As Jennifer Pope explains, these days, all organizations need an online presence.
Consequently, it is critically important for graduates to enter the workforce equipped not only with expertise in their respective disciplines, but with the ability to communicate on the web, whether it is via a blog, social media, or a website, says Pope, a web designer for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University–Camden.
“So by teaching students how to blog, we're giving them skills that they can use in any career they wish to pursue,” says Pope, who was recently accepted into the doctoral program in library and information science at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.
Several Rutgers–Camden students are now well on their way to becoming seasoned bloggers, thanks to Pope, and their quick-thinking professor, Próspero N. García, an assistant professor in the Department of Foreign Languages.
A pupil in Pope’s faculty workshops on blogging, García immediately recognized the value of offering his students an opportunity to acquire these skills. The tools would allow them to reflect on their own learning, he thought, and to develop their identity as present or future educators. From a professional standpoint, it would also enable them to show their work in the form of an electronic portfolio, a bonus when applying for a job in the education field. “I expected that my students would continue to use their newly acquired skills in their own projects outside the classroom,” he says.
García arranged for Pope to teach students WordPress in his Technology in the Spanish Classroom course in fall 2013. The course, designed for in-service teachers, pre-service teachers, and advanced Spanish majors, enables students to develop a basic knowledge of the key concepts, problems, and goals of Technology Enhanced Language Learning and Second Language Acquisition.
As Pope recalls, the students’ skills levels ranged from inexperienced to those who already maintained blogs. Nonetheless, she found that, across the board, they picked up the skills with ease.
Student Brian Everett agreed, noting his surprise at discovering how easy it was to manage a website. “Ms. Pope made it very easy to understand WordPress and how the website functions,” recalls Everett, a junior who is majoring in Spanish and urban studies.
García echoed the sentiment, noting that his students were able to create a skeleton of their website within a week, and continue to maintain their blogs on a weekly basis. He notes countless examples illustrating how his students continue to benefit from learning these skills.
For instance, some students, like Everett, have developed blogs to engage the public on issues that matter to them. Everett’s site, njpovertyreality.wordpress.com, focuses on New Jersey's most aid-reliant municipalities. Through research and statistical calculations, his goal is to determine the causes for specific areas to be so reliant on state, municipal, and educational aid. He says that he has been able to develop information through his blog that he actively uses in his current internship working for New Jersey’s 5th Legislative District.
Everett envisions using his blog in the future as a portfolio for his applications to Ph.D. programs in public affairs. “Ultimately, I hope that it will help me to one day work as a research professor studying poverty and government legislation,” says Everett, a resident of Cherry Hill.
García adds that his students who are current educators are using their blogs as tools to enhance their teaching. They are able to upload new technological applications, tasks, activities, cultural events, or general information for their students.
Furthermore, some students continue to use WordPress as an avenue to blog about their lives, families, and cultures. He notes that most of his students are native to Hispanic countries and blogging allows them to maintain their cultural identities, while giving them the opportunity to reflect and share their learning and vital experiences with the world.
By harnessing these skills, says García, his students are able to use the forum to reflect in a more personal and comprehensive way than through other media. “It seems that reflecting on their own blog provides them with senses of agency and autonomy,” he says.