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blogs in teaching and learning

For some time I’ve been working with various kinds of blogs as part of my teaching and learning work. These have ranged from student-led blogs, summatively assessed individual blogs, group blogs, and module summary blogs. This year I’ve focused on two of these: module blogs that act as a hub for students to keep track of their activities and work, be nourished, check in with timetabling etc. I am using self-hosted WordPress blogs for these (e.g. http://skellis.net/ed/dpar/autumn2011 and http://skellis.net/ed/choreography/resourceful2011/).

The University of Roehampton — like many universities — uses Moodle as their online resource system for student communication and module details ((Blackboard)[http://www.blackboard.com/] is the other major player). Although Moodle seems to work just fine, I believe it fails on two levels: 1. ease of use; 2. e-portfolios. There is no comparison between Mahara (Moodle’s e-portfolio software/application) and a blogging platform like Posterous. Not only does Posterous look good, it is easy to use (although not as easy as it used to be before it became Spaces — which has been confusing to my students), handles video content with ease (try embedding anything other than YouTube clips in Mahara), and is brilliant for uploading images (cf Mahara which forces users to resize images manually — something well beyond the technical know-how of most (?) undergraduate and postgraduate students).

I’ve also started to lean towards having group run Posterous sites for small groups within modules (2-3 students). These encourage conversations and experimenting with writing styles, testing ideas and thoughts with peers, responding to class reading, photo-based tasks etc. I’d love to hear from some of my students here about your experiences of working with these blogs …

Perhaps the most critical part of building WordPress (or other) module-based blogs is that they allow for potential students to obtain detailed insight into the nature of particular modules, as well as inviting other members of the (in this case, dance) community to see what kind of work goes on here at Roehampton Dance. This builds a sense of sharing and communication across Universities that is at odds with consumer-capitalist models of tertiary education that promote working in isolation, competition, and a terrible mis-trust of the potential of sharing resources and ideas.

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