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Effective Pitches for a Blog Salesman

With school starting a week from tomorrow, I’ve dusted off my old syllabi and have been busy updating them. While previous years syllabus revisions haven’t required many changes, this year’s edition is receiving a bigger make-over given my plans to structure my classes around social media. In addition to the standard policies, grading procedures, course outline, and contact information, my syllabus now features a section dedicated to “Technology and Social Media Resources.”

I view including this information in my syllabus as an important element in establishing my goals for incorporating social media and helping students develop a level of comfort with this new (or at least unusual in their experience) class structure. Moreover, given my experience earlier this summer when I suggested that my Breakthrough teachers create blogs for writing about their teaching, I thought I’d better refine my approach if I want to get successful (or even enthusiastic) buy-in. Therefore, before I post my syllabus to the class webpage (which students have already begun joining and posting messages on!) I thought I’d send it out to the wider universe in order to get some feedback on how I’ve gone about making the pitch for using social media.

So, here ’tis:

Technology and Social Media Resources:

As mentioned throughout this syllabus, we’ll be conducting much of our class work this year via electronic media such as blogs, RSS Readers, Edmodo, Diigo, Twitter, and various other social media websites (if you’re presently unfamiliar with those, don’t worry, you won’t be for long.) While the Whipple Hill Portal continues to exist and will include the link to access homework on Edmodo, the bulk of our class resources, a link to the assignments, and other work will be accessible through the class wiki, which can be found at http://fwcdwh2.wikispaces.com.

Additional websites that you’ll need to become acquainted with include:

A major part of the ethic of this social media-centric classroom centers on transparency, collaboration, media literacy, and understanding how to define oneself positively online. Therefore, much of the work and writing we’ll do this year will take place online; moreover, we’ll do a number of collaborative group assignments, and everyone will be expected to contribute to our rotating chapter assignments.

One of the unique features of this social media class structure, but one that applies to academic and intellectual growth in general, centers on the public nature of one’s work. By having our writing, comments, and other work publicly accessible on our blogs I hope to impress upon you the importance of self-presentation, understanding audience, and thorough preparation. As another benefit, the public nature of our blogging enables us to give feedback to our peers, learn from one another, and network with students in other places throughout the world and country. This feedback and constructive criticism helps us refine our thinking, improve our argumentation, and come to the realization that education is not merely about earning a grade, but about growing personally and intellectually.

Therefore, employing social media in class serves purposes beyond helping us study history and learning content. More importantly, literacy in social media will also help us gain experience in using technology for academic purposes—writing, research, information reorganization, and sharing our work with others. Ultimately, I hope this integration of social media into this course ultimately extends our classroom community and dialogue beyond the walls of Room 201.

So, how eager are you to invest in a blog now? (I do realize that many of you reading this may already have your very own blogs, but then again, this pitch isn’t really aimed at you. How about from the student perspective?) Any and all thoughts are welcome.

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2 thoughts on “Effective Pitches for a Blog Salesman

    • Nate says:

      ‘Tis a good question, Jim. As I wrote about in an earlier post about my experience at THATCamp Austin, I’m likely going to use UT-Austin CWRL’s “small multiples” approach for grading work that I’d previously treated as a completion grade. I also think that much of the benefit of blogging will hopefully manifest itself in better writing, argumentation, and research — I guess we’ll find out soon enough!

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