Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blogging for education

Blogging is a powerful tool for any communication and it is certainly not just for journalists. In my view, every class should have at least one blog. If the students can maintain the content, it cuts down on educator's time commitment.

Most blogging sites provide an e-mail interface, where the content for a new post can just be e-mailed to the blog server and it takes care of the actual posting part of the process. So, the time commitment isn't huge to begin with, but if the students can help write the posts, then it does more than just communicate messages.

There are many applications of blogging for education. For example, a blog can be used to:
  • Remind students about upcoming targets
  • Provide brief summaries of course material
  • Solicit feedback from students
  • Provide exam reviews
  • and more...
In the simplest cases the educator himself/herself could use the blog to provide reminders about upcoming exams/assignments or to provide brief overviews on chapters/lessons.

To get more mileage from a blog however, the wheel has to be turned over to the students. Perhaps as part of class participation points, the students could be asked to write on such topics as "How to stay motivated about school", "How to prepare for an exam."

Yet at another level, the students could be given a topic to research and then write a blog post about their findings. In order to cover larger ground of course material, each student should be given a separate topic to tackle. The blog content can then be used for exam reviews.

I have maintained a blog for my class for a couple of years, and I find it to be a valuable resource that allows me to craft the end product without making a big sacrifice of time. In many cases, it is simply a matter of cut-and-paste along with some simple formatting to create a blog post.

Recently, however, I have asked my students to also write blog posts. I see many advantages of involving the students:
  • Students feel a sense of connection with the blog, as it is now their creation.
  • Having students research a topic and then write about it, provides a large collection of review material for upcoming exams.
  • It helps students with their writing skills.
  • I learn more about my students, their goals and strategies.
  • Students also get to know each other a little better
  • ...and the list doesn't stop here...
I'm sure I've missed a few important points from this list, but there is no doubt that this provides an opportunity for students to get involved more than just the basic classwork/homework cycle. I would love to hear about your experiences with Blogging for Education...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Subliminal Teaching with Technology

I don't think I have to spend even a few minutes trying to convince any educator that the use of technology in and out of the classroom provides numerous advantages. There are many success stories that have proven this point many times over, whether it is an elementary school using iPads in the classrooms or a college level course using clickers.

In this blog, I will attempt to elaborate on some of my experiences. Over the last 12 years, I have experimented with and implemented various solutions. Nearly all of these have been software solutions that had no cost associated with them in terms of real dollars. Of course, with some solutions the cost in time investment can be enormous, but by involving students in the implementation of these solutions can help soften the impact.

In the traditional teaching techniques, students' commitment is broken down into three main components:
  • Classwork
  • Homework
  • Assessment

First of all, this view has to be refined. One big advantage with technology is that it allows the educators access to a chunk of students' social time, providing the ability to conduct "subliminal teaching." While a student is socializing online via facebook, a diversion to a class page/group would fit neither classwork, homework, nor assessment, though there is a great opportunity to reinforce a few concepts. Similarly, twitter messages about course material would go under the subliminal teaching category. Technology provides other such opportunities to teach, solicit feedback, and get students involved in the learning process through implicit commitment.

In the future posts I will focus on various software tools and their applications.