Bruce Snaddon from Graphics Design Department decided to use a blog – the Designcog – this year to communicate with his BTech students and share interesting examples of design amongst his class. In this interview he explains why he used the tool and shares his experiences with blogs.
Why did you decide to use a blog?
We have always wanted to build a stronger community for the BTechs, as it can be a lonely year for them as they work on their self-directed projects. I have also always believed that if students actively reflect on their learning that they engage in a deeper process of understanding what is going on. Through this they are empowered to own their learning and to be better masters of their progress. It is also important for us to engender a culture of co‑creation within the group – students should feel as though they are contributing to the programme structures and form. Knowledge is created hand in hand with the students in an evolutionary way.
What technology did you use? Was it easy to use? Where did you go for help?
I simply used Blogger as it was the easiest to set up a blog with. I used the online tutorial guide supplied by Blogger and looked at examples of blogs on the web. I have also used some of the free templates available on sites like http://www.templatesblock.com/ My students used mostly Blogger, but some experimented with the WordPress blogs.
How did you integrate blogs in your course?
I am running a blog, the Designcog, where I post interesting design stuff I get from blogs that I follow, research that I do, and a lot from what’s happening in Cape Town in terms of innovative design. But we also encourage all our students to set up their own blogs, especially during their four-week internship. This helps them to reflect on their learning, to get into the habit of publishing and exposing themselves in the online community and to take the first steps towards promoting themselves, as young designers trying to get work. It also gave us, the lecturing staff, an interesting window on their experiences.
Any unintended outcomes?
The blog has been used by potential employers of students ‑ I have pointed them to the student blogs linked to Designcog and they have browsed the posts to get a strong sense of the personalities and areas of design interest students are blogging about. It is also useful to point potential BTech students to the Designcog so they can see what is going on ‑ like a window on the activities they will be involved in. I have also used it as a means of showing all our industry partners what we are doing and also for them to see how the students experienced the internships spent with them.
The only thing that isn’t happening smoothly is the comment process. I had problems setting it up originally, some students found they couldn’t comment for technical reasons. Subsequently there has not been a culture of commenting on the posts yet ‑ something that we intend to address as this feedback loop is vital for the ongoing life of the blog.
Any further examples of interesting tools we could list for interested people…
I have successfully used Box.net as a repository for all the BTech course documents. I have found it to be a very stable and user-friendly site that has even contacted me asking for feedback on my experience.
I needed to post a survey after the students completed their Work Integrated Learning module ‑ so I used a free online survey hosted by Survey Monkey. Much to my annoyance they only allow 10 questions per survey so I had to split my 20 questions over two surveys. But it suited me well in terms of collection and analysis of data.