Tuesday, September 05, 2006

the technology sweat

In the past I've tended to avoid a lot of technology use in the classroom. I have done some small projects like having students edit and write articles for wikipedia, but wikipedia, of course, is already set-up for us. Today's class, however, involved one hundred minutes of computer use that included downloading, posting blog entries, creating links, subscribing to and reading RSS feeds, etc. (For more complete coverage see Dave's posts on classroom blogging over at academhack).

Teaching something that you're not incredibly certain of and comfortable with is tough. Technology, of course, always runs the risk of not quite doing what you want it to do (or maybe a server goes down something...). Anyway, as I'm working on maintaining this open source model of ENG105, I can't say that BB wouldn't have made life a *little* easier, BUT the added pedagogical benefits of doing it this way are worth it. And, as Dave has reminded me, it's the first run-through. We're still working out the quirks. In terms of the pedagogical benefits for the students, I find that BB simply acts as a mask--it obscures real life writing conditions. Writing, as we might tell our students, does not happen in a vacuum, particularly writing that is done online; however, BB is a vacuum--closed off from the rest of the campus community and the rest of the world. It's kind of like buying vegetables at Price Chopper as opposed to getting them from your backyard...or at least the farmer's market.

Today was mostly successful--except for the fact that PocketFlock doesn't allow the option of importing feeds. I had collected and saved the feed for each student's blog in an OPML file with the hope of passing that file along to each student to import to her/his version of Flock, but anyone using PocketFlock wasn't able to do this. In the second section we had everyone (as the majority in that class are using PocketFlock) manually add the blogs to their Flock news reader. This was quite time consuming, however, and we've now decided to build specific versions of PocketFlock that already contain that appropriate feeds.

More importantly though is the fact that students appeared to be "into it"--truly invested in gathering the feeds for their peers' blogs and launching their first couple of practice posts. I'm looking forward to maintaining this energy and exploring the rhetorical situation that is...blogging!

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