Faculty Blogging @ PSU

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I'm a big fan of Chris Long's work in the College of Liberal Arts, both in his passion for undergraduate education and his willingness to try new approaches in his teaching.  A couple years back he started using blogs in his philosophy course.  After several different types of approaches (each student has a blog vs. a single course blog, etc), I think he's really found the right approach that works for both him and his students. 

One thing I'm asked about a great deal when talking about technology integration, whether for resident or online courses, is the ability to create a sense of community within a course.  In the video below, Chris talks specifically about how the blog connects his students and instills a sense of community in ways he did not foresee when first experimenting with blogging.




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This is a great little snippet--just long enough to pull you in and get you excited about the project and the ideas. Among many things that jumped out at me was Chris' comment about not using blogs to teach the way we've always taught (empty vessel, blank slate, sage-on-the-stage, presentation model).

For many faculty, one of the greatest challenges to moving toward engaged teaching and learning is acknowledging that students can learn even when all aspects of a course are not under faculty control.

The student that blogged from a late train about lateness and responsibility is a perfect example of letting go. Chris had to be willing to let the student set a new direction. Chris clearly still 'controls' the course in many ways, but he doesn't hold the reins too tight.

One thing that allows flexibility is having clear learning expectations for students. At the very least, clear expectations permits the faculty member to determine whether it is important for the students to think critically about a particular topic or whether thinking critically about any topic within the scope of the course will suffice.

One of the suggestions that we make for faculty new to engaged and active T&L is to take small steps. For example, we sometimes suggest analyzing lecture plans/notes for just one area where students could provide the information instead of the professor. 'Baby steps' can lead to regular opportunities for students to engage or contribute, and maybe later, to course redesign.

Only after many iterations might a faculty member end up where Prof. Long is now. No doubt he tried a variety of strategies before arriving at this approach.

Hurrah!

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