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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Blogging: What’s the Point – Initial Thoughts of a Virgin Blogger!

Reasons to be cheerful – Part One

As an educational technologist and as a student preparing to define their own learning outcomes and assessment criteria for an independently studied masters degree the phenomenon that is blogging is strongly at the forefront of my thoughts at this time.

The reasons for this are twofold. First I am trying to work out the best way to use blogging as a learning and assessment tool as part of my studies. Secondly from the brief preliminary research that I have done it would seem obvious to me that blogging can have great educational value for a great many students.

I could maybe attempt to find a suitable reference at this point to pertinent research and practice that is current, but I now know from practical experience the mere decision to publish a blog has focused my mind, required me to read and research, forced me to collate and interpret my findings, made me analyze, organize and make meaning of my findings.

I have already acquired new knowledge and identified situations where I believe the relatively new technology of blogging can be used. I look forward to finding suitable methods of evaluation so that I can provide evidence that blogging technology can enhance learning for adult distance learners.

Seeing the light – (well a chink anyway)

Three weeks ago I’d not thought to deeply about blogging. My passing thoughts on the matter were that blogging requires a lot of time and effort and thus bloggers need to be passionate and dedicated to keep a blog interesting and up to date for its visitors.

So what does one write in a blog? How does one write a blog i.e. in what style? How long is a blog? How often does one blog? How will I get people to read my blog? How do I make my blog interesting? How do I setup a blog? What audience am I writing my blog for? The questions above illustrate some of the thoughts that have crossed my mind in the preceding few weeks.

This particular batch of questions I think can more easily be answered when the purpose of the blog is established.

The Meaning of Life The Purpose of a Blog

As indicated above my sphere of interest is educational blogging? There are a number of different types of blogging websites and I will not attempt at this juncture to list those types that I am now aware of. I shall limit my comment to just make the distinction between social blogging and educational blogging.

Without having studied either types of blogging too deeply my initial thoughts on social blogging are that the phenomenon is akin to an online diary transcribing events, feelings, thoughts of the daily/ weekly activities of a blogger with additional writing and information on the interests of the blogger.

The purpose of an educational blog on the other hand may attempt amongst many things to help the blogger to learn more about and understand further their chosen subject, aid communication and collaboration, develop publishing, writing and self expression skills, improve reading, research and analytical skills, focus the mind and promote self-discipline in meeting deadlines.

Tell me More, Tell me more (was it love at first sight)

Not exactly love at first sight but actually I feel pretty good about the potential of educational blogging and I haven’ really started yet. I wonder if I’ll still love blogging when I’m 64. Areas of interest that I want to know more about in relation to educational blogging include:
  • History and Development of Blogging.
  • Good Practice in Blogging: (Many of my concerns are highlighted earlier
    in the “seeing the light” section.
  • The Elements that make up a blog.
  • The pros and cons of different blogging websites or software that facilitate blogging.
  • Peer review of blogs.
  • How best to make use of Reflective blogging, Group Blogging, Project Management Blogging, Administrative (e.g. course) blogs.
And the beat goes on (Final thoughts for now)

My very first thoughts about blogging were that I need to do it often, quickly without worrying too much about refining my thoughts or worry deeply about writing style, grammar, spelling etc in order to maintain the prolific output that writing a blog requires (my perception).

Now I have swung the other way and believe in the context of educational blogging thoughtful, well presented pieces are required. I think a blog is a published article for an audience to be reviewed and scrutinized and as such needs to be done with professionalism, pride and deep thought to gain the most from it.

Before one starts blogging, one needs to clearly understand the point, purpose and rules of engagement of the blog in order to write in and appropriate manner for the intended audience and to achieve the clearly defined learning outcomes whatever they may be. In many respects I feel that the educational blogger needs to become a professional journalist.

Whilst not all students will approach their blog with the same level of journalistic zeal, the effect of publishing to an audience for scrutiny will force the student to develop transferable skills in regard to online publishing, which is an important bonus for all students in this digital age.

Questions, Questions, Questions

There are many issues to consider with regard to educational blogging. I am sure there are many questions I have not thought of yet, but for now questions that have tickled my consciousness include:
  1. How does blogging compare to online asynchronous discussion boards as a method of improving reflection and critical analysis skills.
  2. Can blogging improve communication between course administrators, lecturers and students in comparison with current snail mail letters, email, phone and blackboard announcements.
  3. How can blogging enhance a traditional learning Journal.
  4. How can blogging be used in a field practice scenario.
The Finale: Is it Right, is it Wrong – Heck I Don’t Know

Well this is my first blog. I have not scrutinized this article as deeply as I would have done if it was a paper, article to be published or an assignment, although I have tried to ensure that it flows reasonable well and largely makes sense.

I don’t think a blog is meant to be too rigorous otherwise I’d never post anything. I am struggling to decide how to pitch my blogs – hopefully I’ll work out with a little help from my friends.

Thank you and Good Night.

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