December 1, 2008

GWSS Tech Talk: Feminist Teaching with Technology

Monday, December 8th from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
in the Feminist Media Center (FMC), 468 Ford Hall
Facilitator: Rachel Raimist -

Workshop Description:

In this GWSS Tech Talk / Feminist Media Center (FMC) workshop, I will share some theories and practices of feminist teaching, learning, research, and creativity using technology. I will use examples from GWSS courses: Gender, Power and Everyday Life: An Intro to GWSS, Feminist Thought and Theory, Feminist Film Studies, Digital Storytelling In and With Communities of Color, to show how technology can help support and deepen feminist pedagogical practices.

In this session, I will:

+ Demonstrate multiple uses of course blogs // Blogs can be used to create community, continue/deepen course discussions, post creative work (images, sound, video), extend reading responses, track news items, post event info, and easily share content to all members of the classroom community for large and small course enrollments [ see my personal blog on how and why i use blogs for teaching and learning ]

+ Briefly demonstrate key uses of WebVista (formerly WebCT) // WebVista is a course website that can be used as a reading repository for enrolled students, place of accessible web links, announcements, computer-graded quiz tools, message boards, chat rooms, calendar tool, gradebook, and other helpful features. I will forward you the UMN DMC for extended training on WebVista (their workshops are free, many are available online, and they are great!)

+ Illustrate UMN supported multimedia tools // Moodle, Breeze, Wikis, Jabber, and other digital media tools offered through MyU Portal

+ Share UMN tech resources // free and low cost classes, free online tutorials, and new state of the art classrooms available for course use

+ Get you posting to the GWSS community blog - GWSS Tech Talk:
You can advertise courses, events, share calls for papers, funding opportunities, and other information of interest to our community [ and everyone will learn how to post to this blog during this session]

!!! Seating is limited. RSVP is encouraged! Please RSVP to if you are planning to attend this session.


October 12, 2008

Why and How I Blog (GWSS uses of Uthink blog)

I recently wrote a letter in support of UThink blog upgrade (a long overdue move to latest version of Movable Type).

I thought that I should share with all of you, since so frequently (on campus and in cyberspace) I am asked why and how I use blogs as tools for teaching, learning, and as a means of distribution for creative media work. I did conduct a workshop last year on FEMINIST TEACHING WITH TECHNOLOGY, but that was mostly tech (with theoretical overview), much of which is expanded here.

I would have to say that my favorite use of the course blogs (beyond what I've listed below) is the adaption of a "typical" midterm film analysis paper that asks students to analyze a film scene, shot by shot. By adapting that assignment to be a blog assignment, SEE HERE, I can actually see the images (students take using screen grab in the FMC, which gives them additional tech tools, as well as opens up their work to all of our classroom community of learners.

So here's the letter:

I am a doctoral candidate and Graduate Instructor in the department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies and an avid user of the UThink blogging system for teaching, learning, research, creative work, and community building. The use of UThink blogs has been central to all of the CLA courses that I have taught from 2006 to the present. I have been eagerly awaiting the UThink update to the latest version of Movable Type because the group blog format and other enhanced features that are currently available. An upgrade of the current system would be tremendously beneficial to my work, and to the work of many UThink bloggers in my department.

I first used a course blog for my fall 2006 course (WoSt 3307) FEMINIST FILM STUDIES. This course had 80 enrolled students, which is a large course for GWSS and can be difficult to teach with feminist pedagogy; I engage practices and methods that centers student voices, utilizes active learning practices, and builds the classroom as a space of community of learners. Using the blog for this course enabled community building beyond our weekly meeting time, in so many ways. I was able to “hear� all of the student’s voices and ideas, which is an impossibility during the limited class periods. I found that students who rarely speak in the classroom, often took the lead on blog discussions, and their ideas prompted many rigorous discussions. The first assignment, a “low risk� task, was to post a “Top 10� favorite list of films. This assignment allowed the class to share films screened outside of class, and let me know, as the Instructor, that they knew how to post, embed images, create links, and embed video clips, all tasks that were required for the remainder of the course’s academic and creative assignments. I also discovered that students, without being required to post comments, read each other’s posts, posted comments, and began to create a true community of learners beyond the “traditional� campus classroom and meeting hours, without my prompt, requirement or intervention.

Additionally, the blogs connect students, very literally, to learning and community beyond the enrolled students. I use blog as a way for students to share their research, like an assignment that asks students to “report� on women of color filmmakers. Students were amazed when some of the filmmakers posted in the comments of their posts. In their course evaluations, the students said that having their idea on the web, connected to filmmakers in the “real� world, made it seem that their assignments were a part of the feminist tradition of recovery and spotlight of women’s works that aren’t always easily accessible. For course final projects (often videos, photo essays, and powerpoint presentations), I ask students to post their work to the blog. This enables us to easily move from one project to the next (without the usual tech set-up delays during in-class presentations), is a way for students work to be showcased beyond class, and remains as an archive of the work, and still receives comments from those on and off campus.

In courses such as my spring 2008 (GWSS 3390) FEMINIST MEDIA MAKING, and my current course (AFRO3910/GWSS 3390) DIGITAL STORYTELLING in and with Communities of Color the blog is central to assignments and active student learning practices. I required assignments be posted to the blog, which creates engaged conversations (that is normally only a two-way street, traveled between student and Instructor only). With the blog, students ideas and discussions flow across complex interchanges and intersections, with all of the community of learners participating and benefit from peer learning. Blog posts often become prompts for course discussion, and a site for all of us to share information linking our site to news and events on campus. I also post all of the technical instructions (like how to use particular software or embed video in their post) on the blog, and as a result I find that students, accessing this information from anywhere they find themselves working, and often they post more than just the required assignments. Additionally, I often have students keep their own blogs as journals to trace their engagement with course ideas. Without the group blog features available in Movable Type updates, I create a work-around by linking the course blog to each of the blogs in the right sidebar, functional but clunky, to say the least.

It’s also important to note that I was an CLA IT Fellow (2005 – 2007), and taught the faculty, graduate students, majors, minors and enrolled GWSS students how to blog. In the beginning many were cautious, skeptical, or just resistant to using the blogs, fearful of privacy issues and exposure of their students. With my courses as a model, and an instruction on uses display name alias tool in UThink, I’ve found (and heard through feedback with others) that students, accountable to the reading “public� post thoughts phrased more critically, rather than personally attacking (as some feel comfortable doing when they only hand the paper in to the faculty). Some of our courses use the blogs for assignments, event postings, and reading response papers, while some courses use blogs for the sharing of creative work like adbusting and postcard projects (similar to Post Secret. Blogs are used for large and small enrollment courses, and for both lecture section and discussion sections. I have not received any negative feedback from the use of course blogs. Currently, there are numerous GWSS course blogs on the UThink system, and the numbers and methods of uses seems to be expanding exponentially.

I welcome you to visit our blogs to see brilliant, creative, and engaged scholarly work that is happening because of the Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies Department’s use of the UThink blogging tools.

Visit is our departmental blog: GWSS COMMUNITY BLOG

Visit some of our course blogs:

Visit some of our personal blogs:

Please don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss my excitement and uses of the UThink blogging system in further detail. I support a quick upgrade of the UThink system and hope that we can upgrade the system immediately. Thank you for considering this request.

Rachel Raimist
Former IT Fellow / Doctoral Candidate, GWSS / Graduate Instructor, GWSS and AFRO

August 3, 2006

... and still more reasons to blog/vlog

I love comments, I do! Since I haven't been blogging regularly during the summer I haven't gotten many but today's made me happy.

The UThink man, who has a great blog himself, left me a comment on my orig why blog/vlog post - he's linking to it for something he's working on & the uploads have been upped to 30mb!

I'm going to have lots of audio/video fun!

& on the "freedom" note, it looks like the U does allow for student responsibility for their blogs. Read the MN Daily article.

I also was reading around and found this study on blogging. A report called "Bloggers: a portrait of the new internet storytellers" done by the Pew Internet/American Life Project. It's an interesing read.

Why Blog? Why Vlog?

I have a lot of friends and colleagues who still look at me strangely when I get so excited about blogging and vlogging. They don't get it. Why? Isn't it just more work? Why don't you just spend that time on your real work?

There are many reasons I love to blog, here are I few:

1. It loosens me creatively. You know how teachers always had you free-write before writing the "real" assignment just to get the cobwebs loose and free you up to think. I blog and the writing just gets me thinking.

2. It's a great way to update my circles of fam, friends, women in hip hop on my life, thoughts, ideas. Often they post comments or links back to something they are doing and it just helps strengthen my community.

3. I can keep track of articles, new items, images, and films I've seen. The ultimate archive that can be changed, altered and updated. The categories allow for infinite topics - women in hip hop, film, personal diary documentary videos, and on. If only I could keep things so neat in my overflowing file cabinet.

4. It's really easy to update. I have a website that sat up for a year before I put a basic page on. Time is so hard to find. I can blog anything and everything (like new material, photos, links, appearances) quick, easy and from anywhere with internet access.

5. It's free. Since I'm at the U of M and UThink blogs are big (as of today the UThink Stats are: Blogs: 2729, Entries: 40012, Comments: 41227, Authors: 6179). Right now we have 10mb uploads (tho I have insider connects if I just have to get something bigger up) and unlimited space. It's great while it lasts.

6. I feel free to write what I want to. I know there are many debates about being professional and academic and how blogs have jeopardized that for many people. For me, it's a mute point. I don't tell secrets, lies, sex stories or anything like that and I don't think I'm very controversial. I still have a little ways to go to finish my program and maybe I won't find a job easily and have to re-think this but I have many blogging academic friends and those I read. Some are anonymous, some are not.

7. I use blogs for teaching. I allow students the choice to keep a traditional journal or a blog online. It's a way to engage them/their ideas with a larger online space, help them organize their research, connect with each other (through comments and linked posts) outside of the classroom space, and connect with content. I would be a hippo(crit) if I said blog, but I don't. It's fun for all and it's a stored archive of what happened that term.

8. I LOVE personal narratives, memoirs, diary documentary videos and I've found a couple vlogs that are the everyday version of that. I hope to keep a daily video diary but that will take a little bit more effort. We'll see.

9. I've gotten great baby stuff off my registry from old friends who otherwise wouldn't have known I was pregnant. Gotta love the baby ticker - 89 days to go!

10. I bought a new little camera (that I can't really afford right now) that takes great 6MP stills and video clips. They import with one click and can be posted straight away. I told my honey that "it's for the new baby!). I know, I know. See:
a pointless video
with me, bad princess kitty and foxy blasting on itunes. Hey, it's fun for me & that's what counts!

This morning local news also made me think about the many ways people are using blogs:
- sharing experiences across great distances
- finding comunity outside of your immediate area
- freedom of the press. or is it. please read this about blogger/journalist josh wolf who is being held without bail in federal prison, read the "free josh wolf" wiki here.
- great for campaigns (info, testimonials, links, organizing info, banners) and promotion
- people have many many many many many reasons to do this. u should try it too!

Some great vlogs:

Ryan is Hungry

Minnesota Stories
, Moment Showing, and
Ryanne Edit