January 14, 2008
Blogs as teaching tools : CALI/Berkman lunch wrapup
Thank you to all the bloggers who came to lunch and to our "Open Source Booth" at AALS -- this is a belated attempt to scribble down what little I remember from our lunch about how blogging can advance law professors' roles as educators. (The luncheon was titled, "Beyond Scholarship," and was intended as a followup to Berkman's Bloggership Symposium of 2006.) More after the jump...
Blog as discussion forums
There was considerable interest in using blogs as, essentially, a re-working of the discussion boards of the earlier Web. There seems to be something about blogs that perhaps feels less intimidating and more intimate and personal about blogs. Further, blogs' strong anchorage around time maps well onto classes that run on a syllabus.
The flip side of this is that most people understand blogs to be public, although they need not be, and when they are, students who post under an identifiable name could risk repercussions in the "real world" (especially later employment or, inevitably, that Senate confirmation hearing). This is a concern being echoed all over the Web over the Millenial Generation's laxer attitudes about privacy, but in the classroom it's easily solved by making the blog private to the class. More than one professor suggested, however, that keeping the blog public can help students begin to shape their future public identities as lawyers by turning the experience into a teachable moment.
There was some conversation about participation and whether blogs encourage a different set of participants than the typical classroom 'gunner.' I suggest it may be time to update my very limited research in this area. One thing I would like emphasize in this regard is that having students discuss a topic as an assignment is a very different thing than opening a general forum for discussion, and that for the former instance we're still awaiting an easy-to-use version of Berkman's H2O Rotisserie to manage structured conversations. For whatever reason, online dialogue technology has not otherwise progressed since the mid-1990s.
Blogs as raw course materials
This conversation was mostly instigated by myself in putting forth the question, how can we take all the work we're doing on our various blogs as scholars and turn them around for use in the classroom? I'm particularly keen to answer this question in the context of eLangdell, which will allow law professors to remix teaching materials -- and presumably the most important of these will be up-to-the-minute updates that we're posting on our blogs. But are blog posts usable as educational content?
I'm sure I'm missing quite a lot as there was considerable conversation going on all over the table. I would love if anyone who was there -- or anyone with any related ideas -- would post them in the comments. (I would also love speculation as to why we ended up with only one woman at the table... it can't just be that we were competing with Justice O'Connor... I hope it wasn't my own bias!).
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