How do you use blogs, wikis, etc., in your postsecondary setting?

We've had at least a few people respond to my last thread who are working in the postsecondary environment and who use blogs, wikis, etc., in their instruction. I thought we could start another thread where those people can give summaries of HOW they use them: what are the GOALS of instruction; what their DESIGN is; what their PURPOSE is; what WORKS and what DOESN'T work, etc.

I love hearing what others are doing. You never know, I might have an opportunity to do it, too!

Mary Bogan

P.S. Let me know if you think I should add more tags to this discussion.

Tags: adultdevelopmentaleducation, blogging, postsecondary, reading, socialnetworking, wikis

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I am still a graduate student. I am graduating in just a few weeks so my experience is very limited. I designed a blogging project for use in an adult developmental reading course. I was fortunate enough to teach it twice in a mentor/friend's class at a local community college. Here are some of the particulars:

GOALS:

Increase ability to identify unfamiliar words in context
Encourage appropriate time management / study planning
Improve metacognition through reflection of reading and study strategy use
DESIGN:

Individual student blogs
3 main foci: vocabulary posts, calendar posts w/embedded online calendar, reflection posts
10 week lesson plan beginning with creating the blog and adding a new element each week. Last six weeks ALL elements are included.

PURPOSE:

Supplement traditional developmental reading instruction
Take advantage of existing digital literacies
Introduce digital literacies to students who have not had access
Engage students in non-traditional reading environment
Allow students to express their "real" selves through design of blog and less formal writing

WHAT WORKS:

The response to the blog from students has been very positive. Some students have expressed frustration with technical aspects, at least initially.

As an instructor, both I and the instructor who let me teach the project in her class, have appreciated seeing a more personal side to our students. When we are disciplined about giving prompt feedback, we have been able to give incremental nudges to our students in the areas of paying attention to the prompt, improving grammar and comp, improving use of context clues, correct usage of new words, more thoughtful reflection.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK:

Sometimes, as we ALL know, the technology fails us. At the college lab, the server sometimes kicks students off. The technology is also a problem when students unintentionally mess with HTML code, etc., and do not what happened or how to fix it.

Students tend to take the path of least resistance when explaining their context clues. "I used logic to know the word" for example, instead of explaining their logic. Lots of work in class for these developmental students is necessary AND prompt feedback. Without the prompt feedback, students get in the habit very quickly of doing it the WRONG way.

For developmental students, it can also be slow going while they get accustomed to blogging. They are hesitant and it is very easy to run around the lab doing things for them instead of talking them through doing it themselves. Once they get past the first few weeks, though, things run much more smoothly.

My host blog for the two semesters I taught the project is at http://read96.blogspot.com.

My friend taught the project, with a lower level class, this semester. Here host blog is http://read56.blogspot.com.
Hi Mary,
I try to incorporate technology into most of the courses I teach. Recently I used blogs with my graduate students as they completed 50 hour field experiences in K-12 classrooms. We have 4 face to face seminars throughout the semester and I do go observe them teach at least one lesson but I instituted blogging to 1. Force reflection during the experience and, 2. Provide a way for me to know what was going on in between our meetings. We used Blogger and they had to blog after every 10 hours in the classroom, responding to specific prompts I provided. I also set up the blog so that they could read each other's posts. The feedback from the students was very positive. They appreciated the forced reflection (in fact many had multiple posts per section) and they also found value in reading other's posts, especially when they saw their peers had similar concerns, fears and experiences. I found that it helped me better tailor our seminars to respond to their needs and that when we did meet, we had better dialogue because I was in the "loop". Only one student struggled with the assignment but this student has struggled with all assignments and needs much differentiation.
This sounds great, Liz. I love blogs for reflection. For my project, the reflection posts have the most impact on me as an instructor, in how I view the students and in what I learn about them... I think I need to tell my professors about this! They are working at putting our M.S. in Reading completely online. This approach for the grad students might work for them, as well.
I use a wiki (pbworks.com) for my course management. I post all handouts, data files, schedules, and other documents on this wiki so students always have access to these documents. We also have shared pages for adding useful links to share with fellow classmates. Another page keeps track of errors or points of difficulty in the text so this helpful information is available for all. I use blogs as a document of student work throughout the semester. sometime the blog entry is to react to an article; sometimes the students discuss what they learned in a module, such as Excel, and how they will use the skills in the future. Also they include small web projects, such as slideshow created in Flickr or Photobucket, to help other class members get to know them. At the beginning of the semester, the students all create a Wordle about themselves and these and posted on their blogs also. In my methods of teaching business subjects, I have a wiki which is growing each year with resources for each of the business subjects which students will teach. Even graduates continue to add to this wiki and use this wiki as a resource. Hope these ideas help.
also for your sanity, you must subscribe to a RSS such as Bloglines. Create folders for each class, and subscribe to each students blog. Then you get updates in one place of new entries. One of the most valuable tools for educators.
Yes, a central place to list the blogs is essential. Right now, I've been able to manage with the list on Blogger, but if I were having multiple classes use the blog, I think Bloglines or Google Reader would be a must.
Hi Mary! I am an undergrad student at Penn State and one of my professors has us working with blogs/wikis/and other technologies to get us connected to the educational world and educate ourselves. We all were required to start blogs about our experiences so far and all the different things we have been learning. You should check out his blog...I think it could help you with some of your questions!! Most of his stuff is geared toward our class and he recently blogged about the wiki project we had to create and his definition of good wiki's. Our project is an ongoing long term project that requires us to answer questions about our field and difficult situations that come up in teaching. He also has some really helpful posts about other networking sites you should check out!!
Thanks, Chelsea! I am always interested in what others are doing, esp. with blogs.
Hi Mary,

I use a single wikispace for all of the education classes that I teach, including a senior methods/student teaching sequence and a freshman Intro to Education course. This (private) wikispace is organized so that each section has its own home page that they get to from the sidebar.

In the freshman class, I use the wiki to support a project-based approach to researching and writing about local school systems while we read about the underlying theoretical issues relating to public education. The students compile their research and write their draft reports in our private wiki, and eventually "publish" them in another public wikispace: http://rischools.wikispaces.com/

I am also interested in how to use wikis to support authentic project-based learning. My collaborator and I used surveys, revision counts, and focus groups to gauge my students' engagement, collaboration, and learning. A summary of some of our early work on this project can be found in a we presented at EDUCAUSE this January, located here:

http://uriwikiresearch.wikispaces.com/EDUCAUSE+ELI+Conference+2010

I look forward to reading how others are using similar approaches.

Jay
Jay, that all sounds really interesting. I have never really done anything with wikis and have wondered how I might best experiment with them. Right now I am teaching critical thinking and developmental reading. I think the wiki approach might have some good use for my CT class.

I am in the midst of grading, lesson planning, and more grading, but I will try to get to your Educause link soon.

Thanks for sharing!
FINALLY got around to checking out the wiki. Great stuff on there. I'd be interested in asking some questions about some of the info. on the presentation slides you have posted. I am really trying to more smoothly integrate my tech use in my reading development classes. It is so tempting to use it because you CAN. I want to make sure I am using it in alignment with best practices.
Hi Mary,

I'm thrilled you found some of our work potentially useful and I'd be glad to answer your questions.

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