Weblogs and learning

I was staying away from discussion about weblogs in education for a longer time. Partly because I had other things to do and partly because I wanted to refocus my thoughts (thus getting outside the loop was good).

I found that a some articles have quoted the »Weblogs and discourse« (new URL!) paper. One is »Blogging as pedagogic practice: artefact and ecology.« by Marcus O’Donnell (probably written in May 2005). He referenced an article by Tamsin Haggis called »Constructing Images of Ourselves?« (British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2003).

O’Donnell writes:

Just as importantly the ongoing use of blogging as a reflective form of metalearning would also foreground broader issues of academic literacy. As Haggis notes many of the underlying assumptions about the “good student” which underlie current popular theories of education make unrealistic assumptions about their pre-existing skills and general academic literacy.

And continues to quote Haggis:

What often seems to remain unacknowledged is that the attitudes and values which characterise the model’s description of the ideal learner have in fact taken academics themselves many years to learn. It is unlikely that even the most well-educated post-school student arrives in university with the strategies that enable them to learn in [such a developed way]. (2002:98)

Unfortunatly I could not find an online version of Tamsin Haggis’ original document, but I found a disputation of her article by Delia Marshall and Jennifer Case published in the same Journal in April 2005) [PDF here, 100KByte].

In relation to blogging the positions remind me to rethink the difference between “surface learning” and “deep learning” (see here for info). Does the mere activity of blogging ultimately turn into a “deeper” learning process just because of the authorship weblogging usually requires?

I think it is really a question of what kind of “author” a blogger is able to turn into. Many blog posts are by far not “authored” beyond selecting some other blog post and republish that in a new context (e.g. a local learning group or seminar). The blog post as such does not require an intellectual investment (e.g. if you just want to keep some item found online, like this post here). Students blogging like this are more defining their social role within the group as being an active and reliable partner for the research work ahead.

But if you are actually writing a blog entry as a result if a thinking process, with the effort of prioritizing thoughts and communicating ideas, then this this is “intellectual work out”, that will help to get into a “deep learning” mode. The role of the educator is to highlight the benefits of thoughtfully crafted blog posts and to foster interaction and discourse among learners. Thus, his task is to shape a motivating context and to help with “detecting nonsense” so to say.

Students will have a beginner’s phase where they feel the quality their writing falls blow the quality of their thinking. No one learned to swim without getting wet.






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