In the article “Blogging to learn” Anne Bartlett-Bragg gives an introduction and overview into blogging by explaining the terminology used in the Blog-o-sphere and listing the different types of blogs. She says that blogging enables a shift from surface learning to deeper levels of learning and this in turn is enriching students’ learning experiences. But plain blogging does not necessarily lead to deeper forms of learning since students need to know what deep learning actually means. For me, it means to come to a real understanding of a subject matter by developing and using higher-level thinking skills (e.g. reflecting, evaluating, critical thinking, etc.) and this can, indeed, be realized by blogging as it is a form of learning by doing and it provides opportunity to new learning experiences in an informal educational setting .
Then she outlines a basic pedagogical approach for including blogging in educational practice. The “5-stage Blogging Process” includes some aspects that I can relate to my own learning in the context of blogging. With each text I write I feel more reflective and comfortable with me as an author and my writing aims to inform my readers about the topic I have chosen for my blog. I am aware of my audience and I try to present my line of thought comprehensibly. But nevertheless, Bartlett leaves out the very important aspect of blogging which is the interaction between author and reader. The exchange of ideas constitutes a very important form of learning. The author can hear others’ opinions on the topic and this can contribute to their understanding. Moreover, they can learn to advocate their point of view while debating on the topic.
Bartlett’s 5-stage-model may be true for the class she has observed but, generally, the process of blogging can proceed differently. There is rather little evidence for her model of blogging and further research should be done (since it is also not up to date).
In his article “Educational Blogging”, Stephen Downes describes Blogging as “something defined by format and process, not by content”. I agree with his statement because as he also says blogs can be called “a personal online diary” or “personal publishing” which all have something in common, building up relationships with their readers and an online environment where different views and ideas can be exchanged regardless of the topic.
Then he says that educational blogging enriches the field by making use of blogging in various ways; for organisational school issues, linking to internet items, organizing class discussions, organizing class seminars and providing reading, writing blogs as a part of grading (these are the five major uses of educational blogging by Henry Farrell (2013)). Nowadays, where blogging is seen as a medium rather than a genre, there are way more ways for integrating blogging into education. (e.g. see http://web20intheclassroom.blogspot.co.uk/2008/10/ways-to-use-blogs-in-your-classroom-and.html , )
When Downes quoted Richard Long, a professor at St. Louis Community College, who does not acknowledge blogging in schools as real blogging because students are using prompts in order to write, it reminded me on Bartlett’s 5-stage-model. She argues that in her model of blogging structured questions are provided at the beginning of the blogging process. Some students can use prompts at lower stages and, in the course of time, they will develop important skills and more confidence which will enable them to waive those prompts and to compose blogs all on their own. To me, providing prompts as a guidance for students is an effective method to encourage them. Since it is a new field for most students it can be helpful to start to blog until they begin to be aware of and form their blogger identity.
Moreover, Downes suggests that students need to engage in their communities meaningfully by first engaging with reading that is of interest to them (e.g. culture, ideas, hobbies, etc) by reflecting, criticizing, reacting to the reading. He says that these activities make learning more lively and that blogging can bring change into the classroom. I think it is important that one has a personal connection to the topic one decided on to blog about because otherwise it could be painstaking to write over a long period of time. Having a connection and strong bond to an issue, however, helps one to stay motivated in reading and blogging and the outcome will be better. As teachers we need to open up new possibilities for students so that they can explore their environment and make new experiences that allow them to find topics of interest and to engage with their surroundings (be it online and real word) in a more deliberate way.
Bartlett-Bragg Anne (2004) Blogging to Learn Flexible Learning, 2004 edition, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
Downes, S (2004) Educational Blogging, EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 39, no. 5 (September/October 2004): 14–26