Blogging as a Learning Activity
As Information and Communication Technologies advance and reach more aspects of everyday life, there are significant changes in the way that people learn. The teacher/student paradigm is significantly affected and there is a major shift in our understanding of how people access knowledge. Children, especially teenagers, are continually exposed to the effects of ICT’s and this should be a new opportunity for learning. Besides the need to learn how to use ICT’s, there is a real opportunity to introduce all sorts of educational contents in a different way: one that is closer to the student´s life and interests. The learning process becomes a part of the student´s life and there is a greater possibility of success as students become more engaged in it(Jacobs, 1997, p. 35) There is extensive research on the subject of ICT’s and learning which suggest that using a blog as a resource for education may have a positive impact on the learning process.
A blog is a multimedia tool that works as an online diary: each entry has a date and hour registry, so the progress of each task can be easily assessed (Kendall and Marzano, 2000, p. 31). It gives the students a chance to follow a process that will show them what they have learned and how. It is also a good way to promote teamwork and collaborative learning, which are skills that are needed for today´s society. There are a great number of skills that can be learned while using a blog. Besides from the educational content that a student may acquire in the process, they will be practicing creativity, critical thinking, and categorization of information and research skills, all of which are highly valued and needed to develop in the knowledge society of the 21st century (Bennis, 1997, p. 21).
1) Creativity and blogging: Creating a blog may be a great chance to practice creativity skills, as students may choose aspects that go from the layout to the content. It allows them to think about different ways to display information and make it engaging for others to read.
2) Critical thinking: Choosing what information to show and how to present it is also a helpful way to promote critical thinking. They need to know what information is valuable and how to distinguish it from fluff, and this is a great opportunity to practice.
3) Categorization and research: finding information is easy these days, but students need to distinguish the reputable, trustworthy sources that can offer updated and factual information from those that offer opinions or gossip.
Different Kinds of Blogs for Teaching
There are a number of alternatives when it comes to blogging and the learning process. A blog may be used as a way to communicate between peers and establish a class journal; it can also serve as a personal journal that keeps track of a specific task and it can promote collaborative learning when it is used by a group of students that have the same goal (Eaker et al, 2002, p. 23). Choosing how the blog will become a significant element of the learning process is a task that the teacher needs to address with the particular needs of his/her students in mind. Each group will react differently: even each student may have a different response when using multimedia tools as a part of their school activities. So there is a clear need to select the proper tools and use them in the proper way: the one that will have a bigger chance to maximize the chances for significant learning (Drucker, 1992, p. 67).
Apart from the use of the blog as an educational tool for students, it can also be used to keep track of the progress of the overall process. The teacher may keep a blog as a teaching journal and share it with other teachers for feedback and comments.
There are two main issues to address in order to achieve success in teaching with a blog:
A) Clear Objectives
Even when technology becomes an excellent resource for education, there are certain basics that teachers should bear in mind when deciding which tools to use. Educational objectives need to be clearly outlined and they should include how a blog (or social network) will help students reach those objectives. This will help the teacher to choose the best method for a certain subject or topic.
Clear educational objectives will include the basic questions: What will the student learn? Where will she/he access this knowledge? Why should they learn this? And how will they learn it? Answering these questions is the first step to build comprehensive objectives that will clearly set the goals for the learning process. A teacher should always bear in mind that, apart from the objectives outlined in the curriculum, he/she should build a set of objectives that is specific to a group (Cotton, 2000, p. 17). According to the American Association of School Administration (1999), the teacher is the person that best knows the needs and the strengths of a particular group, and learning objectives should always be set according to them.
Outlining objectives is the first step for any learning process, and there should be clear objectives for different stages in it: for the overall course or subject; for each topic and for each skill that the student should learn; and for each activity that will take place during the course. Objectives are the foundations for any educational process and they need to be clear to all the participants (Vogen and Klassen, 2001, p. 82). Objectives should also be assessed periodically to know if they are still achievable or if they need to be changed as the process develops.
B) Assessment plan
Multimedia gives room to a more personalized education in which students and teachers collaborate and build knowledge in a different way. Assessment then plays a major role in success of this type of educational process (Dutour, 1998, p. 63). Teachers need to know that objectives are being met in order to continue with the same plan or make changes and adjustments to it. It is crucial that students are aware of what is being asked of them, and they also need to know how they will be evaluated.
A rubric is the best way to endorse these needs. It clearly states how and what will be evaluated and allows room for changes when necessary (Handy, 1995, p. 11). A rubric is not only supposed to assess the overall outcome of a project: it should also assess the progress of it in order to make the necessary changes to achieve the learning objectives.
Multimedia is a great opportunity to enhance significant learning and give the students a chance to develop important skills. It is up to the teacher to set the standards and accompany the process to make sure that students will meet the learning objectives and acquire the desired skills.
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