A New Crop of Bloggers

bumper cropThis spring, I am co-teaching a graduate course in the VCU Preparing Future Faculty Program called Teaching, Learning and Technology with my colleague Jeff Nugent.  One of the requirements of the course is for our 24 doctoral students and post-docs to keep a learning  journal via a personal blog.  We have aggregated their posts onto our class portal.

In the first three weeks, we have discussed the changing landscape of higher education, the impact of the web on learning, the potentials and challenges associated with blogging, and the use of the Seven Principles of Good Practice as a lens through which to assess the fit of any particular technology to teaching.  The photo above reminds me of the excitement of their exploration, and they are definitely buzzing!

Jeff has a thoughtful post on their initial exploration of blogging in Scholarship of Teaching, Say Hello to the Web…. I thought that I would take a different tack.  I went back and grabbed the text of all 24 blogs where they were discussing their initial uses of blogs (as it appeared that only one had previously blogged).  I then dumped the resulting 17 pages of text into Wordle to see what emerged.


Very unscientific (which may turn some of them off), but here is what I see.

Besides blog and blogging, the most used words were “students”, “think”, “time”, “teaching”, “like” and “class”.

As our class is on teaching, it makes sense that students, class, and teaching popped out as key words in their blogs.  The word “think” was used multiple ways, as in “I need to think about this more…”, “I think that…” or “think outside the box.” What is evident to me is that we have disturbed their comfort zones, and this has resulted in quite a bit of thinking…which I see as a good thing.  It is working both ways.  The questions they raise both in their blogs and in class have me thinking quite a bit.

Many are both excited by the possibilities blogging affords (new information, new connections) but they are very concerned about time constraints and time commitments reading, writing, and commenting place on new Ph.D.’s.  One stated that blogging may be a luxury one does after they have established their research, But others saw possibilities that made the time constraint worthwhile,  For instance, one saw possibilities of using blogging to network in order to find a position.  Given that time constraints has emerged as a huge concern in class, it does not surprise me that it was a key word in their collected posts.

As for “like”, there were some that appear to like blogging, some that were not sure if they like blogging, and some that appear to not like blogging.  So I am not reading too much into that word.

crop5What is definitely coming through their blogs is both wonder at how technology is changing teaching and concerns as to the fit of social media to their lives as future researchers.  Our discussions in class raise equal measures of excitement and skepticism, with some frustration at the current state of higher education.  They are a focused group who fly right to the point, and in doing so, keep Jeff and I engaged and enjoying the course.  I encourage those in academia who read this blog to connect with these students through our portal and add your voices in response to their questions and concerns.  I am enjoying the experience and I suspect that you will as well.

{Photo Credits: dsevilla}

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