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Getting The Most Out Of Student Blogging Assignments And Instructional Blogging

by Kelly Walsh on November 23, 2011

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Examining Instructional Blogging Efforts and Lessons Learned.

Guest Post by Elaine Hirsch.

As instructional blogging made its way into classrooms, student feedback has helped teachers structure methods to use blogs effectively, from elementary classrooms to online PhD programs. A mix of positive and negative feedback has helped illustrate how blogs are useful and how instructors can identify and improve upon challenges that might arise with their usage.

In his article, “Instructional Blogging: Promoting Interactivity, Student-Centered Learning, and Peer Input,” Stuart Glogoff relays student feedback after the use of instructional blogs in one of his classes. One student reported that reading about new subjects via the blogging format was enjoyable; she found that researching the topics to post on the class blog was helpful to her overall learning experience. The student, however, complained that, “the posts were few and far between.” She expressed further disappointment over the fact that none of her posts received comments, a complaint echoed amongst other students who took the survey

In order to make instructional blogging more effective, Glogoff gave blogging assignments that required each student to post entries and comment a certain number of times on the work of others. Afterward, students reported general increases in their sense of community. They also reported greater satisfaction with the overall blogging experience. Others said the entire blogging and peer-reviewing process not only helped them understand the course material but also provided a better avenue for helping each other learn through conversation.

Dr. John Freed, a professor at Brandman University, assigned students in his Communications 372 class the task of creating individual blogs accessible to all other participating students. Along with Dr. Freed, each student in the class subscribed to his or her classmates’ blogs. The class shared its ideas and participated in online discussions via the individual blogs. Students learned how to document and present their accomplishments, work electronically, and instantly place their achievements within a global context. In their end-of-term evaluations students reported the blogs did help them accomplish their course objectives.

According to Dr. Freed, many of his students expressed appreciation that the blogs not only helped them learn the class materials in a new way, but also they liked that the blogs made class materials more readily accessible. Some reported the blogs facilitated learning from one another, and helped them learn new electronic media skills that could be applied in other settings. The only negative feedback he received was from students previously inexperienced with blogging and who therefore had problems learning to navigate the interface, causing them to fall behind on their work.

In a study conducted by Michele D. Dickey of Miami University students who had participated in instructional blogging assignments reported a lessening sense of social isolation and an increase in social camaraderie. One student reported her interactions via blogging with other students in the class instilled the idea that she was part of a community composed of her classmates.

In the same study, one student revealed mixed feelings about assigned blogging. She reported feeling that the friendliness that took place during blog discussions wasn’t genuine. She also reported a sense of cronyism: other members of the blogging group had become exclusive friends and ignored her posts. As a result, she didn’t feel her attempts to start conversations were successful. She also expressed that the sense of community often expressed in the postings didn’t fairly represent the actual class, but instead represented the group dynamics of the online community.

Using blogging as an online educational workspace can expand the realm of learning beyond the physical constraints of the classroom. For many students, it provides a whole new method of learning. The crucial element for instructors is to listen carefully to how students express their experiences and to draw on this information to improve instructional blog use for future classes.

Guest writer Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites and writing about all these things instead.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Blogging In Education Today (a multipart series)
The Importance of Writing Skills: Online Tools to Encourage Success
Two easy ways for educators and students to start a blog (for free)
3 Quick Lesson Plan Ideas That Utilize Technology

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer and a faculty member at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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