blogs, Learning Technologies, Reflections

I Tumblr For You… To Reflect.

The Fall semester has been kicked into full swing. I like the smell of a fresh class schedule, used textbooks and new beginnings in the air. This semester I am making a transition to a new job with the Office of Exploring Majors in the Undergraduate Studies department at UNT. This is a new(ish) office on campus that was formed to help support undecided and undeclared majors at the University of North Texas. My new gig (that officially starts tomorrow) is working with these “undecided” students to help support effective academic/life transition into university and explore major/career options.

With this new role, I am instructing a section of the UCRS 1000 – First Year Seminar for Major/Career Exploration. I have been fortunate to teach similar course curriculum at Niagara University and Miami University, so I thought I would take a different spin on student reflections and processing of the various course themes.

I am a fan of blogging as a form of reflection, ideas sharing and document of experiences. I have been blogging with WordPress and Blogger for quite some time. I think that blogs are great spaces for learners to share and archive their transition and exploration in the first semester. For this course, I have decided to explore Tumblr as a blogging platform.

Since Tumblr has been ranked higher than my fav WP blogging engine, I thought it would be best for me to test out this favored space for blogging. I thought the UCRS 1000 course would be a great opportunity to learn (for myself and many of my students) how to use Tumblr and share reflections. In previous posts, I have shared with my thoughts on how digital literacy is lacking among our undergraduate students — so why not model & use an online tool with purpose to learn?

Start Tumblin’

Here are a few resources I have used to set the students and instructors up for success when implementing Tumblr into an learning curriculum: 

1. Create your OWN Tumblr account. Play and explore with the blogging platform FIRST. Make it your own. Learn how to use it before you decide you want to use it for a class. Post videos, images, texts, and follow others online.

2. Set up a “go to” class Tumblr Blog. This will be a space for general class announcements, information, resources and model your blogging expectation for your learners. Here is the blog I created for my class this Fall semester: 

3. Outline and post a step-by-step approach that is simple & easy to follow both online on the class  Tumblr blog AND in your course syllabus, for example: HOW TO: Create A Tumblr Blog for UCRS 1000 (Thanks to the folks at MakeUseOf for their “how to” ideas for Tumblr

4. Provide students with insider tips for Tumblr that will be RELEVANT for the class objectives:

  • Follow a blog or two: Encourage the class to “follow” the primary class blog; ask students their preference for sharing and following other Tumblr blogs with their peers
  • Uploading a photo: need to find an online JPG or other photos form website sources
  • Privacy: create a primary Tumblr and then a 2nd Tumblr blog for the class if they want to keep it private (but give the instructor a password so they can read posts)
  • Tumblr suggestions:  there are many that are suggested, but let learners know they are NOT required to do this
  • Dashboard: When logged into Tumblr you will always return you to the Dashboard view; which is good since this is where text, photos, videos, quotes, etc will be posted and where you can read other blogs that are being followed

5. Academic Expectations: Detail your expectations and purpose for the Tumblr blog posts. Learners need to understand the WHY they are blogging and what you hope they will get out of it for the class. Also detail the specifics of what you require for your each blog post. For example, I told students that images, videos or quotes are welcome since it is a blog; however they are required to include a minimum of 600 words that address each assigned  blog topic. Suggest that students draft blog posts in Word document or a text editor before posting online to check for spelling, grammar & proper sentence structure. 

6. Follow and/or Bundle: It is easy to “follow” your student back on Tumblr in order to read and learn what they are reflecting about over the semester; however I have found it easier to group the Tumblr blog URLs into a single Google Bundle on my Google Reader (since that’s where I read blogs, news and other updates on a regular basis). These bundles are easy to share with other instructors, TA’s or students in the class as well. 

I will keep Tumblin’ along this semester, and keep you posted on how this learning experience goes. Do you use Tumblr for learning or teaching? If so, please share your tips, thoughts & experiences.