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How to get students to blog during class

Jacobs School computer scientists Bill Griswold (left) and Beth Simon (right) discuss a blogging application with students.
Jacobs School computer scientists Bill Griswold (left) and Beth Simon (right) discuss a blogging application with students.
Beth Simon holds a tablet PC that teaching assistants and students use to blog during class - on top of the instructor's slides.
Beth Simon holds a tablet PC that teaching assistants and students use to blog during class - on top of the instructor's slides.

Computer scientists at UCSD are working on ways to get students to blog, read blogs, instant message and send text and photo messages from cell phones during class. It's not about goofing off; it's about using technology to engage students in active learning exercises in the classroom.

"We are exploring approaches that shift the classroom environment from a unidirectional flow of information to an environment in which students can control their own experience," says Beth Simon, a lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Jacobs School.

Simon, computer science professor William Griswold, and graduate and undergraduate students from UCSD, have recently published papers on in-class blogging and on the use of cell phone text and photo messaging for submitting answers to classroom exercises.

This work revolves around Ubiquitous Presenter - a Web-based technology developed at UCSD that allows lecturers to add notes to their electronic lecture slides during class via a tablet PC. These annotated slides are immediately posted to the Web and are accessible by students who bring laptops to class.

Blogging, chatting and cell phone messaging technologies are new add-ons to Ubiquitous Presenter that are allowing the UCSD researchers to explore different avenues for in-class communication. Student bloggers can use tablet PCs to write notes on top of the instructor's electronic slides during class in real time. During class, nonblogging students can simultaneously monitor student blogs and the teacher's notes - all superimposed on the lecture slides - from their own laptops. In addition, students can instant message bloggers and teaching assistants during class.

"We are striving to provide a more student-centered approach to the university lecture," Griswold says.

The researchers are also hoping to use the notes taken by student bloggers, and other information captured by ubiquitous presenter, to study how lecture materials and basic concepts are learned in large lectures.

Ubiquitous Presenter is a streamlined and Web-enabled extension of "Classroom Presenter," an educational application developed at the University of Washington . Educators can use Ubiquitous Presenter in their classrooms free of charge.

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