Teaching is getting more important and EU scholars need to think how to adapt to a new generation of students that not only grew up with the internet but also tend to organise their lives using various social networks. However, it seems that many academics are slow to embrace social media as a teaching tool. Ideasoneurope.eu, the UACES blogging platform is now offering the exciting possibility to open a group blog to accompany a course or seminar. There are many opportunities how lecturers can use this new tool. In this post, Ideasoneurope.eu suggests one way in which this tool can be used.
One example of the many ways in which this tool can be used is blog assignments’ that could replace a traditional essay assignment. Students would be required to write a blog article related to the seminar topic and publish it on the group blog. In a second step they should be encouraged to share it on their social networks to attract as many readers as possible. At the same time, this ‘blog assignment’ can be used to simulate a peer review or discussant situation by using the comment function as part of the assignment. For example, every student could be required to comment on articles written by fellow seminar participants.
If you are interested in how blog assignments can be used, have a look at Dr. Lee Elaine Skallerup’s blog. She used blog assignments in her course on Advanced Writing at Morehead State University. The task for students was to write a short blog post “on the one education reform they think can best improve schools or education” and the results are worth reading. So what about European Studies you might ask. Some students from Lund University have started experimenting with the idea of blog assignments. You can view the results of their endeavours here.
What can students gain from such an exercise?
Students can improve their writing skills and get a first hand experience of writing for an audience! Many EU studies graduates will move on to work in environments that require them to write concise arguments for different target groups. Students need to develop their writing skills, and writing an online piece is different from writing an essay or a newspaper article. Thus, blog assignments can be used to discuss writing strategies and experiment with different writing styles. Moreover, in an online environment it is crucial that students learn how to deal with and respond to critical comments – which will have positive effects on their online and offline debating skills. Moreover, the public nature of such an endeavour can be exciting and should not be underestimated. In a blog, students have an opportunity to discuss their written work with a large audience including other subject specialists such as NGO representatives, journalists and think tankers or maybe even EU officials. And, last but not least, students can experience how their own social networks can influence online debates. ‘Blog assignments’ can be seen as a new learning experience for students that will equip them with the necessary personal and professional skills to thrive in any future career.
How can lecturers prepare?
Lecturers need to prepare this exercise carefully and should think about which topics are suitable and how to create a supportive and non-threatening environment. Students might feel uncomfortable publishing their written work on the internet and they might not like the idea of responding to critical comments written by their friends or complete strangers. Moderation is key and lecturers need to invest some time making this exercise a rewarding experience.
Have you used blogging or social media as an aid to your teaching practice? Was it a successful exercise? Let us know your experiences or thoughts.
If you are interested in using www.ideasoneurope.eu for ‘blog assignments’ or if you have other ideas how to use the platform for your teaching, we are always happy to discuss projects with you and provide any technical assistance you may need. For more information, please contact Richard Lewis (admin [at] ideasoneurope [dot] eu)