Some ideas for using blogs and wikis in teaching college science, from a session I moderated with Brian Switek (a science blogger and ecology & evolution student at Rutgers University) on Teaching College Science: Blogs and Beyond at ScienceOnline09.  These ideas were generated and discussed by the session participants:

  • Use a blog to post notes from guest speakers, librarians, or add resources from your lecture
  • Require students to post to a course blog and comment on each others posts
  • Post supplemental material for the course (links to multimedia and more information)
  • Use a wiki to organize course material
  • Use a wiki for student to student communication (for collaborative projects)
  • Connect class material to the world by connecting to relevant headlines and news stories
  • Construct an assignment where students are required to find relevant headlines and post, connect to the course material and create a concept map within a course wiki
  • Students can blog course notes, after they have edited and reviewed the material (example and discussion by Lou FCD, who participated in this discussion)
  • Students can use their term papers as blog posts
  • Students blog during a field trip, perhaps with video; this increases student focus on the trip as they know they must blog, and can see posts made by other students (example from Duke’s Marine Conservation Biology field trip).  The blog may be mined in the future for data on changes over time.
  • Build up a resource for field trips that revisit sites by adding notes to a wiki
  • Use blogs with relevant content as a resource for exploring a subject
  • Use a blog to run course discussions as a supplement for in class discussions, to encourage all students to participate
  • Use a blog for group project to keep track of what worked during the project
  • Use a blog or wiki to share links, possibly making it competitive (who can find the best links)
  • Create a space on the web to discuss controversial course topics
  • Connect students from different universities
  • Have students read and summarize papers in a blog, perhaps contribute to ResearchBlogging.org
  • Keep a research notebook or field journal online
  • Have students use a blog to create a website, like an online science fair project

One student who was homeschooled and found blogs useful for exploring topics of interest to him pointed out that it can be difficult to stay focused on the web.  He shared some tips:  monitor yourself to make sure you are on task, and take frequent breaks to refocus (take a walk, eat some fruit).

One of the participants who uses a blog to post his course notes, wrote about his own ideas from the session, in his blog, Crowded head, cozy bed.

If you are at Duke, call us at the Center for Instructional Technology for ideas and help incorporating any of these ideas in your course.

Update:

Kevin Zelnio participated in this session and wrote about it in his blog, Deep Sea News .

Mason Posner teaches anatomy and physiology and marine biology, and is experimenting with blogs in his senior capstone biology course.  You can follow his experiment at their central course blog.

Andrea Novicki

Andrea helps faculty use technology effectively and efficiently in their teaching. She works primarily with scientists, using her biology background, love of science and teaching experience. Her current enthusiasms include online science education, active learning (especially team-based learning) and assessment.

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