5 May 2011

#H800 Blogs in an educational context

We were asked to reflect on the effect of a learning technology, in this case blogs, within the framework of this week's discussion on students' perceptions to learning and teachers' perceptions to teaching.

1. What is the likely impact of blogs on students’ perceptions of the quality of their modules?
Ramsden (1991), Wilson (2000), Alexander (2001) have investigated factors that affect students' perceptions on the quality of a course.  In the table below I listed criteria that they identified and how blogs could impact them.

I think that blogs can influence how students perceive the quality of a course.  It seems sensible to introduce blogs, make students familiar with them and let them try it out for a few weeks (as is done in H800).  Some may decide to quit using them because of privacy concerns, technical problems or just because they don't perceive any benefit in using them.  

It would be interesting to investigate which % of students in a course like H800 still actively blog at the end of the course.  That would generate a good measurement of the effect of blogs on the perceived quality of blogs within the course (but not transferable to courses in other disciplines though).

As Kozma states, it's not very advisable to compare different media.  It's more interesting to investigate how media or tools can support desirable learning attributes (Kozma, 1994, p.157)

2. 2. What is the likely impact of blogs on teachers’ perceptions of their teaching context and their approaches to teaching?

Richardson (2005) discusses how there seems to be a difference between teachers' conceptions of teaching (rather student-centered) and teachers' approaches to teaching (more teacher-centered than expected).   Some reasons that are cited are (Richardson, 2005: 678)

It suggests that contextual factors tend to frustrate teachers’ intended approaches to teaching (e.g., Gibbs, 1992). Senior staff who hold traditional, teacher-focused conceptions of teaching may raise issues about standards and coverage of the curriculum (Estes, 1999), or else the students themselves may conspire to induce the teachers to adopt a more didactic approach (Newman, 2004).

I think that blogs can contribute to a more student-centered learning approach through their potential for enhancing authenticity, catering for students' variable interests, allowing for personalization and creativity etc.  Moreover, they tend to give students a higher responsibility for their own learning and may stimulate informal learning.  Of course, it all depends on how blogs are integrated in classroom practice, e.g. a lot of rules with regards to content, posts, lay-out etc. will reduce their student-centered character.

This could be a danger in Cambodia.  When introducing blogs in the Cambodian context, either:

  1. the tool is "recuperated" by the system, including strict guidelines, control on content etc.
  2. the tool catalyzes a more student-centered form of learning and proves disruptive.

3. Blogs & Assumptions in the nature of teaching and learning

Blogs and their potential for education fit within a social constructivist approach to learning where blogs play a role in both internal processing of the material by the student (reflection) and in the external communication (peer review) about it.

Bruns and Humphreys (2005) suggest that the pedagogical models need to change from the traditional linear learning paradigms to a social constructivist pedagogical model which includes problem-solving in a collaborative environment that requires students to enact knowledge through a process of shared understanding. (in Minocha & Thomas, 2007: 190)

Blogs are also compatible with the view of learning as participation in a community of practice (Brown et al., 1989).  A blog may allow moving learning away from classroom practice, creating a more authentic learning environment.  A blog can also perfectly accommodate the apprenticeship model of learning (Lave, 1988 in Brown et al., 1989), gradually increasing the quality of blog posts and (hopefully) also the amount of followers.

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1 comment:

  1. I found your argument about blogs moving away from classroom practice to a more authentic learning environment interesting. I hadn't thought of blogs in this way, seeing them more as a personal reflective tool. But of course many industry leaders use personal blogs as a means to create and maintain a community of practice, while more companies have a blogging strategy. Enabling people to read an industry-specific blog is one way of accessing an authentic learning environment.

    But I am still not convinced that this necessarily means a move to a social-constructivist model as I see the blogging community as being made up of bloggers and people who read/lurk/contribute comments. The latter form the vast majority.


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