Yesterday was the first day of class in the new seminar I’ve been preparing for all summer: fifteen first year students on their second day of college. I had the luxury of two co-teachers: Martha Burtis, our Acting Director of Teaching and Learning Technologies and Jerry Slezak, my Instructional Technology Specialist. I spoke for twenty minutes on what I hoped to accomplish in the course, and then turned it over to Martha and Jerry, who proceeded to introduce the students to blogs and the free software at WordPress.com. By the end of the period, each student had their own blog.
The IT staff and I had previously discussed what sort of blogging software we should use. One of the goals of the First Year Seminar program is to introduce students to the life of the mind, a goal which goes beyond any one course; indeed, it goes beyond formal education. Since blogging promotes the reflection which is an integral part of the life of the mind, we wanted to avoid tying blogging to an individual course or even school. (Friends don’t let friends use Bb!) This was a strong reason for using the blogs at WordPress.com. Even if a student drops the seminar today, the blog remains theirs to use as they see fit.
So, how did it go? Among the students, we had one experienced blogger, one who vocally demonstrated anxiety, several with the deer-in-the-headlights look, and several more who seemed very excited. After class, Martha remarked that this class contrasted very favorably with Greg Stull’s group of seniors that Martha introduced to blogging last Spring–four years older, a different cohort, for sure.
For the next week or so, we’ll be “playing” with our new blogs. After that we’ll start blogging for real. At that point, I’ll let you know how to follow along.
Martha and Jerry will be back the next four Tuesdays to introduce the class to a variety of other digital tools which we will be using this semester. I hope they will also attend as they are able on other occasions. That should contribute to the feeling of that this is a different sort of course.
Martha, Jerry, what was your take on the session?