Student blogs

As I mentioned earlier, students in LALT 101 are blogging their assignments this semester. While several students opted to shut down their blogs to all but their classmates and me, several others left theirs open to the world. Students aren’t required to use anything other than the standard WordPress template and certainly aren’t expected to blog anything other than LALT 101 homework. But some have gone above and beyond.

First, a basic blog.

Now, some with more personality.

One student was so pleased with his customized blog header–a photo of him wearing his signature shoes–that he came to class early to show me.

A few students have actually blogged on their blogs (imagine!).

One student answers the questions with a bit of extra personality.

And several others have played with different WordPress themes.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the class and lesson plans, and the questions these students are answering, check out the LALT 101 wiki.

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Student blogging

There are real challenges in teaching a required information literacy class to college freshmen, but we keep trying to make our class, LALT 101, more relevant and interesting to our students.

Through last spring, students took weekly quizzes through WebCT. It made for easy (read: automatic) grading for the instructors, and it helped students prep for their midterms and finals. Students could take each quiz multiple times, so ostensibly they learned the topics being covered.

Each class session included group searching activities, so, again, ostensibly the students were learning through doing.

But it didn’t feel like enough. After ten class sessions, we weren’t always confident students could do much more than find their way to Academic Search Complete. Yet we seemed to have an inherent conflict between creating meaningful assignments and limiting instructor grading time. In the past, limiting grading time was given higher priority (and, I should add, not unreasonably given the many other responsibilities of librarians who teach LALT 101).

But somehow last August, just days before the beginning of the new semester, in chaos of our move to AUC’s new campus, I managed to convince my colleagues to give student blogging a try. We re-wrote our syllabus and lesson plans to incorporate blogging assignments into the curriculum, deleted our old quizzes from Blackboard, and dove in.

There were moments last fall when I thought our blog project was going to be an absolute disaster–in large part because I underestimated librarians’ comfort with learning, using, and teaching WordPress–and indeed some instructors were miserable about blogging through much of the already-chaotic semester.

It was looking like we’d abandon blogging and incorporate student assignments into Blackboard discussion groups. But then we asked students to blog answers to a couple of simple questions:

  1. What did you like about blogging through WordPress?
  2. What didn’t you like about blogging through WordPress?

Here are some of the comments we received (with spelling and grammatical errors intact–please remember these are non-native speakers):

Bolgging through wordpress was easy and simple. It was not complicated.

Blogging through wordpress made the whole experience much more interesting for me because it helped me acknowledge the fact that I can get anything I want to get across to a large group of audience.

I really liked WordPress. I don’t think i faced any problems using it.

I did not know that it is so that easy.

Blogging through WordPress gave me a new insight to the idea of blogs and how people generally discuss topics online, which is something far more serious than when I discuss anything on facebook for example, as a hobby.

what i liked about wordpress is that it is something new and i felt that it is more professional. moreover you dont have to worry about whether the professor got it or not you just do your work put it there and they will see it.

This was my first time to make my own blog, actually. I found the entire experience rather interesting in fact. What striked me most about it was the idea that you can use it as your own personal magazine, you can write articles, add pictures and even links to other web pages.

what I like about blogging through WordPress is the idea of applying what we have taken in class on a network that join us as a clas with our instructor. ANd I liked learning how to create a blog for myself

Students were overwhelmingly, if not universally, positive. In particular many instructors were surprised by how much student liked blogging. And this encouraged many instructors to reconsider the value in blogging.

Blogging is a big deal in Egypt. This spring an AUC graduate student blogger was actually jailed following some of his political activities. Other political bloggers have seemingly disappeared. Yet our undergraduates seem to have little exposure to blogs beyond what they’ve been taught about them (“blogs are personal diaries online”).

Blogging their homework–no matter how dull they find the actual assignment–connects them to the web beyond Facebook. And, it seems to help them learn.

I’m a Shover and Maker!

Shovers and Makers 2009: I’m a winner! (So are you.) shoversandmakers.net

I don’t know much about the Library Society of the World, but I like their style and followed the lead of many clever and attractive librarians and declared myself a Shover and Maker.

You should too!