Two Campus Archeology Program (CAP) summer field school programs trained students in archaeological methods and served as a way to gain primary understanding of the cultural resources that serve as background to archaeological work that may be later required as a result of MSU expansion and construction projects on campus. Leveraging the hands-on nature of ANP 464, course co-directors Lynne Goldstein and Terry Brock developed a blog for the field school that would serve as a tool for engaging the broad community who were interested in the results of the excavations. Students were expected to contribute posts to the blog discussing their experiences: what they were learning, how they learned it, a snippet on an artifact they found, or a method they were learning.
Such a project was unique for field schools: most field schools that use blogs only include contributions from the director or perhaps graduate student supervisors. By having students generate CAP’s blog posts, the instructors were able to give this tool an additional dimension as one for teaching students, not just the public, while also beginning to teach future generations of archaeologists about the benefits and importance of digital public engagement.
The blog was used as a hands-on way of teaching archaeological methods, and it did so in a way that was "real". Four goals were sought through the use of a blog during the field school:
- To teach students the importance of public archaeology and how it intersects with digital social media;
- To enhance student understanding of concepts practiced in the field through teaching and explaining them to others;
- To improve students' ability to effectively communicate with the public about scientific and archaeological content;
- To help students develop skills in digital literacy that they will be able to transfer to pursuits other than archaeology.
By being an open-access blog, where students were engaging with the actual public, this project also fit within the framework of the archaeological field school as an experiential, "hands-on" learning environment. Additionally, it provided the instructors with a way to assess what students were learning: rarely have archaeological field schools provided this type of assessment. Also, the project also gave students buy-in into the project, by allowing them to select topics, and to be the face of the field school through its digital presentation. Finally, the approach not only educates students for a potential future in public archaeology, but also teaches them how to be better and more effective stewards of cultural heritage in a digital age, an important component of anthropological education regardless of the student's future careers.