Assignment: Adjusting Your EduBlog

On Tuesday I was able to check the status of your EduBlogs, give a bit of feedback on your of your posts, and to reflect on the themes you discussed as a group. 

Today, I’d like to alert you to changes to you blogs moving forward — remember, learning this platform is a slow process, so every week I’ll likely have you add a few small adjustments I expect you to master. 

I expect these changes to be made by Sunday, Feb 9th, if not earlier.  

On your reflections: 

Reminders of the Post Requirements

    • At least one (1) post per week
    • At least two (2) comments on other student journal posts per week 
    • Respond to comments on your own posts

What to write about: 

    • Write in relation to what we’re studying together
    • Write and comment substantially

Add paragraph spacing

A single block of text is really difficult to read. Break out your thoughts into new paragraphs.

This might mean that some of your paragraphs are only 2-3 sentences long (some should be longer to show you’re developing ideas), but it’s much easier to process if you have disparate thoughts than cramming them into one, long “paragraph” 


On commenting: 

These should also be substantial! Poke around the various peer blog options until a post really resonates with you, and comment there — rather than just picking the first you come across. 

Responding: “Hi! I like you reflection and agree with you!” is definitely not substantial. 


On EduBlog Settings

Start to tinker around with the settings on your blog. 

Customize your blog (through themes and appearance) 

At this point, about half- to two-thirds of the blogs are still in the GSU default theme. Start playing around with different themes to find one that appeals to you. 

This is not just a skill you’re gaining (adjusting settings on wordpress), but also gives each blog a custom feel and makes it easier for me to distinguish and identify you as student authors.

Clear out the “noise”

Many of the blogs still have the example widgets, posts, and comments that were pre-loaded on the blogs.

Within the appearance settings, you should be able to delete and rearrange any widgets that you aren’t using. 

Also, go into posts and delete the first example post and comments, unless you’ve already written over them. 

Add a picture / avatar

Cvanholm1 AvatarCvanholm1 picture

I’d like to see your face (or a representation of you) when you post and comment

You can either upload an image of yourself, or create an avatar (ala Bitmoji, avatar maker, etc) 

Adjust your comments settings

Make sure you’ve adjusted the settings moving forward so that comments are automatically approved and posted. 

Adjust your timestamp to EST time

Meta-Reflection: A reflection on your reflections

I spent the good part of three hours today reading through your first EduBlog reflections and the comments. While I spent a substantial amount of time making sure to comment on each of your reflections, I wanted to take a moment to reflect myself on what I saw in your responses as a whole. I won’t be able to do this every week, but its important to me that 1) you know that I’m reading and reflection on your thoughts and 2) that I can do a similar project that I’m asking you to do. 

So here we go! A few themes that I noticed while reading your reflections today, and my response…

(side note:  I’m now wishing I had started tracking the topics and main phrases y’all used to make a word cloud — oh well, next time)


A general distrust and distaste for modern medicine and big pharma

Over the course of the semester, this theme will arise again and again. The idea that modern Western medicine is missing the mark somehow – whether it be the lack of time spent with patients, the strong drugs with adverse side effects, the over prescription of said drugs, or a limited (rather than holistic) scope of practice that focuses only on the body and not the “whole person.”

What I hope you realize through the next weeks is that this dissatisfaction with heroic medicine / regular medicine / biomedicine (whichever medical system has the hegemonic power) has pervaded the American psyche. This is not a new phenomenon nor a return to past – it’s always been there. 


Issues with accessibility to regular / biomedicine — 

Connected to the distrust of regular / heterodox medicine is the general sense that it’s inaccessible, not just to patients, but also the process of “legitimation” made it an inaccessible profession to any person that wasn’t white and male. While I didn’t assign the chapter this time around, Baer has an excellent discussion of the role of corporate capitalism in the rise of biomedicine. He pays special attention to the Flexner Report. It’s stated intent was to ensure that medical practitioners were held to a high standard for the protection of patients, but a (unintended?) consequence was the closure of many medical schools that allowed women and Black doctors.

A related issue is the prohibitive cost of healthcare from regular physicians. As we’ll see a bit in this week’s readings (Week 3), regular medicine was typically more expensive than alternative modalities — it most definitely is now. In terms of Thomsonian medicine, he imagined the ultimate democratization of healing — “every (hu)man (their) own doctor” — (but I’d also push back on the idea that these early healers were completely altruistic and “good hearted” as some of you mentioned in your reflections; they were still making good money selling the rights to their approach).

The conversation of accessibility healthcare will become more complex as we work through the syllabus: first with conversations about the Holistic Health Movement and New Age healing (usually upper- or middle-class white women who have disposable income), but then broadening our conversations to different types of CAM that may (or may not) appeal to other communities, especially Black, Indigenous, and immigrant communities that face discrimination and trauma by the biomedical community. 

My questions for you here are: Throughout these different historical periods, what are some of the barriers of access to regular / biomedical care? And what happens when biomedical care doesn’t “work” / cure (in the case of chronic illness)? How do you imagine some of these issues relate to who practices / is a patient of alternative medicine? What about biomedical care seems insufficient, and how are the values of alternative medicine filling those gaps? 


A desire for “natural” and “holistic” — 

Time and again in your posts I read comments about how y’all (or your families) were much more receptive to healing modalities that were “natural” – whether that meant an avoidance of prescription meds because of their side effects, or because “clean living” and healthier lifestyles lead to less disease in the first place, or that modern medicine is limited in effectiveness and needs to “integrate” with alternatives… These are also not new or modern concepts. As we’ll see in this week chapters, but especially in the Holistic Health movement, these values are consistently part of American’s views on healing. 

A few more questions to keep in mind as we continue to read: How do all of these communities define “natural”? What does “holistic medicine” mean, especially in the context of the Holistic Health movement? Despite alternative medicine’s attention to “holism” , how does it continue to be “limited” (per Baer)? 


Personal and familiar use of a variety of “alternative healing” practices

Thank you all for sharing your personal and familiar / community experiences of CAM healing! Some of the practices that y’all mentioned included:  folk and ethno- medicine (teas, herbs, tinctures, oils), parochial medicine (incense, prayer for healing), and some New Age healing (crystals, energy healing).

I’d love to know more about all of these practices, especially the folk medical traditions used in your family – to the extend that you’re willing to share. Some of the most powerful reflections and connections to material happen when we talk about things related to your life, your family, your community… One student even mentioned calling their mom to share that a leader from their religious communities was mentioned in the one of the chapters — that made my day! And while that won’t happen every week, hopefully once or twice throughout the semester we’ll touch on something that resonates with your experience. 

Another great source of content for your reflections would be the integration of how you see CAM pop up in your daily life. Snap pictures while you’re at the grocery store waiting in line (so many health magazines draw on CAM and holistic health movement ideals), at the esoteric shop (New Age healing), the tea that your grandma make when you’re sick or the tonic that a friend sends from abroad (folk medicine, herbal remedies, “Eastern” healing). Once you start looking, you might see it everywhere! 

On a personal note, as a child of California hippies (my mom was at UC Berkeley in the late 60’s and my dad considers himself a (neo)shaman (yes, in all the very problematic ways) — most of the content we’ll cover this semester (at least the modalities that are marketed to middle-class while folks) is familiar to me and feels a bit like “home” — and I find it really fascinating (and an opportunity of growth to encounter all the problematic ways I was raised) to explore the history of practices that were just a part of my background growing up.

Commenting on Peer EduBlogs

First of all, take a deep breath…

It’s Sunday evening, so that mean’s we’ve made it through the first parts of two assignments: the group discussions and the reflection post. I got a number of panicky emails, but y’all are doing great, I promise!  

That being said, we’re clearly working through a few kinks. Thank you for your patience as we work through this together, as a community. 

First, it looks like the EduBlogs automatically set comments to require manual approval. Make sure you go back into Settings > Discussion and adjust that setting. Here are step-by-step guides on how to adjust comments settings for past comments and overall

Also, I think a number of you waited until Sunday evening to post your reflections, so a lot of comments happened at the last minute as well.

How do you suggest we move forward in the scheduling of posts? Should posts be due by Friday, and then comments by Sunday? Or do you think in the coming weeks posts will naturally be more spread out throughout the week. Tell me your thoughts in the comments section below; your insight is valued! 

Tomorrow I’ll post the weekly announcement and by the end of the week will provide details ont the Choice Projects. Keep an eye out for those and check your EduBlogs occasionally (or set up email notifications for comments) as I’ll be posting on your first reflections with individual feedback soon. 

EduBlog Resources

I posted this information in the Week 2 Announcement, but also wanted to re-post it along with resources for technical help while you create your Reflection Journals on the EduBlog platform. 

For a basic introduction to EduBlogs / WordPress: 

For various EduBlog User Guides: 

For technical support:

For help navigating EduBlogs


If you find any other resources that you’ve found helpful, please comment with the links below!



A few thoughts about the EduBlog platform…

I’ve had a few students email me questions about why I’m using the EduBlogs platform — and I get it — having four or five classes, each using a different platform (iCollege, WordPress, etc), can be really tedious. On top of learning the course materials, you’re also supposed to learn to navigate different websites. It can add up to a lot of unexpected work. 

So I wanted to take a moment and explain a little bit more about my general reasoning for using EduBlogs as the course platform and the motivation behind the “Learning Journal” assignment. I promise I’ve been thoughtful in choosing this platform, and I’m not just trying to make your student life more difficult. 


Technology and “Applied Religious Studies”

In the Religious Studies department, we’ve moving towards what has been called “Applied Religious Studies”, and there have been a lot of conversations about what that actually means. 

To me, not only are we exploring course topics that can apply to student’s later careers outside of academia (non-profit sector, medicine, education, etc), my work in the department has always played with digital pedagogy — the idea of using technology and digital resources to enhance one’s education.

So for me, learning the in’s-and-outs of a new digital platform is actually part of the work of being a modern student. If you get nothing else out of this course, my hope is that you’ll be able to put a valuable new skill set on your resume — that you have a working knowledge of WordPress systems. 

And on a personal note, some of my favorite classes I took as a graduate student incorporated different types of digital projects. I came out of the Religious Studies department creating wikipedia-esque sources on Weebly and Wix, building out a website for a study abroad trip to Turkey, coaching students in how to  “write for podcasts”, among others… Check these out if you have a chance…


Discussion Boards and Reflection Journals

Another line of reasoning I’ve played through is that, while I’ve spent the last few years becoming proficient in iCollege, the platform itself isn’t suited to what I’m trying to create in terms of reflection journals. 

Thankfully during my university career I only had one course that used “Discussion Boards”. I absolutely hated them, and thought they were a complete waste of my time. But when I started teaching online and looked into “Best Practices,” a lot of the content I came across used a model something along the lines of: assign readings, record lectures over powerpoint slides, exams / papers, and discussion boards. And honestly, from my perspective at least, that’s just not how people learn. Even if they do, it’s not a style that’s actually conducive to higher order thinking — I’ll come back to that later…

That’s all to say, iCollege is a great platform for Discussion Posts. It’s streamline and it’s very easy to grade on the professor’s end. It makes life easier for the professor / instructor.

But in my view, it’s also busy work. Students throw together word minimums of non-sense, or feel restricted in what to write about. It’s just another assignment to check off every week. 

My hope is that, through the Reflection Journal (blogs), each student will have their own space to think and process in a loosely structured way, hopefully aided by the less “academic” and sterile digital environment. You’ll have a little corner of the internet all to yourself, to process your thoughts on the course material, to get your toes wet in what it’s like to be a producer in the digital world, and to hopefully participate in an online community (though for the moment it will just be your course peers). It’s a fluid space where you can integrate content you’re consuming other places, like social media, and make connections that might otherwise be stifled in a typical online classroom model. 


Creative Expression and Higher Order Thinking

And finally, one of the biggest reasons for my switch over to EduBlogs has to do with the the “Choice Board” assignments. While I’m finalizing the details on that end and will explore it more with you next week, I’m hoping EduBlogs will encourage students to not just learn a new digital media, but also to present the course content you’ve learned in a creative way (ala Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning). 

Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning - Vanderbilt

from Vanderbilt University Center for Learning

I’ve found that the best courses (or at least the one’s where I retained knowledge learned much longer), were classes in which I wasn’t simply reading and recalling what we’d covered in class (through tests or papers), but instead taking that material and presenting in a completely new, innovative way. 

So while iCollege is an excellent platform for organizing course content, I haven’t quite figured out how to incorporate innovative or interesting projects into its design. If you’ve got ideas from other courses you’ve taken, please let me know!

And all that being said, this is also an experiment. I hope it’s successful, but there is a chance that it will fail. But if you show up, and are a little bit flexible with the course, the learning curve on EduBlogs, and trust that I’m going to do my best to trouble-shoot it on my end too, then I think it’ll turn out just fine. 

So tell me, what kind of online courses have you taken in the past? Have any of your courses integrated novel projects that really engaged you, or are you used to tests and papers? Tell me about your experience in higher education — what you love, what you hate, what you wish was different, and what you’d like to see more of…