Posted by: Ellie Kutz | March 1, 2011

In This Issue

With a new blog service available at UMass Boston, it seemed like a good moment to learn more out about Edublogs and those involved with it, but also to consider some larger questions about the place of blogging in the higher education.  Why do academics blog?  Why do they have their students blog and what are some effective pedagogical practices related to blogging?  How are blogs helpful to administrative units on campus?  And what might a faculty member who hasn’t been blogging think after exploring these issues?

To begin my own inquiry into blogs and the role they might play on a campus, I turned to a sister institution, UMass Amherst, which has had a much-used blog network since 2007.

So what do we find on a campus where a blog network has been established for a while?   The UMass Amherst blogroll (a listing of updated blogs)  http://blogs.umass.edu/directory/ , offers a long list of active blogs. You’ll find faculty from across disciplines using their blogs as professional sites:  for example, John Donahue, a professor of Physics, makes blog entries about his current research. (http://blogs.umass.edu/donoghue/category/research/ ); and  Professor Amilcar Shabazz, chair of the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, offers expert commentary on current political issues such as the position taken by a group of Christian leaders against misrepresentations of President Obama’s religion on his blog “Frankly Speaking. . .Truth to Power Joyfully” (http://blogs.umass.edu/shabazz/).

Faculty also use their blogs as online learning sites,  posting course materials, making announcements, and explaining important concepts (as on the Introduction to Linguistic Theory course page maintained by Ph.D. candidate Chris Davis http://blogs.umass.edu/linguist201-cmdavis-2/), and to post students work (as in an anthropology capstone, “Global Bodies” with students’ digital stories about topics such as home birth or Alzheimer’s: http://blogs.umass.edu/globalbo/ ). Professor Benjamin Fancy uses his blog to post resources related to French culture and language learning, including a link to a clever video on the passé compose  (http://blogs.umass.edu/bfancy/.) 

Students also maintain their own blogs, either linked to a course such as community journalism (e.g. http://blogs.umass.edu/amorimot/ ), or for personal commentary on whatever interests them (http://blogs.umass.edu/amara4rl/ ). And various departments, programs, student clubs, and centers have blogs that keep their constituencies updated about activities, events, and current information:  The Office of Information Technology maintains a blog (http://blogs.umass.edu/teachoit/category/blogs/ ). 

These uses—professional and research-related, pedagogical, personal, and administrative—are typical of the ways in which blogs are being used on many campuses, including, to a more limited degree, our own.  In this issue of the newsletter, we’ll take a look at why and how blogs are useful for these varied purposes.

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