Ryan Chartrand

Although online blogs have not always been considered educational, Cal Poly professor Laura Freberg proves they can be.

Her blog, which she uses mainly to help her psychology students, placed eighth in the “individual blogger” category of the 2007 Weblog awards.

The Weblog awards are the largest blog competition in the world, covering 45 categories and getting 525,000 votes in last year’s competition.

Freberg began her blog in 2006 to help the students in her biological psychology class. She said that in the past, she had tried to use discussion boards, but it was limited. She said that the ability of a blog to handle pictures and links makes it a more dynamic and useful tool for communicating with her students and presenting material.

“I find out really quickly which topics are interesting to students and which are not,” Freberg said.

She said that although she is often right about which topics will most interest her students, occasionally students will pick a topic she never would have considered.

“It’s a great reality check for a teacher to know this,” Freberg said. “If we can use high-interest examples to make our points, learning becomes a lot easier.”

Freberg said this also helps with the wide range of student personalities and gives everyone a chance to participate in the class.

“I find that some students will speak up in class, but others really blossom in this format, where they can write their thoughts down,” Freberg said. “Seeing that students are really thinking about your course content and using what they learn on a daily basis is one of the terrific things about teaching.”

Velanche Stewart, an information technology consultant for the College of Liberal Arts, is one of Freberg’s friends and fellow bloggers. The two discuss their blogs and trade advice.

“No matter how trendy or pretty a blog can be, it’s all about the content and capturing the attention of others to stay with the blog on a regular basis,” Stewart said. “Laura has obviously put a great deal of heart and soul into her blog, and to be recognized makes the nomination all the sweeter.”

Stewart said that technology, and blogs in particular, seem to be a family affair with Freberg. Her daughter and her husband both have blogs of their own.

Freberg said she is not entirely sure how she came to be nominated. Anyone can nominate a candidate, so presumably one of her students or a reader of her blog did so. Although there is no prize that Freberg is aware of, she said the recognition of her hard work is an honor. Some of the other blogs nominated in her category are fairly famous in the blogging world.

Freberg said that she loves to work on the blog and does most of the work herself when she has time.

“I am really a geek,” Freberg said. “I love technology.”

She said if she had the chance to return to school, she would try to get accepted to the USC program for video game design. She occasionally seeks help and advice from friends and family but enjoys trying it out herself.

When asked how others could make their own blogs a success, Freberg said people should start with a topic they know. From there, she said to have fun with it, show the real “you” and never be afraid to experiment with a new idea.

“I think one of the reasons my blog is different is that I use personal experience as an example for talking about science,” Freberg said. “A lot of science blogs don’t do that.”

Freberg said another appeal to her students is her somewhat unorthodox self.

“My students find the concept of a (baby) boomer female psychology professor who plays Zelda on the Wii and has season tickets to USC football to be somewhat unusual,” Freberg said.

Hobbies aside, her blog has helped her students to better understand her course material.

The final results of the Weblog awards were announced Nov. 8 at the BlogWorld and New Media Expo in Las Vegas. The first-place award in the “individual blogger” category went to Glenn Reynolds for his blog Instapundit. He received 9,777 votes, which accounted for 54.1 percent of the total votes in the category. Freberg placed eighth and received 281, or 1.6 percent of the total votes.

To see Freberg’s blog, visit www.laurafreberg.com/blog.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *