My Conference Presentation for Tomorrow: Classroom as Digital Art

“Thanks to art, instead of seeing a single world, our own, we see it multiply until we have before us as many worlds as there are artists.” –

Marcel Proust

paingting-guyArt can be fun. It can also be difficult. Or it can be confusing. And it can be intriguing.

Our classrooms are works of art that we create and play with, work with, and shape.

One way we play with writing in my classroom is through blogging.

Since many of our students are digital natives, and those who are not are at a significant disadvantage both academically and professionally, introducing and using Web 2.0 into my classroom seemed like a good idea.

davisenglishI created a classroom blog, Davis English Addendum, where I could post things from class or about class and where the students could too. I actually started the blog in response to the question Why are we studying art in English? And the first four or five posts were written by me for the students. However, the blog soon went beyond that. Now it is really a class blog. The students are required to post and comment, but because of or perhaps despite that sometimes they get very involved in each other’s lives through the blog. The students are required to post and comment, but sometimes they get very involved in each other’s lives through the blog.

I have my students make blog posts. These posts are all about their lives and their classwork. I am trying to uncompartmentalize their learning, since studies have shown that students separate learning on one subject from learning on another (Abbott and Nance).

marine-corps-flag-wikipThis is a Marine’s blog post and all the comments students made. It was part of an assignment to introduce the students to each other and the blog.

A very different approach to the same assignment is seen in Secret Spy.

As you can tell, these two posts generated a lot of feedback, even though they were very different posts.

Appreciate Everything, Take Nothing for Granted was part of the narrative cycle of papers, in which students were supposed to post a six word autobiography and discuss it.

Using a blog is a good idea for more than just an English classroom though. There have been many things we did with the blog that are not “English” oriented.

The students use the blog to get help for class. Here is an example of how a student got help on an assignment when I was out of pocket at the hospital with my father.

Two students got on the website quickly enough to help him do his homework.

hurricaneLast September I used the website to keep students who were out of town up to date on the hurricane. Obviously that wasn’t useful for those of us around here without power.

We also used the website to discuss Hurricane Ike.

Right now in class we are working on their compare/contrast paper as part of the research paper cycle.

Things I mentioned in class, but that they might have forgotten, can be posted on the blog.

I have previously posted sample paragraphs from c/c’s on the blog, such as this one on embryonic stem cell research, this one on abortion, this one on health care reform, or this one on global warming.

CB029654Sometimes I reiterate important parts of the lesson, such as types of definitions, and give supplemental information, such as definition examples from real life.

The blog is a very useful classroom tool. WebCT and Blackboard can be used in very similar and non-public ways. I like using a blog because sometimes we get comments from the general reading population, or from other students at other colleges. That is fun for the students.

Related ideas (or “A word to the wise is sufficient.”)
“Digital tools do nothing more than make ongoing conversations efficient and approachable. They give kids a chance to participate in a school culture that continues to discourage participation. ” from The Tempered Radical

Finding the sources
Abbott, William and Kathryn Nantz. “History and Economics: Can Students (and Professors) Learn Together?”  College Teaching 42.1 (Winter 1994): 22-26. Academic Search Premier. Lone Star College Library, Kingwood. 27 April 2008 http://nhmcproxy.nhmccd.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9407114730&site=ehost-live.

Lenhart, Amanda, Aaron Smith, Alexandra Rankin Macgill, and Sousan Arafeh. “Writing, Technology and Teens.”  Pew Research Center Publcations. 24 April 2008. 24 April 2008 http://pewresearch.org/pubs/808/writing-technology-and-teens.

“Theory and Research-Based Principles of Learning.”  Enhancing Education: Carnegie Mellon University. 26 April 2008 https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/principles/learning.html#LP02.

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