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Learning about technology-enhanced learning with the Open University


Week 10

Activity 5, Blogs and blogging. Reading a paper on how students on another MAODE module used their blogs, and then doing some blogging yourself (about three hours).

A5: Blogs and blogging

Some of the same people who write academic journal papers also blog. This issue was explored some years ago by Mitchell (2006), for example, who wrote a newspaper articlein which she discussed issues about blogs and academic reputation.

Below are links to two blogs from members of the H800 module team – Gráinne Conole and Martin Weller. If you haven’t visited them yet (The Ed Techie was referred to in Activity 2), you may like to do so. Once you get there you may find you are clicking and reading for a long time! We haven’t included this in the activity time allowance, though we’ve given these links as suggestions for further reading at the end of this week. And if you enjoy them, you may want to keep coming back.

Recent postings from all blogs in the Institute of Educational Technology are brought together here.

Varying uses of blogs

Blogs can be used in many ways and for many purposes connected with learning and teaching. They can be used almost as a personal diary, for example, or to communicate with only a small audience. The idea of writing for a large and unknown audience does not appeal to everyone.

The OU’s Lucinda Kerawalla and colleagues, including Gráinne Conole whose blog is linked above, researched the differing purposes for which 15 students used blogs on one of the other MAODE modules. The authors found that:

Many of the students enjoyed blogging and found it to be beneficial from both educational and social perspectives. They used their blogs in several ways, including community building, resource-consolidation, sharing ideas, catharsis and emotional support, or as a personal journal. However, some students found blogging problematic; they were concerned about revealing their personally perceived academic inadequacies to others…

(Kerawalla et al., 2008)

The authors indicate that the students used their blogs for differing individual reasons. For example, some wrote for others in their community of students, while others used their blog more or less as a place to store urls and keep notes for themselves.

ACTIVITY 5

About three hours for reading a paper and blogging

  • Read the paper from which the quote above was taken. It is ‘Characterising the different blogging behaviours of students on an online distance learning course’. Allow up to an hour to study it and to make notes in response to the following questions, before moving on to the second part of the activity.
    1. What if anything surprises you about the findings from Kerawalla and her colleagues?
    2. Of the purposes for blogging identified in the paper, which purpose is most likely to encourage you to blog if you don’t already?And, if you already blog, which of those purposes is most important to you? Or do you do it for some other reason?
    3. If you work with learners who blog, how do their motivations compare (as far as you can tell) with those of the students in this paper?
    4. Based on the recommendations in the paper, or your own experience of blogging, how would you design activities to encourage learners to blog and to read and comment on each other’s blogs?When you’re considering this, you may like to think back to the paper from Kennedy et al. that you read in Week 1. There is also an optional paper in Weeks 13–14. In their research of first-year students at three Australian universities, the authors found that relatively few kept a blog, even though there are claims that this generation has an appetite for blogging. The authors argue that:
    • there is a real danger that such commentary will create a vague but pervasive feeling among tertiary educators that every student who enters the higher education system is a blogger.(Kennedy et al., 2007, p.522)

In response to the ‘how to get the best out of writing a blog’ question in the Week 16 quiz in previous years, students gave a number of blogging tips for those studying after them. Here are a few:

  • ‘Just appropriate the blog for your own needs and do what suits you most’
  • ‘Stick to one topic you are genuinely enthusiastic about’
  • ‘Try to set aside time each week to reflect on what you have learnt (even if it feels like nothing) as looking back can be quite illuminating’
  • ‘Start each blog with a single-sentence paragraph to act as a banner or lead-in to the piece’
  • ‘Go with the flow of your own thoughts: there’s no real right or wrong’
  • ‘Only write a blog if you feel like it, never because you have to’
  • ‘Blogs do not need to be time-consuming: post just enough to get your point across…’

You and blogging

You have probably detected some time ago that our aim is to encourage you to blog if you don’t already. Our hope is that one or more of the purposes and behaviours identified by Kerawalla et al. will spark your interest. We are not here thinking of ‘Anxious, self-conscious blogging to meet perceived course requirements’!

Even if you feel you won’t continue with it, it is important to experience this form of communication for a few weeks as part of your H800 study. You can then compare it as a learning and teaching technology with forums and with Elluminate, and with other media that you may already be using.

Perhaps you already have a blog. If not, you can access your OU blog space from StudentHome: under ‘Tools’ on the left-hand side of StudentHome, click on ‘Access to your personal blog’. You should find that you can choose whether to allow others to comment.

Please now spend some time writing your blog (whether you use the OU VLE or another tool):

  • You may like to write about some aspect of H800 that has engaged you, something interesting you have seen on another blog, or a couple of urls you found useful in Activity 4 – your own, or some that others found in your group.
  • There’s no single right way to blog, as you saw in the paper from Kerawalla et al. above. You could write about your own reactions as you blog:
    1. What sort of writing is it for you personally?
    2. How, if at all, does it help you to reflect on some aspect of H800, or your professional interests?
  • You could write about the way you organise your studying.
    1. How, for example, are you finding time to study H800 with all the other demands on your time?
    2. Is something else having to make way?
  • Read (and, where this is possible, leave comments on) the blogs of the others in your group and the other tutorial groups. Does this feel different from commenting on a forum message and, if so, how?
  • If you receive comments on your blog, are your reactions like those of the students reported in the paper by Kerawalla et al?This thinking about the process of blogging and commenting should enable you to compare the two forms of communication.
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