Using Blogs and Blogging to Unlock Learning

A few posts ago, when I blogged about whether the ease of publishing is a game-changer in higher education, I demonstrated (coincidentally) how blogs and blogging can facilitate critical thinking and writing and, as a result, support higher-order thinking. To recap, in a private online discussion, I formulated an argument as to why I did not believe that ease of publishing is a game-changer. I had developed my argument to such an extent that I decided to make a few minor revisions and transfer it here to the blog as part of my evolving philosophy on teaching and learning online. In the process of that review – while reflecting on and reevaluating what I had already written – I changed my own mind.

Reflection, Reevaluating, Revision – these are three of the keys.

As more and more users find their way online, open access and ease of publishing have transformed the Web into a cornucopia of accessible content. Just follow your interests and jump in, but don’t be too surprised if you lose yourself “down the rabbit hole,” as one of my peers described the experience. The Web fosters the development and use of critical thinking skills, since learners are forced to navigate through what seems to be a sea of limitless options and discern the usefulness of the wide variety of resources they discover there.

Open Access and Critical Thinking Skills – these are two of the keys.

Combine blogging with reading and commenting on the blogs of others and you create a social learning network. This opens up a participatory learning process of sharing ideas and experiences; interacting through comments and ongoing discussion; and gaining new insights from the experiences and perspectives of others. Turn that cooperative learning into action within the open access environment of the Web and collaborative solutions manifest. This is the co-creation of knowledge.

Be an Active Participant in Online Networks – this is another key.

Whether part of an informal learning opportunity or within the formal learning curriculum, teachers considering the use of student blogs ought to remember these keys and ask the questions below in order to optimize learning potential.

1. How student-directed can the learning experience be? How much control will learners have over topics, content, presentation? The more control/ownership they have, the more motivated they may be.

2. How will interaction among student bloggers and a larger audience be fostered? Will students be encouraged to locate established blogs and interact with the authors? Will student bloggers be required to comment on each other’s blogs? Established blogs become successful examples for students to emulate and bloggers offer new perspectives and experiences to consider. Ongoing discussion can lead to deeper understanding.

3. How will blogs and blogging be purposed? Will they be regarded as a short-term project or lifelong learning tools? Will students be given the opportunity to create a personal learning resource that they can continue to use long after the academic year has finished?

I’m sure this is far from a comprehensive list. What am I missing? Please share your thoughts on blogging pedagogy.

2 responses to “Using Blogs and Blogging to Unlock Learning

  1. Hi Beth, I agree that communication, inquiry, and collaboration skills must be learned. My hope is that learners will see these skills modeled both in their own learning environment and in the public blogs that they peruse. For instance, the instructors involved in the class blogs that I used as examples – Mr. Borges and Ms. Baker – both blog alongside their students and Dean Long blogs on the LAUS Blog at Penn State.

    If in a formal learning experience, the level of skills required will likely correlate with the blogging purpose and guidelines as established by the instructor/facilitator/mentor; therefore, the teacher will need to address these needs as they relate to the larger context of the learning.

  2. I think you’ve laid out the keys to successful educational blogging very clearly here. One thing I’d add as a question to consider would be, “When and how will you teach students the communication and collaboration skills that they need to successfully participate in online blogging discussions?” A lot of times we assume that students will know what types of questions to ask to spur discussion, how to constructively disagree with others, and other communication skills because they spend so much of their personal time online, but the types of communication and collaboration we’re hoping for through educational blogging are totally different than the conversations they’re having on social media or gaming sites, so these skills really do need to be taught. I really enjoyed the way you structured this post and got me thinking!