MSCTC Class Blogs Saturday, Feb 23 2008 

MSCTC has unveiled its redesigned website. One new feature is the link to classes that are using blogs as assignments. My students’ contributions to the team blogs are now more visible to all sorts of visitors to the college website!

Feel free to leave comments on their posts. 🙂

Project Ideas for blogs or wikis Friday, Feb 22 2008 

I have saved this list all semester in a draft! It hasn’t changed too much, but here is what I am currently thinking about using as my project for the Weblogs and Wikis class:

  • Thrift store finds:
  • I love finding goodies at thrift stores. There are at least half a dozen in North Fargo and Moorhead alone. Concerns: my budget. my time. a place to put it all. Benefits: this would be fun. There are hundreds of crafty type sites and this is sort of a related niche–junk store finds. I just googled “thrift store blogs” and found this entry. Both the blog and the “research” (heehee) would be a great stress reliever and force me to make time for what I enjoy. What a hoot this would be. In fact, I can start with things I bought in the past (or is that cheating)?
  • Mommy blog
  • Drawbacks: market is saturated with mommy blogs.  I’m lucky if I get to see McK for 5 hours a day during the week. I’m a little schizophrenic about certain aspects of my home and school life and she is one.  When I’m at school, I’m focused on work and my students. From the time I get home until the time she falls asleep, I focus on my daughter. Besides the logistical nightmare of working while a toddler is running around, I sort of like our quality time to be separate from school work of any kind. She can see that she has my attention during those times. I’m also not a great photographer and a blog filled with grainy, out of focus pictures of a toddler easting and sleeping and playing just doesn’t seem to shout “hey read me!” I think, too, that I want my blog or wiki to reflect my professional interests more. Benefits: Two birds-one stone theory. Play with daughter and do homework. That just doesn’t seem compelling enough.
  • The role of literature in composition courses
  • Benefits: since this has been a recent department concern, the research and keeping track of it seems like a logical idea. I am passionate about literature. I think there is a lot of material out there that could be collected into a wiki space. Drawbacks: Somehow this doesn’t excite me as much as thrift stores or the ideas below. I just sense that after a week or two of posting and researching, I’d tire of merely collecting resources that may or may not be useful to anyone but myself.
  • travel literature wiki
  • I am going to be teaching a special topics course in the fall called Travel Lit. Currently, my colleagues have taught Horror and Supernatural Lit last spring and Banned Lit this spring. Drawbacks:  Is this reading that I have time for right now? No. Will I soon? probably. Without the 3x week meetings online and my hybrid course that finishes up in April, I’d definitely be able to re-purpose those time slots for this project. Benefits: I could use a wiki space as a notebook to develop an outline, a syllabus, a reading list, possible class assignments and projects, and to record my own reactions to works I am reading and considering. I have already read a handful of books, so until I have time to read more, I can start writing about what has been considered. Also the wiki could grow as the class starts–students can contribute, etc. Major concern: if I do all this work and the class doesn’t fill–we’ve never run the course in the fall and these are relatively new, unheard of classes. If it is cancelled and I have crunched all this into spring instead of over the summer, will it be a waste of time?
  • Student wiki  (for novel material and student-created content)
  • I think this one has the most practical application so I started it already–will that count against me?
  • When I first heard of wikis, I signed up with pbwiki and then did nothing with it. I recently set up cw1102.pbwiki.com to create an experimental place for my 1102 classes. Two sections (on campus) had the choice of reading Tess of the d’Urbervilles, which I have used for a couple of years now, or The Kite Runner, which I chose for its modern relevance and the lack of current online material (minus info about the movie, of course). I wanted my students to create their own cliffnotes, so to speak. Future classes will be able to use it. Blog stats indicate that others are looking for Kite Runner essay material 🙂 So far, I students have been in groups discussing the elements of the novels. I also ask some specific questions for them to consider. Then I decided to post this to pbwiki. Since I didn’t ask them to type their first set of work, I am slowly adding the content.  However, for the second group assignment, they are typing which will make it easier for me to post. I hope to soon have students post to the wiki itself but I need to arrange for us to meet in a computer lab and prepare some basic (really basic) instructions on how to log in, edit and save, as well as some ground rules. The will also do a creative, fun group project and can use the wiki space for planning.The benefits are obvious. The drawbacks: I’m not certain this will fit the project for the class. It’s collaborative, but I am merely providing the structure, some resource material and my students are creating the rest of the content. Even if they create it and I end up posting it, it’s still not my writing.

So. Any suggestions? Reactions? If you read any one of these ideas and just say to yourself, “Oh! Hell no!” let me know.

A Dark Blogging Place Friday, Feb 22 2008 

yoga.jpg

Most days I would much rather post to a blog, read other blogs, or work on my new wiki than watch TV, grade papers, or do housework of any kind. I don’t really understand the concept of not finding a topic of some sort to turn into a blog post. Have you ever read Bill Bryson‘s I’m a Stranger Here Myself? He is a master at finding the everyday topic and turning into into short humorous revelations.

Once in awhile, in mid-post, if I get a little uncertain about my topic as I start writing, or if the writing takes me in an exploratory direction about something that interests me, I search to see what others are saying about the same topic. If I find someone who has written about it a lot better or more extensively, I am content that I’ve read about that topic and may even delete my whole post in favor of a new topic.  Sometimes I’ll still publish my idea and link to the others that I found. 

This week, however, I am feeling a little run-down, a little behind. I just can’t summon the attention span to pull my ideas together in a meaningful way. I feel like a fraud participating in the BarnRaising wiki assignment. People are raising a barn and I am still looking at the blueprints. I read a lot of the pages there and think that there are already great ideas in place. I struggled to think of a single worthwhile contribution to add to the existing discussion.  

Perhaps my intentions during Yoga tomorrow will be to reconnect to the WikiWay. ooooOOOOOOHHHHMMMMM.

New Wiki Experiment Wednesday, Feb 20 2008 

I’ve started adding student-created content to a wiki at pbwiki

My on campus 1102 students (2 sections) are reading The Kite Runner, which I chose because there is not an abundance of online material they can reference. Instead, they will collaborate to create the content that they might normally look for online.

Some plans/concerns:

  • I can collect the student’s content (study guides, quiz questions, blog posts, etc) and post them.
  • If I set this up in pbwiki, they can edit and revise (I can give them all a password to enter the wiki).
  • I’m not sure they will edit, but it’s not a requirement of the course (yet). Next time they do group work, however, I can have them log in and type their answer in the wiki (or copy and paste from a Word document).
  • “minutes” of group discussions can also be posted to the wiki to indicate progress even if the content isn’t finalized in class.
  • Students can learn from other groups. Even if topics are the same, content or focus may differ. Depth of answers definitely will.
  • This will benefit students who miss class–will it encourage missing though?

Right now, I am slowly adding the information students created in their groups two weeks ago because it did not occur to me before this to use a wiki for this type of project. Now that I’m learning more about wikis in the weblogs and wikis course though, I have high hopes for this collaborative tool. I have no idea how this will turn out this semester or to what extent I will use it in my class, but as I am just learning how to use wikis myself, this is really just an experiment. It’s also important to show the students that I am still learning too. Next fall, though, I should have a much better picture of how to implement and facilitate this project.

Geo-caching article Wednesday, Feb 20 2008 

I would love to explore the realm of geo-caching as a personal hobby. First, I would have to buy and figure out a GPS unit, but I think I could do it.

This would also be a fascinating classroom tool, as a recent e-School News articlementions. A colleague and I recently discussed a classroom project he is working on which uses GPS (which I will not discuss here as I do not want to distribute his project or ideas without his consent). Several questions came to my mind though as I read the article: How does one make this work as an assignment in an environment when students don’t have time to read a chapter or money for gas? How do you get them to invest the time? Do you have to put “field trip required” in the class schedule? Are there liability issues to consider? I must ask my colleague more about this!

Think how cool it would be, though, to arrange a whole geo-caching overseas trip. OK, it would be a TON of work, but what a payoff it could have for the students.

Searching for Top Blogs Sunday, Feb 17 2008 

A new article at Read, Write, Web explores six different ways one can find top blogs. It gives the pros and cons of  various search tools including Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, and Technorati.

Flickr Fun Saturday, Feb 16 2008 

I’ve uploaded more photos to flickr, but cannot link them in my new wiki. Does anyone have any tips for sharing flickr photos?

A Minnesota Blogger Saturday, Feb 16 2008 

The Blackboard Jungle, by another Minnesota blogger, had neat pictures illustrating “then and now” concepts. For example, she posts an old picture of a church and then a picture of that same church in 2007. While we see it everyday, it’s fun to see the pictures of the Headwaters and good old Paul and Babe contrasted this way.

Two Documentaries on Blogging Saturday, Feb 16 2008 

Take a break from your computer screens and watch some documentaries! Blog Wars, broadcast on the Sundance channel this fall, is about how blogs shape elections. Band of Bloggers, televised last fall on the History Channel, is about US soldiers who blog. I thought the soldier blogs and their stories ranged from scary or heartbreaking to humorous. All were fascinating.

Practice Sharing from YouTube Wednesday, Feb 13 2008 

Random Video

Our house from a toddler’s perspective. Take your Dramamine.

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