Using a Multi-Authored Blog in Teaching

We all know that I love using blogs in my courses (as much as it makes sense to do so). Starting the week of January 19th, I’m going to be going a slightly new path with blogging as an instructional tool. I’m teaching a course called The Politics of Reading. The course is part of our educational minor program at UNC so it’s intended for undergraduates.

In past courses, I’ve had students start their own blogs. I did that because these students were practicing teacher or librarians, and I thought they might like the opportunity to continue blogging on their own beyond the course. So I worked to implement a structure that would allow that both by having their own blog and by the way I structured the assignment (students could choose to co-author a blog if they wanted. no one has taken me up on that yet).

love bloggingIn this course, I’m not sure that having 18 or so individual blogs would be the way to go. The course dictates a focus for the blogs that is more narrow than what I have taken on in the past. It seemed to me that if I had students launch individual blogs then we would end up with 18 blogs that were done during the course and likely fizzled out at the end. I’m also teaching this course again next year, and it just didn’t seem wise to start up 18 or so new blogs around the course next year. I was trying to think of a way to have a more sustained, engaged approach to this that could also be promoted much more effectively and widely.

That’s when I realized we didn’t need to have single-authored blogs. We could have one, large class multi-authored blog. I checked and learned that it is possible to add as many people as I want to a given wordpress blog and assign them to the role of author. You can do this with a free wordpress.com blog. Go to your admin panel and select users. From there, you can invite new users. You can then select a role for them.

My plan is to create the blog on the first day of class (January 13th) and to have everyone add themselves as an author. WordPress says that authors can, “write, upload photos to, edit, and publish their own posts.” This is different from a contributor who, ” has no publishing or uploading capability, but can write and edit their own posts until they are published.”

The difference of course is that by making students authors I don’t hit publish on their posts or schedule their posts. Of course, by making students authors I also do not approve their posts before they go live. Given that I currently have 18 students enrolled in the course, and each student must post 10 times over a period of 12 weeks, keeping up with some kind of approval process seems a bit much – and hopefully unnecessary.

Of course running a blog like this takes a certain level of organization and structure. I’ve got that all mapped out to the best of my get organizedability, and I will  be sharing the directions I am using for this assignment on Thursday, January 8th (one of my new goals for this blog is to get up to two posts per week on Mondays and Thursdays).

For now, I wanted to throw out the idea about having a class authored blog. What I hope to accomplish with this blog – outside of student learning – is for it to be able to contribute to the broader discourse on educational policy. Since it’s a class authored blog, each time the class is taught new students can join and expand the work. Of course, the downside is that the blog will probably only contain new posts when it is being taught. I’m concerned about how this will limit it’s overall traction and potential.

Anyways – expect to see me writing about this during the spring semester. And come back on Thursday to get a closer look at how I plan to implement all of this with 18 students. 🙂

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