KSC Instructional Technology


Jan. 06: Expanding the classroom, virtually

Technology in the classroom is an ongoing experiment for English Professor Lorianne DiSabato. For the past two semesters she’s incorporated a weblog, also known as a blog, into the course work assigned to her students.

A blog is a Web site where a person, or many people, posts text, pictures, video files and audio files for other people to access. Personal blogs can be entertaining, and usually have a very loose format where the person writes about anything he or she wants to. But there are many “bloggers” out there who use the format for educational purposes, or to comment on and topical issues.

Students in DiSabato’s class get to write in both personal and education blogs. Her current class Web site Doctor D’s Domain is a place to write about anything, but with an audience in mind. Students are also required to post comments about the latest class readings using a discussion forum on Blackboard.

She won’t say that having students post to either blog has been a success, but it has helped her to answer an ongoing need.

“How can I become more pervasive in the lives of my students?” DiSabato said she asks herself.

This need first became apparent when she was working as an adjunct faculty for St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH. She had limited office hours and that made it difficult for some students to get in touch with her if they needed to. So DiSabato started using e-mail to keep in touch with students, and she found it worked pretty well. E-mail and the Web were necessary when she taught online courses while working at Southern New Hampshire College. And she uses Blackboard and blogs with her Keene State students to keep them thinking about class even when they’re not in the classroom.

Before DiSabato starts asking her students to use any of the technology she tries it out for awhile on her own. She keeps a personal blog, Hoarded Ordinaries, which is a combination of photos she takes during walks around Keene and text entries that relate to the photos. She had a good idea of how the technology worked by the time she decided to introduce blogging to her students at Keene State.

The blogs she has students use in class serve different purposes. Students are required to post their thoughts on current class readings on the Blackboard forum, and DiSabato will use the comments during class discussions. Having the comments available on Blackboard helps to facilitate class discussion, she said, because it keeps student thoughts from getting lost in the ether.

On Doctor D’s Domain, students in her English 202 class are required to enter blog posts on any topic and use the posts to practice writing with voice. Traditionally, class writing assignments are only given to a professor to read, so students will write as if the professor is the only person they need to communicate with. A blog post can be read by many people, and DiSabato encourages students to start thinking about how to write with more than one reader in mind.

Some classes work better with the online formats than others, and DiSabato said that it is always a challenge to figure out how to translate classroom time into online time. It is a balance where technology augments class time but doesn’t replace it.

She limits her use of technology to things she is comfortable using herself, and recommends that anyone interested in starting to use more technology in the classroom doesn’t take on more than he or she can handle. Be selective about what you use, she said, and view technology as tools that can work for you.

“I see my use of technology as always evolving,” she said.

Blogs might not be part of her class next semester, but they’ve been an interesting experience for DiSabato in how technology can complement the traditional classroom.

Blog definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog
Blogger.com: http://www.blogger.com/start
Hoarded Ordinaries: http://www.hoardedordinaries.com/
Students’ blogs: http://doc-d.blogspot.com/


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