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Windows on Teaching: Teaching with Blogs

This was a Windows on Teaching session delivered by Peter Kirwan and Dilip Mutum on Wednesday 15th June 2011.

See a full video recording of the session and discussion HERE.

Examples of blog usage (links from the session)

There are many ways to utilise blogs, and this page contains links to a few examples of different kinds of blog posts which you may be able to adapt for use in your own teaching, from the basic to the more interesting.

Some other examples of good and varied usage include:

The following examples are all taken from my teaching blog, which was designed for two groups of students taking the first year undergraduate module Medieval to Renaissance English Literature.

1. Reproduction of Handouts

As a means of saving paper and ensuring students always have seminar information to hand, handouts can be reproduced in the form of blog posts. This post contains the text and images used during a seminar on Chaucer's The Knight's Tale.

2. Assignments

This is a very typical and unremarkable use of blogging, but still important. Details of preparation for the next week are available as blog posts, and students are instructed early in the year that they will always be able to check here if they are unsure of what preparation is expected. It has the advantage of forestalling complaints that assignments were not communicated properly.

3. Seminar Reflections

After seminars, the blog can be used to post reflections on seminar work and classroom assignments. These can be discursive - the tutor discussing important things generated in discussion - or more simply recap topics covered. This post archives creative work produced by students as preparation for work on The Faerie Queene, where students created "thematic map" posters of the poem in order to begin discussion of the poem's allegory, imagery and narrative.

4. Course Info and Admin

Particularly at the start and end of the course, the blog provides a useful forum for the provision of clear, unambiguous information - e.g. if seminars are cancelled or for communicating changes to exam formats. Again, by establishing the blog an as authoritative source for course information, students would always know to look here first.

5. Optional Extras for Personal Research

A favourite strand of the blog with students featured discussion of materials related to the course that offered "added value". This post was my review of a film version of The Canterbury Tales, which I recommended as extra viewing for those who were interested. Not all students will use all materials, but the students who did watch this film were able to introduce it later into seminar discussion.

6. Notice of Events and Related Interest

This is related to the "optional extras" strand. The blog can be used to alert students to events, talks or performances that could aid them in their primary work. This post flagged up a production of The Canterbury Tales that was touring the UK while we were reading that poem, and a later post reminded them of tour dates.

A related post flagged up an event in London on The Faerie Queene. Again, students were told that they must read the blog, but that these kinds of events were not required or necessary. The blog gave them an accessible starting point to begin their own researches.

7. Musings

The blog is not just for students, but is useful for maintaining the tutor's own research interests in the course. This post took its basis in the week's session on Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis, and features me discussing a puppet version I had seen some years earlier, reflecting on the production's significance for reading the poem. This wasn't useful to direct teaching, as I lacked any documentary material about the production, but the blog context allowed me to offer it as an aside.

8. Support/Welfare Posts

Finally, at a basic level, the blog can act as a personal communication between tutor and class. Particularly during the exam period, I included posts like this to wish the students well and remind them of the support I was able to offer.