Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Of blogs and students

When surfing I hit upon an article and a thesis on blogs and students. Blogging should help students to think and write more critically, according to the Australian researcher Anne Barlett-Bragg a lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney. As a teacher she has been using weblogs or blogs in her own teaching since 2001. Her basic idea is that blogs learn students to communicate outside the boundaries of the classroom and the institution. In this way they become critical and more responsible. One of the most powerful facilities in weblogs, she sees, is pinging, which involves a person posting a comment about someone else's work on their own blog. The 'TrackBack' tool is used to notify the author when they have published the comment, basically inviting them to discuss it. It alerts the original author that someone has written about them. But not everyone responds; yet many do.The blog plays also a role in the communication among the students themselves as they read others blogs and respect it, but also debate issues. Blogs are also extremely useful for categorising and managing a large collection of thoughts, whether they are from lecture notes, a student's own ideas, or comments on the ideas of others.

When I looked further for evidence I found the (Dutch language) thesis Learning by blogging of M.J.C. Kremers, a student of Tilburg University. He has mad an inventory of blogs in universities. He found four weblog sites offered by departments of universities and one university library. He counted 34 blogs from indivuals such as instructors, students or a small group.

Type of blogs
Individual weblog 15
Topic blog 5
Diary 4
Group blog 3
Blog of internship/Travel blog 3
Testing blogs 2
Portfolio / Personal weblog 1
Videoblog 1

He notes that the found web logs mainly are used in the research area as a communication tool. He concludes that the added value of the weblog for education is not clear yet. Weblogs are mainly used as a tool for reflection and sometimes for showing a portfolio.

At Leiden University blogs are used for instructors and their assistants to put up the content of the course. Mid 2006 there were 91 weblogs, 129 authors of which 41 active authors, 1815 postings and 1217 commentaries. As in other weblogs it is clear that one starts enthusiastically with a weblog, but then the enthusiasm tapers off: from 129 authors to 41 active ones.

In the Digital University, a cooperation of nine universities and colleges, web logs are used to report on the internship of potential teachers.

Personally I found the weblogs of 25 students of the international Master training MediaCulture most interesting. The students will have to master working with weblogs and will have to write for a large audience. They write in English and write with reflection on their course. The web is also used in order to hand in essays.

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Blog Posting Number: 570

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