Blogging the First Year… Using blogs in Elmhurst College’s First Year Seminar Program Peg Cook, Assistant Reference Librarian A.C. Buehler Library, Elmhurst College
Background: • EC FYS pilot started in Fall Semester 2007 • Initial pilot was 4 sections • Second year of pilot is 8 sections • In process of approving a third pilot year which will be 32 sections (entire incoming freshman class) for Fall 2009 • Sections are grouped together in pods or houses, 4 sections meeting in the same time slot • Allows for larger group discussions • Coordination of activities • Social interaction between students who might not otherwise interact
Background: • FYS Course designed by faculty • Course objectives: • Articulate an understanding of the value of a liberal arts education and its synergy with professional preparation. • React ethically to varied perspectives and experiences to stimulate intellectual curiosity and to expand cultural awareness • Articulate and demonstrate ways to ethically gather, synthesize, and present information • Respond critically to varied texts from different perspectives and disciplinary spheres of knowledge • Contribute to the campus and/or society through civic engagement
Background: • Academic subjects, taught in seminar style • Academic faculty paired with Student Affairs professional • Course designed to be roughly 2/3rds academic subject, 1/3 common elements • Liberal arts readings and discussion • Common reading book • Service or off-campus learning experience • Required attendance at campus events • Information ethics assignment • Student affairs professional meant to help with “college transition” issues, acclimatization/enculturation to EC • In Fall 2008 common pre-semester orientation was added which complements the FYS course
Blogs: Rationale • Blogs used for Information Ethics assignments • Information Ethics assignments are built on Association of College & Research Libraries Information Literacy Standards • Three assignments meant to cover some aspects of information ethics: • Discussion of academic integrity issues • “Thinking about Bias” assignment • “Ownership of Information” assignment • We decided to use blogs to partly address ACRL standards. • We also felt that having a public or potentially public audience would be useful to students’ learning. • Most FYS students are also enrolled in our pre-research writing class • We felt there would be reinforcement for that curriculum as well—more writing practice.
How the blogs work: • We use blogs to communicate with students • One central blog for all “houses” • FYS 2008 Main Blog • Each section also has its own main blog • Internet & Society • Information Ethics Assignments are posted on main section blogs • Thinking about Bias in Sources
Blogs: how they work • Each student has their own blog • Kelsey • Information Ethics assignments are completed as blog posts • Taylor • Karen • Other course assignments as decided by individual instructors: • Hidden Jewels from the “Exploring Chicago” course • E-Scrapbook Assignment from “Global Climate Change” course
Internet & Society FYS course • Internet & Society uses blogs as main (almost only) method for coursework. • Appropriate for topic of class • Provides outcomes for other FYS learning objectives • Internet & Society blog examples: • Main page • Group “paper” post
Advantages of Blogs: • Public nature of blog posts challenges students to think about their writing in a different way • Possibility for discussion with commenting functions (though we haven’t quite managed to make this work right yet) • We’ve encouraged a “blogging style” in writing assignments —provided examples • Students have the opportunity to practice informal writing. • Blog writing guidelines • Technology-learning experience also. Students learn: • Hyperlinking • File management • Collaborative technologies
Disadvantages of Blogs • Technology is time intensive • Time to set up, troubleshoot, etc • Teaching time—students don’t always automatically have the proficiency with tech tools that we think they do • Some privacy issues (though these can be mediated) • Blog use has to have some relevance to the assignment or work of the course. • Students may need to have that linkage spelled out for them.
FYS Blogs in the future • We will continue to use blogs as the writing method for the Information Ethics Assignments • As the program grows, adjustments will be needed • We will likely tweak assignments as time goes on • Grading of blog posts is an issue • Students enjoy engaging with technology, even in the classroom • It’s important that they become informed users of technology