At the Society for American Archaeology Conference in Sacramento this spring, I will be participating in a session called “Blogging Archaeology”, hosted by archaeologist (and blogger) Colleen Morgan (@clmorgan). She has posted the abstracts for the papers on her blog, Middle Savagery. I am very excited for the session, and will be working on two of the papers. The first, co-written with Sarah Nohe (@FPANSoutheast) of the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN), will look at the usage of digital social media, including blogging, as a means of community engagement. The Campus Archaeology Program will be featured in this paper, as will FPAN. The second paper I will be doing by myself, and will be looking at the summer blogging project I did with our students on our Campus Archaeology Summer Field School.
This paper will look to examine the ways that blogging can be used as both an engagement tool and a teaching tool. The project itself was regularly straight forward: we set up a blog and had students write posts throughout the excavations. The blog was open to the public. Posts ranged from introducing a type of methodology, to posts about specific artifacts, or about different elements of being in the field such as teamwork. As a teacher, these were helpful because they gave me an insight into what was and wasn’t being learned by students. As archaeologists concerned with community engagement, it allowed us to present our findings to the public, gave them an inside look into what a field school experience might be like, and also learned about their community’s history and the process of doing archaeology. For the students, they were forced to experience what they were learning in a more constructive and critical way: they had to teach the public something that they just learned, meaning they had to go over it again.
Most importantly, however, is the education of students in a new kind of public engagement. Through the blog, in addition to students being responsible for touring visitors to the archaeological site, students began to learn the importance of community engagement (a fact that shone through nicely in two blog posts by the students themselves). While the site tours are a more traditional means of community engagement, using the blog allowed students to interact with a digital public. This was a new form of interaction for most of them (only a few had used a blog before), and I think was rewarding for many of them (before I give this presentation at SAAs, I will be sending these students a survey to determine whether or not they actually did enjoy the assignments).
Regardless, I am excited for the session. There will be a number of excellent bloggers present, and there will certainly be some interesting conversations about what more we can do with blogging, social media, and archaeology.
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