Last time we looked at wikis and how they could be used as a teaching tool or even a form of assessment. For the second part of this series we will be looking at forums and blogs as teaching tools how they can be used and what the pitfalls of each are.
So, here’s part deux…
Forums are very much a double-edged affair when thinking about using them for e-learning. If you want to create a community of students, be that from your department, college, or even just psychology students in general, however, the management involved can sometimes put people off (it put me off running one). A forum is a site where groups of people can join and take part in ‘conversations’ with other members. These conversations are usually grouped into ‘rooms’ that house conversations of a certain kind or on a particular topic. A forum that you are more-than-likely aware of is the TES forum.
If you have a good group of users who are willing to post and reply then running a forum can be effortless and it will sustain itself quite easily. However, you have to be careful about what people post and make sure that you have set guidelines about what is accepted. Keeping an eye on the posts of other (or moderation) can take up hours of time, and this will be needed especially if you have groups of students posting about how much they hate Mr. Doe because he smells a little funny. One solution to this is to have trusted students do this for you and can work well.
All-in-all forums work well at creating a community of people with similar values wanting to converse and question their subject. When you have established users you find that people are more-than-willing to share their own knowledge and help each other, which is great to see. The biggest issue with forums is management and control over what is being posted and the reliability of the information posted.
Should you decide to dabble in forums there are many places where you can get free (sometimes advert supported) forums such as here, here and here. Another option would be to have forum software installed within your college on an intranet or alike. If that is the case then there are many solutions for you and you’re probably best talking to your IT department about which one is best for you although by far the most popular forum software is phpBB.
Blogs or blogging has become a big hit over the last few years with some of the biggest blogs having massive followings. How can the rants of some disenchanted internet user help me teach I hear you say; well, there are a massive number of blogs out there and many of them are specifically related to psychology and teaching psychology. Here I am going to break blogs up into two sections: what you can achieve through writing a blog for your students; and what you could gain from reading others blogs or encouraging your students to read and research others blogs.
Blogging software is becoming more advanced with each new day and now it is very simple to create a website solely using software designed for a blog. There are really an infinite number of uses for blogs within the education field: writing and collating new and relevant news for your students, giving students a summary of what was covered in that past week, leaving homework assignments, and many others which donâ€™t come to mind at the time of writing. Not only can you write your blog posts but students, other teachers and colleagues can comment on what you have said and start discussions about what was raised; again this could lead to other implementations of blog software.
There are many kinds of blogging software but the two most popular ones are WordPress and google’s Blogger. Both of these sites allow you to set up your own blog online and post articles or general musings through a web-based interface allowing access wherever you have the Internet. If used well blogs can provide to be a central part of teaching and independent learning, however, general rules of web etiquette still apply and all users need to be aware of this. For a good overview of blogging best practices see here.
Blogs aren’t just something that you have to write to make use of them as a teacher; there are hundreds if not thousands of psychology related blogs out there, some useful, some not-so-useful, and reading these can give you and your students a great idea of what’s going on in psychology at the moment. You could use a search engine such as technorati to search for articles or blogs of interest. When you have found them rather than having to return to the website to see any new ‘breaking’ stories you could use the RSS feed and a news-reader of which there are many.
Don’t forget when you get one of these RSS readers working to add our RSS Feed so that you can keep up with what’s going on here at PsychBlog.co.uk. If you’re also looking for other general psychology related blogs to read there are a few n my blogroll on the navigation panel.
In the further reading part of this article there are a few blogs which I subscribe to which might be a good place to start.
In the final part next week we will be looking at VLE’s (the dogs-bits of educational software – as long as it’s used properly) and my concluding comments. TTFN.