I’ve been reading about blogging today – trying to follow one thread in the loosely-woven fabric that makes up social learning techs.
Quite high-falutin’ claims are made such as Farmer & Bartlett-Bragg (2005) “through the use of blogs, it is suggested that teachers and learners are becoming empowered, motivated, reflective and connected practitioners in new knowledge environments” (p. 197). Actually I don’t doubt the potential for this, just see it as quite challenging to get started, maintain and sustain. And as in any teaching, to have it work for all the learners in a class.
One point these authors discuss is the benefit of setting up class group blogs so that they aggregate – you can go to one place and see all the blog entries that your classmates have been posting rather than having to track each one down individually. This sounds really useful – it would make commenting much less time-consuming.
A article by Stephen Downes from 2004 was useful for its emphasis on the advantages of blogging as a way to get students to both read and engage with readings assigned by teachers. Thin on techniques for actually doing this though. A couple of questions raised: First if we require blogging by making it an assessment is it real blogging? Is it a failure if students don’t do it past the end of the course or the submission of the relevant assessment? I’m finding in my reading that a lot of teachers say that they have to make blogging and commenting an assessment component if they want to get students to do it. Downes points out (something we all know from experience) that we can lose interest in assigned tasks and they can lose a sense of authenticity partly because the assessor is the main audience.
Downes cites the words of a teacher “if a student has nothing to blog about, it is not because he or she has nothing to write about or has a boring life. It is because the student has not yet stretched out to the larger world, has not yet learned to meaningfully engage in a community” (p. 25). I think this may reveal an unrealistic expectation. We engage in many communities throughout our lives and a particular course is probably for most a waystage in a much longer journey. A reluctant blogger may be active in a number of other communities. Can we expect class activities that we set up to engage most students? If so what are the strategies that hook them in? I’ll have to track down so more recent articles on this.
Downes, S. (2004). Educational blogging. EDUCAUSE Review, 39(5), 14-26.
Farmer, J., & Bartlett-Bragg, A. (2005, December 4 – 7). Blogs @ anywhere: High fidelity online communication. Paper presented at the 22nd ASCILITE Conference: Balance, Fidelity, Mobility. Maintaining the Momentum?, Brisbane.