September 5, 2008

Reflective value of blogs

I mentioned in my reply to Crystal that I had decided to use Uthink because I had set up a blog for a class I took prior to this one. This previous class was Online Communities and I decided to go back and read my comments. It was very interesting and helpful to read these past posts. I can remember my struggle to find the right role for asynchronous versus synchronous discussions as well as blogs. I was also taking a completely online course at the same time and in my posts I'm constantly compairing the experience with the use of technology in the two courses.

While this has been a very useful experience for me, I sort of forgot that I had this blog until we set one up for this class. As Scott points out, use of reflection is such a powerful tool to help us make sense of what we are doing and why in the moment. But I wonder how often we go back and review our past reflections. I wonder if any of you ever have your students revisit their reflections and how this activity impacts learning?

September 3, 2008

How can blogs be used?

It seems as though personal blogs are mostly used to keep friends and families connected and up to date on life events, so for everyday lives this can be a very useful tool. But they seem less useful as a public forum for discussion; there seems to be more ranting than discussing - at least this has been my impression from reading a limited number of blogs.

But for teaching I think the use of blogs is more challenging. When I think about blogs, they seem like diaries to me. I strongly feel that personal reflection can be a powerful educational tool, especially guided reflection, and I can see blogs serving this purpose very well. Again as a public forum for discussion, it can be useful for classmates to read each others' blogs, but often it ends up being too much reading to keep up with and/or it ends up being too personal. From my limited experience, wikis and social networks (such as Ning) are more effective for collaborative work. Blogs, podcast embedded into blogs, seem better for reflection.

Now, I'm sure there are effective ways to use blogs for educational purposes and I hope to learn some of those strategies from this course. In particular how to place some controls around the writing and the format utilized without eliminating the creative and individualized voice of the student. I also want to explore the way writing can help students master content and develop critical thinking skills.