CATS Conference at Concordia University, Part II

Well, it’s now more than a month since I got back from Concordia, and I’ve only just gotten around to writing about a really interesting presentation I attended while I was away. I put the blame squarely on house-hunting and the subsequent packing, moving and unpacking, which all required more time than I was expecting. And what’s more, I had no access to the Internet for over two weeks, which really inhibited me from writing a few blog posts and finishing up my research on translation blogs.

Now that I finally have wireless again at home, I’m sitting down to write a summary of the presentation by Philippe Caignon at the 23rd CATS conference. He spoke about his decision to use blogs as a pedagogical tool in his terminology class last year, when he chose a topic (green economics) and had students blog about terminology in this field. Students were graded only on their blogs, which they had to present in front of the class on a weekly basis. Their classmates could then offer constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement.

Philippe noted that adding blogs to the course led to several positive results. For instance, there was better collaboration among the students, who gave each other advice; students paid more attention to their spelling/grammar and to their sources, since their peers could read and comment on their postings; and students felt free to be as creative as they wanted, which may not have happened in a traditional terminology course. However, he did have to spend class time teaching students how to create a blog, as many of them didn’t know how to go about it. The students also complained that they were spending too much time on their blogs tweaking the appearance, widgets, etc., and Philippe found that the creativity manifested by the students led to such diverse blogs that he had to spend much more time marking their work than he would have if he had assigned another type of project.

What intrigued me the most in the presentation was the assessment rubric. Students were graded on various aspects of their blogs, including the quality and originality of the blog, student responses to comments from their peers, the evolution in the blog’s quality and the student’s critical thinking, and the relevance of the student’s comments on other blogs. I think this kind of rubric would greatly encourage collaboration among students and I also believe this model could be adapted for a translation theory course. Students could write weekly comments on the readings and the topics seen in class. And every week, two or three students could spend ten minutes presenting their blogs (and their thoughts on the previous week’s topics) to the class. Blogs also allow students to share links to videos or podcasts, which could enrich our in-class discussions.

It’s too bad that I won’t be teaching the translation theory course again this year, because I would have liked to have used blogs as a teaching tool, now that I’ve prepared most of the course material. However, I will still keep this idea in mind, as I’ve proposed a master’s-level course on political translation, and I think blogs could be incorporated into that course instead. If I do work something out, I’ll write another post about what I decided to do. I’d really like to hear from professors who have already used blogs as teaching tools in their translation courses, or from students who have any thoughts on blogs in the classroom, so please add a comments or send me an email if you’d like to share your experiences.

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