Jo Ann Oravec considers blogs from a different perspective again – as a “middle space” between face to face study and structured online delivery. That is, Oravec claims that when educators design “blended” or “web-enhanced” units, the web-enhancement is often instructor-focused. That is, it is online components are either (a) information transfer (eg. lecture notes on the web) or (b) instructor-controlled online learning. Blogs are more inherently learner controlled (depending on how you use them) and allow for the possibility of blended learning that is more student-centred.
The message from this, as it was in the O’Donnell and Diffy & Bruns papers, is that blogs in education allow for individual reflection and learner-centred knowledge formation, but they do so publicly and in a networked environment.
What does it mean? As we think about using blogs in university teaching, let’s think about:
- How can I make learning somewhat student-controlled?
- How can a blog support student reflection, incremental learning and creativity?
- How can blogs support networking by student to connect their own thoughts to others?
- Can blogs be used across units to connect ideas and practices?
Jo Ann Oravec (2003) Blending by Blogging: weblogs in blended learning initiatives. Journal of Educational Media, Vol. 28, Nos. 2–3, October 2003
Marcus O’Donnell from the University of Wollongong in “Blogging as pedagogic practice”, considers the potential of blogs to go far beyond (though not in a utopian kind of way) what educators normally consider. He claims that this is because we normally ask new technologies, like blogs, to do what we already do, just more efficiently, or better. He calls for a re-think of what we do based on thinking about what blogs are and what they afford that is different, which he believes is related to the idea of a “linked” or “networked” approach to learning. In this idea, he says “the sense of agency and individuality is powerful but it is not isolating or egocentric”.
This, he says, helps to focus on the emergence and evolution of knowledge over time, which can be useful in an individual unit but is probably most useful across many of them. According to O’Donnell then, a blog is probably best used in education as a tool to connect disparate ideas together and to allow the parts of new ideas to evolve.
O’Donnell, Marcus (2006) Blogging as pedagogic practice: artefact and ecology. [An earlier version of this paper was presented at Blog Talk Downunder (2005: Sydney). Paper in: 5Ws+H. Loo, Eric (ed.).] [online]. Asia Pacific Media Educator, no.17, Dec 2006: 5-19. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/fullText;dn=200705394;res=APAFT> ISSN: 1326-365X. [cited 13 Nov 08].
“First and foremost, blogs provide a platform for individual expression and also support reader commentary, critique, and interlinkage as subsequent steps. In other words, blogs foreground the individual, while discussions foreground the group.” (Duffy and Bruns, 2006)
In their article, Duffy and Bruns give lists of ways that blogs can be used in teaching. Some of these are:
- Making individual thinking shared so all can benefit and contribute
Duffy and Bruns ask “Is the blog a new genre of learning journal?”
Duffy, Peter and Bruns, Axel (2006) The Use of Blogs, Wikis and RSS in Education: A Conversation of Possibilities. In Proceedings Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006, pages pp. 31-38, Brisbane. http://eprints.qut.edu.au/archive/00005398/01/5398.pdf