Blogging may be one of the most important Web 2.0 tools for thinking about technology in the classroom. The blog offers a quick and easy way to manage content and publish on the Internet instantaneously, allowing the author a near-immediate audience that reaches beyond the walls of any classroom, perhaps even around the world. In fact, blogging opens up a wide range of possibilities for allowing students and faculty to share intense intellectual conversations across disciplines, campuses, and even countries to an extent heretofore limited to conferences and academic journals. At the University of Mary Washington over the last year, blogging has played a crucial role in DTLT’s mission to rethink the ways technology intersects with the academic mission. Gardner Campbell’s blog Gardner Writes has engaged a virtual community of academics, independent scholars, and instructional technologists to re-examine the role of technology in higher education at the dawn of the 21st century.
Another University of Mary Washington professor who has moved his thoughts about teaching and learning online is Economics professor Steve Greenlaw with his blog Pedablogy: Musings on the Art and Craft of Teaching. Professor Greenlaw uses the blog not only as a space to re-imagine the teaching process, but also as a vital technology in his students’ processes of research, writing and reflection. See, for example, the blogs generated by his students in Economics 300 during the fall of 2005.
More recently, Professor Gregg Stull of the Theatre and Dance Department has introduced the blog to his Theatre 435 seminar (Ideas in Peformance) to great effect. This class integrated many Web 2.0 technologies into its curriculum; the Theatre 435 blogs, in particular, offered the students a new mode for both tracking their class project as well as reflecting on their own thoughts, ideas, anxieties and possibilities within the larger world of theater.
Other bloggers have sprung up among the faculty and students on both campuses.
- Historic Preservation professor John Pearce used student blogs in his Museum Interpretation Class (HISP 435) during the Spring semester to manage the process of creating and installing an exhibit as well as a way for students to communicate with one another easily as their project developed.
- Tim O’Donnell, Associate Professor of Speech in the Department of English, Linguistic, and Speech, created arguendo.com to put his speech students in dialogue with a similar class at Wake Forest University. Such a project opens up the scope of both course and technology, and allows us to think about ways this technology can inform a classroom discussion that is not limited by the traditional boundaries of time and space.
- Teresa Coffman, Assistant Professor of Education at UMW’s College of Graduate and Professional Studies, blogs about education at the aptly named Blogging in Education, where she also encourages her students to consider the uses and benefits of blogging in their own work in K-12 schools throughout the area. Lately, Teresa has begun to include podcasting in her work with students, helping them use this exciting new medium in their teaching and learning.
As you may have realized by now, blogging played a pivotal role in the process of rethinking ways of expanding the scope and definition of “classroom” discussion at the University at Mary Washington–so much so that the 2005-2006 academic year at UMW may very well be remembered as “the year of the blog.”