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Professor examines blogging

Nicole Toczauer | Thursday, November 3, 2011

Blogs are a positive medium from which students can learn, Assistant Director of Graduate Studies in Theology Todd Walatka said in a workshop Thursday.

The workshop, “Enhancing Discussion Through Student Blogs,” highlighted the pros, cons and logistics of student blogging.

Walatka said he introduced the idea of blogging to his Foundations of Theology class last fall after reading about student blogging on … a blog.

“I was trying to come up with some way to have students write regularly for the class, but in a way that was more effective than a common reflection paper,” he said.

The main goal of student blogging is to generate conversations before and during class, he said.

Student blogs also allow him to easily address any information students misunderstand in the reading, Walatka said.

“They’re reading and then formulating thoughts about the text, so it’s not passive learning,” he said. “I think one of the main benefits is [the blog] is due 36 hours before class. I read every single [student blog] before class to see if they misunderstood something and address that in class. If one has a strong post, I can point it out.”

Students also receive assignments through the blog.

Freshman Arthur Laciak, a student in Walatka’s class, said every Tuesday they read from the Bible and respond to a prompt in 200 to 400 words.

“We format our posts on our WordPress blog,” he said. “Then we write two comments on some of our group members’ blogs.”

Walataka said he hopes the blog posts will teach students to write in a concise manner.

“I hope they’ve improved their ability to engage [with] text and one another at a sophisticated [level], he said. “In the blog, they write 200 to 400 words, so it has to be to the point. I hope there are certain skills that they learn by blogging that carry on past the class.”

Since its introduction to the Foundations of Theology class, the trend has spread. Other Theology courses now incorporate blogs into their course syllabi and Walatka said he hopes the use of blogging in classes will continue to grow.

“I hope something like this catches on,” he said. “Blogging happens to be a technology that positively supports the engagement of materials before class for the students and professor. It is effective in reaching these goals.”