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NERSIG 2006 SSTL: 4, Social Computing Tools in the Curriculum November 22, 2006

Posted by ficial in conference, SSTL2006, web 2.0.

“Social Computing Tools in the Curriculum” by Katie Vale of MIT

[this ended up being a mix of a survey of blogs with discussion about some of their pedagogically and academically interesting aspects]

  • “What is a ‘blog’?”
    • web-based
    • reverse-chronological ordered
    • often text
    • simple publishing
  • “What’s a ‘wiki’?”
    • a shared reference site
    • [a way for multiple authors to work on the same piece of text / media]
  • Blogs are useful pedagogically:
    • for personal reflection
    • for citizen journalism (i.e. documenting your own perspective on an event you experienced)
    • for personal publishing
    • for easy reader feedback
  • Katie teaches a blogging course at MIT, and most of her freshmen [a self-selecting crowd on at least two levels, but still…] already had a blog in high-school [it’d be interesting to know what blogging software they used]
  • The MIT Admissions blogs are good examples of some ways with colleges can use blogs [and in fact general community tools. However, they’re not good pedagogical examples.]
  • many more examples of different types/styles of blogs can be found in her power point on the NERCOMP SIG website
  • highschool and younger people are NOT savvy about personal [web/internet] security [this is a really good point – we need to make sure to go over this with anyone for whom we might provide blog space in any official capacity]
  • schools should think about their communication/information policy
  • regarding using blogs in class
    • she had to give very specific guidelinesa bout what she wanted in the blogging [this is intriguing, as it is counter to the experience of Kathleen Fitzpatrick (of Pomona) in her Writing Machines course, where she had a lot of success with very open ended requirements and actually had to refrain from giving specific blogging assignments. However, Kathleen was teaching largely to upperclassmen and Katie is teaching freshmen, and that might account for most of the difference]
    • as an instructor, comment often, but judiciously
    • people reveal things in blogs that they wouldn’t in class [it’s a kind of seductive medium]
    • they help you / each other get to know team members
    • students are and will be familiar with blogs when that arrive at college. We (faculty and staff) need to use that to our advantage [this seems related to Bryan Alexanders’ point that blogging is not new technology – it’s been around since the mid to late 90’s]
  • ideas for wikis in education [the presentation was definitely focused on blogs, but she at least gave a nod to wiki’s and MMORPGs]
    • student feedback about what to include in a new class
    • cooperative final project
    • as a community of support or practice for a geographically distributed population
  • comments on World of Warcraft
    • with 7 million participants it has an etimated 50% market share for MMORPGs
    • teaches [ implicitly rather than explicitly, which I expects means that users learn the practical side very well but probably miss out on the theory]
      • teamwork
      • leadership
      • micro-economics
    • people who play are very comfortable with IM, VoIP, and other modern communication technologies
    • players are used to spending multiple hours on complex, coordinated tasks
  • social computing is already a part of students lives
  • social software CAN be integrated into teaching


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