Hello! So this is my first official post on this blog. Thanks to Clara for inviting me to be a contributor! I’ll try to live up to the high standards she’s set here.
I’m in my second year at Gustavus Adolphus College, and I’m currently teaching a course on Sex and Gender in the Ancient World. I decided to get really ambitious and set up a course website for blogging, collaborative research, and peer review. So far it seems to be going well despite the inevitable hitch in signing students up and the time investment involved in setting up the whole thing. Even after just one week it’s fascinating to observe students communicating in voices and personae that are so different from the ones they use in the classroom.
Something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is how the blog form is all about immediacy–quick posts/responses to news items and the comments that they produce. I find it fascinating that while this immediacy can at times lead to knee-jerk reactions, arguments based on hazy impressions, and rhetorical shorthand that needs nuancing, blogposts often reflect bursts of insight, shrewd observations, and solid assessments of information that are built on many hours of critical thinking on a particular subject. And all of these things can exist within the same post, to be hashed out and revised in the comments section (but again, in brief format). I guess it’s the speed and the brevity that intrigues me since I (and I suspect most people) have difficulty with both. It seems a good skill to have–the ability to express oneself quickly and concisely, whether in speaking or in writing. It’s also nice to have a record of the discussion as it evolves.
I’m convinced that course blogging can be a useful pedagogical tool on a number of different levels: Students get to participate and express themselves in different ways, they can practice writing for different audiences, they’re encouraged to think critically about a topic and respond to it quickly, they become more computer/web literate, and they have some personal experience on which to base thoughts on different modes of communication and the way that information circulates in our society.
That said, it’s been an enormous investment of time. Is it better work or just more work? I think it’s the former, but sometimes I wonder. Is technology a better pedagogical tool or just another tool that’s more time-consuming? Teachers have been stimulating thought and conversation in and out of the classroom for years. It’s clear that technology and information literacy are increasingly necessary in our world, so there is some point to teaching technology for its owk sake. But does that make students better thinkers or just better users of technology? Any thoughts?