Blogs in teaching

I have been thinking about the possible uses of blogs in the teaching of environmental economics.

Until now I have used a selection of good economics blogs to show students how the theory they learn in class can be used to analyze everyday policy questions, as done very well in the Environmental economics blog.

I was skeptical, however, towards including blogging as course assignment. This is usually done by asking students to create their own blog and to post comments on other blogs. I thought such an assignment could be seen as an infringement of students’ rights to privacy. After all, blogs are public (so I thought until yesterday) and it seemed inappropriate to force students to participate with their writing to such a open, public forum.

Yesterday, thank to colleague Jere Majava, I stumbled across the blog platform WordPress . WordPress offers the possibility to fine-tune the degree of privacy of one’s blog by choosing between public blog (the usual case) and a blog accessible only few chosen by the blog’s owner. A per-post password option is also offered for public blogs, making it possible to restrict access to some posts.
Such privacy options make it easier to introduce blogging as part of course assignments, as they leave to the students the choice over the degree of privacy they want to maintain on their writings.

It also makes blogs more flexible to be used as platforms for students’ portfolios. Students can set up their learning portfolios as a blog. They can start posting with fully private blogs, especially if their portfolio is meant to function only as a tool for self-reflection and documentation of study progress. Later, if they see it fit, they can decide to open their blog other students so as to take advantage of peer-assessment, or to teachers, making it easier for them to follow the student progress.

Blogs as platforms for student portfolios have the advantage compared to traditional word-processing programs of being accessible from any computer with a internet connection, of providing a the flexibility regarding the degree of privacy, and of being, at least up until now, available for free.

Check Blogsperiment
a project weblog about online learning in higher education, journalism and blogging“.

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One thought on “Blogs in teaching

  1. Jere Majava

    If you haven’t read this yet, I recommend Jill Walker’s paper{http://jilltxt.net/txt/Weblogs-learninginpublic.pdf} on her personal experience on running a course with weblogs. She argues that although making the student blogs public requires some caution, it is well worth it.

    There are also ways of protecting the students’ privacy even when writing in public, for example by using pseudonyms or only their first name.

    Reply

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