How to use Blogs in a Course
My Thoughts and Ideas about Blogs as Instructional Strategies
I have always found very useful to take the time to reflect on my new learning, but I would never go through the process of doing it without a blog or the journal assignment. So thanks, Doug!
I know that it doesn’t seem very logical since our goals is really to learn as well as we can but time is a big issue in my life as it is in most adult learners’ life! I want to talk more about “blogging to improve students’ learning” (Orlando, 2011) and I kind of put Journal and Blog together for a part of what they can bring to improve students’ learning even though I am aware that Blogs add a dimension that is not present in a simple journal. In the textbook we are using for PIDP3250, “Student Engagement Techniques” (Barkley, 2010), SET 41 (p.324) is about Learning Logs. The purpose of this SET is described as providing “a formal medium for students to explore their individual learning strategies and styles”. It also mentionned that “this SET helps students take responsibility for their learning and practice the skills necessary to become independent, self-directed learners.” Becoming a self-directed learner, as we all know, at least from the fantastic discussion that is going on in one of our forum, is an important outcome to consider and it is an outcome we want to have for any course we teach. “Kris Kelly notes that blogging encourages higher levels of reasoning because the “focus is not necessarily on the content of the blog, but more on the process of constructing and evaluating knowledge helping us reach the sometimes elusive upper levels – analyzing, evaluating, and creating – of Bloom’s Taxonomy” (http://tinyurl.com/mtj6kf) (Orlando, 2011).
Now if a blog is shared, it becomes a social activity and all the specialists in adult education in general, agree about the fact that people learn better about content when they interact with other people about this content.
I havealready mentioned that I am not a big fan of social media bit I am, in general, pretty comfortable with computer tools, especially program that I used to design since I used to design Software User Interface as part of the specifications I had to create for the developper (I was a Computer-Human Interface Specialist in my past life). However, I find the user interface for blogs really not well done. This is the second blogger I used; the first one was Blogger and, I find that neither of these tools are user friendly. This point is important.
I understand that the choice of a specific tool among the social media tools is not so important. What is more important is the task inherent to a specific tool: in other words, what does this kind of tool allow us to do as a group of learners. However, the user-interface of a specific program may have a big influence on the acceptance of the tools by its users. This has to be taken into account as well.
Blogs are largely accepted, we know that, but it is because users get used of using anything even if they first have to struggle to use it. So thanks again, Doug for forcing us to go through this step: we all know how to build a blog now!!
I teach different topics and for each topic, my students can be very diversified in terms of age, level of education and computer skills or, more generally digital literacy.So I have to think twice before I ask them to use a tool like a blog.
I believe that the use of social media should be introduced progressively and, most importantly, clearly explained. Explanations have to be given not only regarding the benefits of such a use, but also concrete instructions about how to use these different tools. Screencasting will be of great use for the latter. I remember having to design demos and then ask a developer to develop them. The different screencasting software programs available for free makes the whole process so much easier. If we add to that the right choice of tool in terms of ease of use that should greatly help the students to buy into it.
In these conditions, I consider asking the tutors I am training at the Literacy Center to use a blog. I have to teach them how to teach and part of the difficulty is in finding the time to train them either individually or in groups. It is possible to try to gather them for a short training session, but this is not enough for them to integrate all that must be taught. In addition, it is very important for them to create a community of learners, since they are all regularly discovering a new technique to teach an idea, a new way to overcome a challenge, etc. while they are tutoring. My first idea was to create a Newsletter myself by gathering what I can observe or they have told me and add my page of “teaching”. Then I thought they should all contribute to this Newsletter and I started thinking of Google/My Drive, but then I thought that we should find a way to store this information/ these lessons so they are easy to read/access and there came the idea of a Blog or a Wiki. As Conrad and Donaldson (2011) mention: “The depth of thought in asynchronous activities is usually greater than in synchronous activities” so I am hoping that gathering their reflection in a Blog or a Wiki will help the tutors that I am training to reflect more deeply on their new insights while they will share them with others.
Conrad, R.-M. and Donaldson, J.A. (2011). Engaging the Online Learner. Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Orlando, J. (2011). Teaching with Technology: Tools and Strategies to Improve Student Learning. Faculty Focus _ Special Report. Retrieved from: http://www.facultyfocus.com/free-reports/teaching-with-technology-tools-and-strategies-to-improve-student-learning/