Yesterday concluded the first section of my Mobile Blogging & Scholarship Training. This is a professional development workshop series for instructors at the University of Oklahoma, which I created in my role as Educational Technologist at the Center for Teaching Excellence.
Over the course of nine hours, six sessions, and two weeks, professors came together to learn both technical skills and what it means to be a digital scholar. The main goal of this course was to equip participants with the ability to manage and run their own blog from a tablet, while justifying the value of doing so. This dynamic of learning both how and why to blog stimulated the success of this course.
First, we spent time setting up and learning the basics of operating an iPad. Then we turned our attention to the essentials of WordPress. Once participants had foundational knowledge of both iPad and WordPress, we dove into producing their first blog posts. The remainder of this training focused on creating pages, posts, and comments. Other topics, like including videos in posts, were taught in tandem with each writing assignment to give participants the opportunity to apply new skills with each of their posts.
On an educational sidenote, the pedagogies employed in this training stem from constructivism, social learning, active learning strategies and much more. Together, these teaching practices manifested into an interactive social learning environment where participants explored what it means to blog. In other words, time was spent actively blogging, commenting, and exploring the use of photos and videos during class while instructor assistance was available.
By the end of this section, participants had completed sixteen blog posts totaling 2,713 words, in addition to including photos and videos in their WordPress sites and exchanging comments on each other’s submissions.
I had a phenomenal experience getting to work with these professors! Learning about iPads, WordPress, and what it means to blog are exciting topics in our digital world of education. Sessions were filled with rich discussion, individual instruction, and diverse perspectives that made teaching this course extremely rewarding.
Now, I am looking forward to my next section of Mobile Blogging & Scholarship in July, during which I am expecting fifteen participants!
Additionally, I was excited by the perspective my training offered in terms of mobile blogging, since blogging is often thought to occur using a traditional computer. There are specific characteristics of mobile devices, like integrated cameras and physical mobility, that lead to entirely different forms of blogging. It was exciting to see participants take advantage of these features, and use their iPads to capture images to include in their posts. I hope combining blogging and mobile devices will inspire individuals to create and use new forms of digital scholarship.
I am excited to report that I received positive feedback at the conclusion of this professional development. Instructors wrote that they had learned how versatile the WordPress platform was for both blogging and establishing a web presence. Not to mention, one of the participants stated that she/he believes everyone who is interested in digital scholarship should go through this training. I even had one instructor tell me I didn’t assign enough homework! In other words, I received confirmation that this training was both essential and impactful.
Having finished teaching the first section of this training, I want to suggest something for anyone looking to bring blogging into the classroom or your professional life. Effective blog prompts were some of the most meaningful aspects of each session. Not only did they provide relevant topics to blog about, but they also functioned as scaffolding for the learning process of writing a post. Over the duration of the training, I decreased the amount of information provided with each prompt to wean instructors off of this support mechanism and prepare them for blogging unassisted. Additionally, I made it a point to encourage participants to write about any topic they could think of, as my prompts were only a starting place.
I believe blog prompts were so important in this training that I plan on sending more prompts to participants after they have completed this workshop series to continue stimulating ideas for blogging.
So what is next for this course? Even before my first session started, I had big plans for this training. I see potential for transitioning more and more of the content online until the course could be taken independent of an instructor. Using plugins like BuddyPress and BadgeOS, I would love this website to evolve into a self-sustaining learning environment devoted to self-paced, open, and community-driven instruction centered around mobile blogging and scholarship.
Additionally, I would like to alter Mobile Blogging & Scholarship to incorporate instruction for more types of mobile devices like Android tablets and/or a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) model of participation. I also see an opportunity to develop a ninety-minute version of this training that focuses on the core components of this training to introduce professors to this form of digital scholarship.