Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Blogging - better online than in a presentation?

As a blogger with a keen interest in how we use blogging in the learning and teaching encounter I looked forward to attending the session from 3.45 to 4.45 which was all on Blogging.

There were three papers:

The first by Niall Watts

The second by Jason Truscott

The third by Peter Maloney

Each of the presentations looked at the differing use of blogs in different contexts with different groups of students.


Niall looked at whether blogs could facilitate reflective learning. And while the subject is fascinating, a strong focus on Kolb's Learning styles meant that the researched seemed to focus more of the usefulness of the model, rather than on the affordances associated with blogs in learning and teaching. I guess my own focus on learning and teaching enhancement means I'm much more interested in how students interact and how blogging might reflect their learning, than in applying a somewhat dated theoretical construct to the review of blogging. This bias of mine is probably why I loved the podcasting session earlier, as the focus there were on the students learning. Niall presentation continued, but I was left wondering why some of the big questions went unanswered while some of the more minor ones were focused on.


Jason is part of the team at the Experiential Learning CETL in Plymouth. He was again looking at blogs, but this time a comparison with e-mail response was being made. Jason referenced Krathwohl, Bloom and Bertram (1973) to focus on the concept of Affective Domains.

Students undertaking Environmental Science in year one were asked to reflect on their experiential learning. One group doing this by e-mail the other using blogs (though it emerged these were personal diaries - closed non-interactive blogs).

The findings of the two groups of students produced some interesting outcomes. Blogs were less influenced by the researcher, had greater student ownership, had much richer material (including images etc), revealed the learners thoughts, perceptions and ideas. While e-mails were more directly responsive to the researcher and had high responses (75%).

On the other hand blogs were used more sporadically, and had a higher drop-out rate. E-mails had far less reflection, no use of images, replies were largely consistent with the questions posed in the initial e-mail from the researcher.

Interesting but my conclusions are that the false situation of private personalised blogs limited the usefulness of the research, the students were restricted not by their own choice but by the research project. A comparison like this would be usefully identify the affordances of blogs and e-mail and compare them on their merits, not necessarily as two ways of addressing the same thing. Still in my own terms it is something I'll be encouraging our environmental scientists to explore as a possible learning method.


Peter had a fascinating subject looking at blogs and autonomous learning in graphic design. He was reporting on a project with 46 second year students who were using blogs to develop reflective activity and peer supported learning. I must get a copy of Peter's talk because it was rich with the processes used with the group he was teaching. Unfortunately Peter read from prepared script in a monotone which made it really hard for me to concentrate on. The slides were also in tiny font with lots of white space, making them hard to read. When Peter ended his formal presentation and responded to questions he became animated and started to report on the actual student experience, when doing this, away from his script, he was fluent, engaging and very clear both about the students experience and on their reflection on the value it offered them. The students were very positive about the experience, and perhaps more focus on the case-study and less on formal reporting would have made this paper fly. It seemed to me, that this paper would have been better blogged than presented - and the focus could then have been on sharing the student experience which was really interesting. In particular the idea of peer-reviewing the blogs in a face to face session on campus seemed to have worked in this instance to make the blogs more important to the students, they recognised them being valued. An important reminder to all those who work with learners that the value-proposition (as we marketers would call it) is still important. Student's using learning tools with value for them, it would be interesting to explore with Peter if the value was personal promotion, pride in their presentation/design or assessment - I got the impression it was one of the first two, but the session came to an end and we had to move on.


Overall some interesting experiences in different contexts which could inform other institutional practice.

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Blogger Niall Watts said...

Thanks for the post, Haydn. I had hoped the screenshots from the student blogs would give a feel for the student experience. I used Kolb in an attempt to get metrics on reflection as text analysis was subjective. I wanted to avoid student interviews in favour of 'harder' measures.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007 10:56:00 am  
Blogger Haydn said...

Hi Niall,

yes I guess as a phenomenologist I'm more interested in what happened and why and less any numbers as they tend to description not necessarily add value to understanding. My bias would clearly not suit a scientist.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007 12:05:00 pm  

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