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College News

The Story Behind Geeking out at Fisher


They have a clever blog name and send out an email to the campus community when they have a new blog post to share, but who exactly are the Fisher Geeks and how did the blog come to be?

Last summer, Jeremy Sarachan, Assistant Professor in the Communication/Journalism (C/J) Department; Dr. Todd Sodano, Assistant Professor in the C/J Department; and Dr. Rik Hunter, a former faculty member in the English Department, attended the New Media Consortium Conference at MIT. They came back with an idea to create a blog that would offer a vehicle for presenting the information and philosophies around contemporary educational technology in higher education that the three acquired at the conference, but had also been developing themselves over the years. After a discussion with Dr. David Pate, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, it was “go” time. The group immediately reached out to Katie McDonald, Educational Technologist, to see if she would join them. They also sent a request to the faculty, which helped them recruit Dr. Joellen Maples, Assistant Professor in the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education. Sarachan came up with the name for the blog, Geeking Out at Fisher, and the blogging began.

“It was part of my ongoing wish to reclaim the term ‘geek’ from being synonymous with ‘nerd,’ and use it to mean someone who enjoys and is willing to play with technology,” Sarachan said.

The blog’s tagline is “Exploring educational philosophy and technologies. For all professors and everyone else.” The content is aimed at those teaching in higher education.

“It’s a great way to share tips and strategies with everyone on campus. Using technology in your courses is all about experimentation. Every technology will be used differently in different courses by different faculty. Each person needs to find what works for them,” said McDonald. “The great thing about the blog is we can share what has worked for us and hope that others find the ideas helpful in their own use of technology to improve the learning experiences in their courses."

The group says the aim of the blog is to expose people to technology and help them realize that there is more available than any one person can learn on their own, so they encourage collaboration.

“We also want to explore how education can support — but not overwhelm — teaching, and that technology is just a collection of tools,” added Sarachan. “How people use them, whether or not for the intended purpose, is where it gets interesting.”

The geeks have attracted nearly 1,100 views since February, an impressive number for a blog that is still in its infancy. They try to post twice at least every month, although they have some lighter and some busier months. Each writer develops his/her own topic, but often run ideas by each other. Anyone can submit, and the group encourages guest bloggers.

Maples focuses her posts on particular Web 2.0 tools that she is integrating into her classroom so that she can talk specifically about the strengths and weaknesses and provide examples.

“I don't really consider myself a technology person, but I like to play with technology. I think the emphasis on play is an important disposition to have when approaching technology, and it's one I try to impress upon my students,” said Maples. “As we know, technology changes every day, and to teach only certain tools seems a bit useless. The main skill to teach is technological curiosity, the willingness to play and take risks, and the openness to take that journey with our students to be co-content creators."

The group hopes the blog will last and will continue to gain loyal readers.

“The blog has been a great tool from my perspective to get faculty thinking about new teaching and technology ideas, and I have had more than a few follow up with me to learn more about a certain idea after a blog post,” said McDonald.

One of the posts got so many faculty interested at the January Faculty Development Day, that the geeks scheduled a workshop to follow up on the topic.

Maples also said that several faculty in the School of Education have approached her after reading about the various tools and applications the group wrote about.

“It makes the intent of the blog meaningful to see that faculty are actually taking the ideas and trying them out in their own courses and tweaking them as they use them. It's energizing to talk with faculty about particular Web 2.0 tools and to hear them say that they can't wait for the next blog post to try out the next tool we discuss," said Maples.

Fisher Geeks

The folks behind the blog. In front, Dr. Todd Sodano and Jeremy Sarachan. In back, Katie McDonald and Dr. Joellen Maples.

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