[CITASA] Blogs, online teaching, and skill sets

Robert Rosenwein rer6 at Lehigh.EDU
Thu Oct 22 23:10:09 EDT 2009

The conversation about blogs as a pedagogical device has been intriguing 
and useful.  I was particularly taken by the allusions to the skill sets 
necessary to carry out online conversation effectively.  I'd like to 
contribute to this part but first some background: I teach a course 
called the Sociology of Cyberspace in the Department of Sociology and 
Anthropology at Lehigh University.  The first eight weeks of this course 
is taught entirely online with topics for each week.  I offer a case 
study and a set of questions for them to ponder.  Usually, they end up 
adding questions of their own. I have them spend two weeks in different 
"cyberenvironments": the discussion board on their course web site which 
is part of BlackBoard, two weeks blogging, two weeks in a Facebook group 
and two weeks in Second Life (thus, three asynchronous environments and 
on synchronous).  They "specialize" in one of the topics and write a 
paper about around either one of my questions or one of their own and 
also end this part of the course choosing (by majority vote) a 
cyberenvironment in which to converse about the pluses and minuses of 
the different environments for learning.  In the last part of the 
course, we are preparing a video documentary on the Internet in Everyday 
Life with Lehigh as the case study (I know, I know, not representative 
but readily available). 

Many of my colleagues at the University have creatively integrated 
online mechanisms into their teaching.  One of these individuals, Dr. 
Edward Gallagher, in the Department of English, has thought deeply about 
the skills necessary to conduct effective online discussion.  He has 
prepared a set of documents which I use as a basis for evaluating the 
work of students, as well as their intellectual contributions.   His 
central idea is that online discussion is a conversation and that posts 
to such a conversation should add value.  For example, "me too" posts 
add little value but "me too" plus an additional idea or thought on the 
subject does, particularly if it keeps the conversation going.   He has 
provided ways of operationalizing these skills in a series of online 
documents which, with his permission, I am posting here. 

Perhaps the lesson here is that we need to work both on teaching 
students about the Internet, however we come at this, and at the same 
time, teaching them the skills necessary to be an effective participant 
in an online discussion/conversation.  Labor intensive? you bet!


Bob Rosenwein
Lehigh University
Department of sociology and anthropology
rer6 at lehigh.edu
610 758-3815

Gallagher documents:




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