Every March I resucitate a module blog for one my courses, LSM1303 Animal Behaviour for non-biology students. The blog is meant as a companion site to the lectures, often pointing to something I might have mentioned in passing. I republish the posts each year so that the blog keeps pace of the lectures and keeps my post-load manageable. I also add new material and drop or update posts as needed.
The first thing I do then is to visit the blog’s dashboard (a wordpress engine lies beneath) and reset all posts to draft mode. Then I refresh the site in MarsEdit, my desktop blog editor of choice. Then I go to work after each lecture, adding and updating the content and dates of relevant posts. With MarsEdit, the resuscitation exercise is easily done.
MarsEdit helps me maintain multiple blogs
When I maintained four module blogs in Semester 1 of the 2007/8 academic year, the critical tool which allowed me to cope was MarsEdit. I don’t maintain as many module blogs now but I do post to more than 10 blogs besides this one on cycling, biology, mac meetups, a department news blog, my natural history volunteers and coastal cleanup work, amongst others. The more active ones are listed here, all are low frequency in nature but chug along. When I have relevant material, I simply fire up MarsEdit, compose and publish to the relevant site in a jiffy.
Kenneth Pinto picked this nice new template
whilst I was reviving the blog yesterday.
I was wondering, though, if a webpage for the module posts would be better. Instead of the reverse chronology of a blog, a static page could list the posts in the specific order in which they were referred to during the lecture. A single lecture’s worth of posts per webpage would be a manageable space to update, crop and add to, after each lecture.
Should I use a simple html page or a published Google Docs page?
However, MarsEdit makes html editing easier to handle as well and the shortcuts (or macros) I added makes editing enjoyably easy. I would rather be using MarsEdit as my desktop editor.
The answer appears to be to use pages – one per lecture. MarEdit can edit WordPress page and this will also allow me to stick to the blog site which already contains the symposia abstracts in other pages, which are collaboratively maintained. But I will try to see how a page looks and feels like first.
I’ve been at this for about four years with Kenneth Pinto over at CIT providing support. They way I use module blogs is to point to supplemental information for the more interested student. It can be surprising what they have not seen as yet, including some very popular video clips. The blog is a great way to point to these things without cluttering their emails or lecture notes.
Eventually I also introduced student blogging exercises (e.g. lsm1303 and lsm2251 ). These were useful exercises which had them explore internet resources, synthese and communicate. I guess we’ll keep at it in the years to come.
I do realise facebook beckons but I’ll think about that next year!
- “Using NUS Module Blogs,” by N. Sivasothi (presentation slides)
- “Blogs And Wikis In Teaching And Learning,” by Kenneth Pinto (presentation slides).
- “Student blogging, plagiarism prevention and animal behaviour,” by N. Sivasothi (ed. Kenneth Pinto). Ideas, May 2010.