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 have… 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.