this semester have been used to aggregate individual student portfolios in a Do-It-Yourself Publishing course, for students to share and comment upon Shakespeare Scene Studies, to blog about journalism internships (password protected), to write about food and sustainable agriculture, and to show off their multi-media reporting. Students have debated current events on a blog devoted to reading and discussing the New York Times (password protected), blogged about blogging as journalists, and added stories to Writing New York. Some faculty members have been using Blogs@Baruch as their course management system, while others have used it to try to create public writing opportunities for their students.

For a full listing of course blogs, see our “projects” page.

One project in particular embodied the excitement some faculty members and students bring to their work on Blogs@Baruch. Professor Shelly Eversley, in the English Department, had her American Literature students produce pod and vodcasts that analyzed texts they had encountered over the course of the semester. Buoyed by Cogdog’s “The Fifty Tools”, I did an hour in class on free digital story telling tools (including Voice Thread, Yodio, Gabcast, and Podcast People), and also gave some advice on how to construct a story that balanced narrative, analysis, and style. The students produced amazing work, which they collected here in advance of their voting for the initial American Literature Podcast Awards (the ALPs). They ended the semester with an awards ceremony, and have continued to post their thoughts about the class to the blog in the week since.

Here’s two of my favorite videos from the class:

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Prof. Eversley’s project exemplifies the useful energy that multimedia tools can help students invest in their coursework. These projects are not substitutes for the critical engagement with a text or a canon that some might argue can only be attained through writing an essay; rather, they are additional paths towards that engagement. These students were excited about showing off their work, used the city as a laboratory and an archive, helped each other master the technology, and showed deep engagement with their chosen texts. This is good teaching and learning, and we’re happy to support any faculty member who challenges herself and her students to use a variety of tools and literacies in their effort to produce knowledge.

Kudos to all of our intrepid faculty and their students for providing us with yet more examples of innovative pedagogy on Blogs@Baruch. We look forward to Spring 2010, and in particular two film courses that will be taught on the system. Blogfessors, come on down!