Submitted by Stephen Molitor
For my technology assingment, I decided to explore the potential of using blogs as part of a course. Although you could encourage each student to make their own blog as part of a major assignment, I decided to practice building a single blog that the entire class could use. For this assignment, I took advantage of the “rampages” website that VCU has purchase; rampages is essentially a premium version of WordPress, so you have access to some extra bells and whistles. I learned several important lessons when attmpting to construct my practice blog, some of them were positive and some of them… were valuable learning experiences.
I first attempted to simply dive into a blog using all of the default settings. This was an extremely poor choice. I wasn’t happy with the default settings, tried to change my general blog theme, and messed up the format of the blog so much that I start the process over. If you plan on using blogs in your own courses and are not familiar with mechanics of WordPress, I cannot emphasize enough how valuable the introductory tutorials are. They provide you with some great information, like “play with different blog themes before adding any substantial detail to your blog.”
Once I had my theme nailed down, building the structure of the blog was actually pretty quick. I decided to make a practice blog for a history of psychology class because I felt it lent itself pretty easily to a blog format. I built several pages to my blog, treating each one like an individual assignment page where students could supply their own posts. For example, the first page I built was a biography page where students could submit summaries of different psychologists. One nice feature of the rampages setup is that you can allow your students to have varying levels of control over the blog, from simply reading and commenting on posts to submitting their own content. While intially creating your blog takes some finesse and patience, putting together a blog post is pretty straighforward. You could have student’s submit a practice post to make sure they understand the process, but you likely won’t need to devote much instruction time on the ins-and-outs of posting. I would recommend encouraging students to include photos, videos, or external links into their posts. It keeps the blog from simply becoming a wall of words and can connect students to other online resources.
I think there is some great potential for blogs as a component of a psychology course, especially for courses that tend to be a little heavier on surface-level content like introductory courses. Students can build a blog through individual and group assigments, and the amount of information added to the blog can turn it into a great review tool when it comes time for an exam. I also liked the idea that the folks from the ALT lab brought up to make the blog avaialable even after the course is done. It can be a quality resource for students as they complete other courses, and it can be clear and explorable evidence of an instructor’s incorporation of technology into the classroom.
Here’s the link to the practice blog I made: http://rampages.us/molitorsj/