Blogging and the Paperless Class.

I recently manned (womanned? personed?) a table at our school’s little tech fair; my subject was this post’s title. I am using blogs exclusively in my classes now–I’ve dropped Moodle, wikis or other platforms.  For me the choice was not between blogs and paper– but that’s the choice for many of my colleagues, hence my title.

For me the choice was mainly between blogs and some educational CMS like Moodle or Blackboard.  I stopped using blackboard a few years ago for three reasons.  First, because it’s so integrated with our registration system that students who were on the waitlist or waiting for financial aid to clear would not be able to access any course material.  That was a disaster every term. Second, It’s proprietary software which is very expensive for our school, and I stay away from that whenever I can on principle. Third, It’s proprietary software and can’t be modified at all.

Fourth, (ok, four reasons) and maybe most importantly, apart from their time here in school, when will anyone need to know Blackboard again?  This is the same reason I ultimately abandoned Moodle.

Even the students who plan to someday teach will by that time need to learn entirely new systems or versions.  Blogs, on the other hand, are being used by wider and wider groups of people, to create personal websites, and often by businesses to create websites as well.  I find this development interesting in itself, as an example of technological affordances being exploited.  No longer just about online journaling, blogs are used to create all kinds of websites because they are so easy to update.

Wikis are cool in many ways, but the open source types all seem to have steep learning curves and after trying to use them for a few semesters and finding that even my grad students had a tough time, I decided it wasn’t worth the time it was taking from class.

So, I decided that if students were to get comfortable with any Web 2.0 platform, blogs would most useful, while having a shallow enough learning curve that they would not take up too much time in a one-semester course that is already interrupted by mandatory furlough days.

Tonight I’ll be giving an actual presentation about using blogs to campus faculty; we’ll see how many people show up!

One thought on “Blogging and the Paperless Class.

  1. Claude Filimenti

    Most interesting. You might find the following information interesting and complementary to your blog entry.

    I have just recently started a blog (in the French language,) my first one even though I am a Mac consultant and trainer since 1988. I am a returning student for a Master in French Literatures and Their Media Resonance at Concordia U in Montréal (Québec, Canada.)

    One seminar — Literatures and technologies — is led by Ollivier Dyens. In his seminar, instead of writing a research paper, 70% of our mark is based on our blog on a topic related to postmodern human, and 10% is on the group participation to the blogs of the group, the 20% left is about our class participation. He hopes to generate a new form of social learning and collective productivity.

    So far so good. I got a link to your blog entry from a collegue that was replying to another on the subject of the technological divide between people of different wealth and the usage of computerized tools in and out of the classroom in such context.

    The blog is a wonderful teaching tool, as you mention. It seems to be the easiest and inexpensive alternative to all other methods. Both it’s open and customizable format make it an ideal place to get creative.

    Mr. Dyens has checked with the University’s layers and wordpress satisfy the legal requirements for people creating blogs from a country other than the USA. One of those is that the operators erase all information when a user erases his/her blog, unlike Facebook for instance. Another interesting part is that they do not allow heavy commercial material to be part of the blogger’s pages. They will permit a discrete link to an external page, but not the operation of a full blown company.

    Thanks for your post. Sometimes I’ll come back and check the rest of your blog.

    P.-s. For now until December, our blog should not be commented by readers outside our class not to overburden Mr Dyens. Also while there are some references to works in English, our blogs are in French.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *