I Enter the WPMU Blogging Fray….

This post is a quick summary of my digital pedagogy plans for this semester.

In one class, I’m repeating the wiki-as-discussion starter experiment from last spring. In this class, the first half of an upper-level course on US Women’s History, the wiki has already been the site of a great discussion of the theory, history, and current implications of the history of women.

In my new First-Year Seminar on the history of the experiences of returning American veterans and my significantly revised Historical Methods class (required for all history majors), I’ve taken advantage of the new WPMU (WordPress Multi-User) installation begun at umwblogs.org. Each class has a course blog (what Barbara Ganley calls the “Motherblog”), and then each student has their own blog, listed in the blogroll. Using RSS, eventually I want to feed their posts into the course blog itself. In both classes students are required to blog at least once a week and post comments on two of their classmates’ blogs a week.

In the First-Year Seminar, the blogging is more structured, as their posts will be twice weekly 1-2 paragraph responses to the primary and secondary source reading. [They’ll have a chance to rewrite two of the best of those posts near the end of the semester for a separate grade.]

In the Historical Methods class, although they sometimes will have specific blogging topics, at other times, I want them to write freely about their research process, to explore their writing, to discuss their own interests in aspects of history, and to respond to the ideas of others.

So far, everyone in the classes has set up their blogs and made one post introducing themselves. Here we go….

What do I hope to accomplish with this use of blogs? Oh, lots and lots….

As I told the students in the Methods course:

This online space will be used in a variety of ways–a research log, an assignment location, a place to discuss your project and the projects of others–but the ultimate goal is to allow you to create a shared space where you can display your work and begin to reflect on your learning, an electronic portfolio of your time in this class, and hopefully in connections to other courses as well.

I don’t want much, do I?

Suggestions for improving this system or encouraging student blogging? Please let me know.

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  1. Did you ever think about having specific blog topics submitted, either by the students or directly by you, to the motherblog relating to particular aspects of your discussion topics? It might force the students to narrow their discussion, as opposed to making sweeping generalizations, which is exactly what most student bloggers tend to do.

  2. In the Methods class, about 1/2 of their blog posts are specifically assigned. In the First-Year Seminar, the assignments are related to their readings, but I try to use my comments to get them to be more precise in their claims and more accurate in the use of evidence.

    I like the notion of specific topics submitted by the students though. I’ll have to think about how to implement that in one or more classes this semester.

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