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Not just personal use anymore: U courses tap into blogging

Once seen as a personal activity among students, blogs at the University now are heading from the dorm room to the classroom.

The Universityís Web log network, UThink, is the largest academically affiliated blogging system in North America, said project manager Shane Nackerud.

UThinkís size isnít drawing attention, but the new ways blogs are used by instructors and students are.

In the past eight months, Nackerud estimated, the number of class-related blogs on the network increased 10 percent while the number of personal blogs decreased 16 percent. He said he expects to see that trend continue.

Biomedical librarian Kevin Messner conducts workshops throughout the semester for anyone interested in setting up a blog on the network. The most recent workshop was Thursday.

He said he began the workshops after UThink debuted in 2004 because he anticipated instructors would want to use blogs as a tool to teach classes.

Messner said there are now several hundred blogs on the network that are associated with coursework.

ìIt seems to be more on peopleís radar,” he said.

While Messnerís workshop focuses on classroom applications of blogging, some attendees, such as department of pediatrics evaluation coordinator Shari Plowman, have even newer ideas about applications for blogs.

Plowman said she attended the class to investigate using blogs as a focus-group tool.

The more informal nature of blogging rather than academic writing is one reason blogs appeal to some instructors.

Danish instructor Carsten Holm is incorporating a blog into his classes for the second consecutive semester. He said he gives his students credit for blogging on conversational topics each week, but does not grade what they post.

ìIt solves the issue language instructors have of getting students to write frequently and informally without that fear of the red pen,” Holm said.

English instructor Aaron Bruenger is using a class blog for the first time this semester. He said he is impressed with studentsí willingness to participate in the blog and said students even refer to the postings during class discussions.

English junior Rick Filipkowski is in Bruengerís class and also used a blog in a previous class. He said he thinks they add a ìvaluable reflective component” to coursework, and are ìoverall, pretty useful.”

Rhetoric professor and graduate student Clancy Ratliff is writing a dissertation on blogging and used blogs in several of her classes.

ìThe thing about blogging is that itís a self-motivated activity,” she said. ìItís crucial not to take that element out of class blogging, otherwise, it becomes a chore.”

ó Freelance Editor Emily Kaiser welcomes comments at [email protected].

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