Blogs for Learning and Reflective Practice?

With nearly 147 million blogs currently identified on the web, why should you consider adding yet another blog to the burgeoning blogosphere?

I’m not sure if that is the right question to be asking when we invite students to share their ideas on the web, but that is what I did. I wanted them to consider developing a rationale for writing in the open that could support learning and reflective practice, as well as explore opportunities for connecting and community building. I also understand that my asking them to enter this space is potentially at odds with what some might call “authentic” purposes for writing that are individually motivated. Many have written about the tension and disconnect that can emerge when students engage in this kind of writing for course-based purposes, and I still like Stephen Downes’ take on it.

I believe it is a valuable experience for students to engage with writing in the open for the purposes of reflecting on their learning and connecting their ideas with others who are engaged in a similar pursuit. Consideration of the potential audience is at once humbling, exciting and unknown. From my perspective, there is no other way to reap potential benefits of this experience, or to be able to level a reasoned critique of it, unless you engage in it.

All said, the brief clip below of Seth Godin and Tom Peters talking about why they blog seemed to resonate with us as we discussed a rationale for blogging. In less than two minutes, Godin and Peters offer some of the most honest and encouraging advice I’ve heard…

While their perspectives are great for a general audience, I think their message could apply to educational blogging as well. There are probably better examples for supporting my rationale for blogging in education, but the clip really gets the job done for me. As I think about specific educational examples, I’m hard pressed to find something that tops Gardner Campbell’s view of why he asks his students to blog, or Henry Jenkins’ call to academics to write in the open. Taken collectively, these examples form a foundation for my rationale about why I ask students to engage in blogging to support reflective practice and learning.

I know that there are multiple ways and reasons to engage students in the use of blogs in education…and probably an equal number of reasons not to. So I’m curious…if you are a fan of blogging to support learning what is your rationale? If you have some push back in the other direction I’d really like to hear that as well…

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5 thoughts on “Blogs for Learning and Reflective Practice?

  1. How would you differentiate between using a blog and using a discussion board in the learning process? They both seem to have the same goal of inciting conversation, but discussion boards seem to be more inclusive of just a class or specific learning community. Perhaps that is a little less intimidating to some – to share with just a smaller group, not the world?

  2. Thanks for the comment here…you’ve asked some great questions…I’ll have a go at responding to the general idea of selecting technology tools to support learning.

    For me, selecting technology tools to support the learning process involves an understanding of how particular tools function, and more importantly how their use can support identified learning outcomes within a specific subject matter context. There is an important interplay among pedagogy, content and technology that I think is worth considering (http://www.tpck.org).

    I’ll agree that both blogs and D-boards can engender some conversation, as well as other tools can, but whether they “seem to have the same goal” is driven by specific use…not sure if this ultimately implicit on the surface. The outcome or goal of use seems interpreted and negotiated.

    Your point about sharing, audience and context speaks to use and opportunity. For me, the blog platform acknowledges a world / learning environment that is open, connected and social. The class or specific learning community now has permeable borders and the opportunity to connect with the ideas of others, and this seems like an amazing opportunity on so many levels. Blogs also involve a greater sense of ownership and control on the part of the learner…owning content and ideas in a space that is yours. Discussion boards are closed and proprietary…when used in a course within something like Blackboard the ideas become locked-up and unavailable to the learners when the course ends…in a sense they evaporate.

    I know this is potentially a larger conversation, with issues at stake other than the use of certain technology tools…but I’ll pause for now to see what your thoughts are here. What do you see as important points for discussion here?

  3. I struggled with Joanne’s very question as I restructured my graduate online course for the School of Education this fall. For the past three years, I have had very successful courses using the Discussion Board and a supplemental wiki for class interactions. Yet, I felt similar to you – the discussions could have benefited from wider, open dialogue with professionals outside the class, and the students could benefit from having access to their written intellectual property after the fifteen weeks had passed. So this semester, I have shifted from a course based on discussion board to a course based on open blogging. My students are generally excited by this development – as one noted, she felt good that she was now part of the edublogosphere.

    I do think there are times when faculty should provide “safe” environments for discussion. I plan to still use the discussion board for the two weeks in which the students analyze their own work environment, simply because I want them to feel free to criticize their own administration without fearing that those administrators could be watching over the students’ shoulders. But that will only be 2 out of 15 weeks, with all other discussions taking place on the open web. What I find interesting is that several students have already begun to blog outside the “assigned” areas, and are enjoying the interaction the open web affords.

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