Ellen Ott Marshall and her doctoral seminar students have recently embraced practice of public scholarship with their class blog. If you weren’t aware of Emory’s ScholarBlog platform, now is the time to check out this Emory-specific instance of WordPress. Any Emory user (student or faculty) can request a ScholarBlog at not cost, which can then be customized to the users individual needs.
For their work in class, students documented research projects they conducted as the culmination of a three-stage process. According to Dr. Marshall, “This course takes as its starting point Katie Cannon’s observation that the dominant tradition of western philosophical ethics assumes a moral agent with freedom and a wide range of choices. Cannon turns to the literature of African American women to study female protagonists who demonstrate moral agency under constraint. The first part of “Moral Agency under Constraint” employs this womanist methodology of drawing on protagonists in novels and films in order to re-consider assumptions about moral agency. The second part turns to ethnographic examples that describe constraints and perceive moral agency. The third part of the seminar focuses on students’ research projects and the contexts and models of agency they pursue.”
So what’s so valuable about this kind of project on ScholarBlog?
- A blog component invites students to develop valuable professional skills in WordPress, a platform that introduces simple web design skills within a very user-friendly interface. No matter a student’s future vocation, basic conversance with web design will be an asset.
- Blogs help students think about alternative audiences for their work, particularly focusing on the genre of public scholarship.
- For graduate students in particular, this kind of work is also piece of digital scholarship that can be included on a CV or resume, demonstrating the skills referenced above in a clear and tangible way.
There are of course caveats, as there are with any digital tool in the classroom. An introduction to the WordPress system should come early in the semester, and there should be exploration with the tool throughout the semester to help students gain familiarity. Collaboration on initial posts for example, perhaps even in a full class session, lays the groundwork well. Additionally, students should be introduced to (or invited to explore) the genre of blogging, perhaps using examples of public scholarship initiated by fellow students or faculty at your institution. Students should know who they can contact for support (both technological and conceptual) throughout the process, and they should be encouraged to work with their classmates to leverage unique skills (you never know what tech skills are present in students until you ask)! I
Perhaps most importantly, if you introduce a digital tool in the classroom space, let it replace a different component of commensurate scale. Multimodal assignments like these can be incredibly enriching, but:
“be careful not to overload your students, especially if you’re not sure how much work the multimodal assignment will take”Derek Bruff, Intentional Tech
Get in touch with us at candlerdigitallearning [at] emory [dot] edu to talk further about potential applications of ScholarBlog in your class or context!