Mini-series: Great examples of using blogs in teaching

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In this post, Karen Howie, Technology Enhanced Learning Team manager in the Learning, Teaching and Web in Information Services, and co-editor of the Academic blogging mini-series, highlights a selection of teaching blogs currently being used by University of Edinburgh staff and students…

Working on the launch of our new Academic Blogging Service was the first big project I’ve been involved in during my time in Information Services. I was really excited to be involved because it’s a service that I think offers so many benefits, both to the staff and students who use the service and the institution in general.

As part of this new service, my colleague, Robert Chmielewski, and I have been working on a staff training workshop in the area of blogging for teaching and learning. As part of developing this workshop, we’ve discovered there are lots of people already successfully using blogging with their students, and so the workshop will be based on some of these great examples, using them as case studies.

In preparation, we chatted to a variety of our academic colleagues who are already using great blogs with their students to find out a bit about what they do. We talked about practicalities and logistics, as well as about the feedback they’d received from their students. We had some very interesting discussions with colleagues who ran the following courses:

  • Dr Karen Gregory’s PG course on Issues and Concepts of Digital Society, where the students used our platform to write up to six, 300-word reflective posts. We had a brilliant post a couple of weeks ago from one of Karen’s students, Mariana Marcondes, who reflected on how much she enjoyed the blogging aspect of this course.
  • Dr Nina Morris’ 4th year UG course, Space, Place and Sensory Perception, which is partially assessed by reflective blog posts (6 posts, around 500 words each). The course is a great match for blogging and encourages reflection. Nina herself (along with Hazel Christie, from IAD) has researched the use of blogs in teaching and learning as part of a PTAS grant and has recorded a podcast episode for our mini-series (released today). Nina and Hazel are also working on re-usable assessment marking criteria to help staff assess blogs.
  • Clara O’Shea spoke to us about the Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning course, in the MSc in Digital Education, which assesses blogging about blogging! The course staff feel that a more private blog is a good way for students to express ideas and reflect on them (in a safe space), and really helps the course staff and the student to connect.
  • Dr Simon Riley is using it in part of the Student-Led, Individually-Created Courses (SLICCs) project. Students develop their own set of personal and professional skills and attributes, and often use a blog to reflect on their progress. Simon did an excellent presentation as part of our blogging seminar series – and the recording is well worth a listen. The second half of the presentation is also really interesting: Tobias Thejl- Madsen talks about the new Reflective Toolkit developed by the Employability Consultancy (in the Careers Service), which uses blogging as an example of a tool for reflection.

We’ve spoken to many other people (but this post is already getting a bit long, so I’ll stop there!), all with interesting reasons for blogging, which include:

  • The benefits of writing reflectively.
  • Allowing students to use their imagination/creativeness.
  • A blog as a private/safe space for thinking and reflecting.
  • A blog as a public space for thinking and reflecting.

Many of the staff we’ve spoken to admit that blogging with their course is extra work for them but that the extra work is worth it for the benefits, and the genuine excitement about viewing the blogs submitted by their students.

We’ll be announcing dates for our training soon on the MyEd Event Booking Channel. Look out for it!

Karen Howie

Karen Howie is the Technology Enhanced Learning Team manager in the Learning, Teaching & Web (LTW) Directorate in Information Services (IS). She joined IS last August, coming from the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, where she was an IT Manager with a particular interest in learning using technology.

One comment

  1. Delighted our course is mentioned amongst so many other excellent examples of blogging! But just want to clarify my involvement is one small part of a much wider team approach to our course. So it’s Rory Ewins, Phil Sheail, Pete Evans, Sian Bayne, Jen Ross, Jeremy Knox and our outstanding #mscidel #mscde students and other colleagues that make the “Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning” blogs a great way to help students transition to new academic ways of working!

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