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Class blog on quantum information

by Michael Nielsen on November 10, 2004

Running a blog for a class is certainly an interesting idea. This is being done for a Philosophy of Physics course at Carleton University, whose syllabus includes plenty of quantum information. Appears to be mainly scribe notes for the lectures, rather than a conversational forum. As a variation – I’ll bet someone has done this already! – it would be interesting to give students incentives to post comments, and try to get a lively conversation going.

From → General

  1. Suresh permalink

    actually this blog has comments, but illustrates the pitfalls of having comments: it appears that the comments were hacked by some online casino.

  2. Dave permalink

    Hi, I am the instructor running the course on Philosophy of Physics at Carleton College.

    Our comments have been subject to a spambot, but people should not be discouraged by this from using blogs in teaching. Quite frankly, we are new at using blogs for teaching here, and the initial configuration was not optimal. We know what to do in the future to avoid this. Turns out to be hard to remove retroactively, and since the course has only a couple of weeks to go (we are on 10-week terms) we decided to just leave it as is.

    Students could be encouraged more to use comments to continue conversations. I did not, since I wanted to see whether it would be used this way without any “incentives”. However, the attack on the comments makes this a flawed experiment. I’ll have to think about what to try next time; and I will definitely use blogs for future courses.

  3. Hi Dave,

    I admire your experimenting with this idea! It’s too bad about the spambots. What a pain. As I’m sure you’re aware, there are pieces of software that will help delete such spam.

    The thinking behind my comment about incentives was this.

    Blogs and blog comments are a relatively new medium, and I suspect some fraction of the students will need a little push to get them involved. Maybe they might be required to post some comments as part of one or two of the homework assignments? These wouldn’t be graded, beyond participation or non-participation being noted.

    This would break the unfamiliarity barrier, and perhaps help get some critical mass going in the comments.

  4. Dave permalink

    Thanks for the encouragement. Even having the class scribe notes on the blog has proved helpful, but the goal was to get conversations going outside of class, and that has not really happened.

    I will make posting an commenting to the blog a requirement in the future. Exactly how, I am not sure, but it will be something along the lines that you suggest. I think that students need to be encouraged to think of what they are doing in courses as being directly related to what is going on in the larger world of research. Blogs are a great tool for this. BTW, the class thought that it was pretty cool that you noticed our blog.

    As to the spambots, our course blogs are hosted by our IT department, and I have to be patient as they ramp up with this relatively new technology.

  5. Re noticing your class blog: is great for finding out who links to a blog. I’ve found a lot of great blogs just surfing around there.

  6. Geoff Ericksson permalink

    Hi Michael,

    One of the courses at ANU (from memory it was called “The Big Questions”) run by Craig Savage used a community website as part of the course. My memories are from the days before blogs, but it served the same purpose. If you are actually interested in using a blog for a course then I would recommend talking to Craig to discover what worked/didn’t work before proceeding.


  7. Michael Nielsen permalink

    Hi Geoff — Thanks for the pointer. I’ve no immediate plans to try this, but will keep it in mind.

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