A blog is essentially an online publication and consists of a series of posts and pages written by individuals or groups of people on the world wide web. Blogs can promote an open dialogue with a broad audience and encourage community building in which both the bloggers and those commenting exchange opinions, ideas and resources. Blogging can be a way for students to document their learning over time but also to share and submit their work in a subject for review by their teachers and peers. It can be an important critical reflection and responsive practice tool and provide unique opportunities for enriched collaborative and reflective assessment.
A common educational use of blogs is for students to reflect on their experiences and learning similar to the process used in learning journals (Ladyshewsky & Gardner, 2008). Reflective practice is emerging as an important component of many professions with many professional associations, regulatory bodies, universities and workplaces noting it as an important skill of graduates (Farmer et al., 2008; Ladyshewsky & Gardner, 2008). There are particular benefits in using blogs with students who are working on placements away from the university, both for assessment purposes and for developing reflective skills. Sheridan et al (2014, p. 343) examined student perspectives in a Bachelor of Commerce degree and noted that “not only did the online environment accommodate the time and travel logistics associated with students undertaking an internship but, in some cases, its flexibility in time and place also meant the students engage with assessments in a more independent, thoughtful and, perhaps, more meaningful way as it directly related to their personal experience.” The students in this study used blogs and online journals to capture their reflections whilst on placement (reflection in-action) and to draw the threads together for a final assessment task (reflection on-action).
Blogs enhance students’ engagement in participative and collaborative learning. This can include:
- Learning as a process - blogs help document that over time.
- Linking previous study and work to current learning.
- Engaging with a much broader audience via public blogging and engage and share easily with their professions.
- Critical reflection and analysis of material
- Providing a vehicle for presenting and supporting opinions
ETL401, INF530, INF537, INF532, ETL523, INF506
Julie Lindsay, Judy O’Connell, Carole Gerts
The use of ThinkSpace for blogging (WordPress platform) is an essential objective within the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation course. Emphasis is on reflective practice, sharing new resources and ideas, synthesising subject content, and responding to others as part of the learning continuum. ‘Blogging’ as such provides for interaction between learners and with the wider community as well as group-based activities. It is also an integral part of assessment for each of these subjects and as such students are encouraged to blog regularly across the session.
INF537 - ‘Blogging buddies’ were set up where groups of 3 or 4 students (smaller community within the larger subject) connected, encouraged and shared. These groups were reorganised mid-session for the variety of having new buddies. INF537 and ETL523 - Assessment Item 3 for each of these subjects includes a Critical Reflection to be posted as a blog post, with URL included on the cover page as part of the final assessment submission. For INF537 the assignment stated:
PART B: Critical Reflection ThinkSpace blog 600 words +/- 10% Provide a critical synthesis of your reflection on how your views, knowledge and understanding of the work of an education professional in digital environments has changed and/or developed. This should include examples captured from your personal reflections and research comments posted on your blog, and from participatory experiences within the subject.
INF532 - For this subject students are requested to maintain a blog to document reflections and evaluations of connected learning experiences, with posts demonstrating the affordances of blogs such as tags, categories, embeds, etc. Assessment item 3 is an 1800 word ‘Network literacy evaluative report’ published as the final blog post for the subject. All blog posts are considered in the final marking and the rubric reflects this through criteria:
- Student investigates a range of ideas and issues.
- Student applies and integrates critical analysis.
- Student is able to form, present and support own opinions.
More information on this practice can be obtained from this presentation delivered by Julie Lindsay - ‘Beyond blogging: Reflective and responsive practice using ThinkSpace’
When designing a learning task that assesses with blogs, your instructions need to be explicit about the learning you expect. This can be achieved by the following strategies:
- Develop the learning outcomes first and ensure that the technology, the content and the task align with them.
- Decide whether you will use group or individual blogs. Which suits your course and your students’ learning objectives better? Group blogs and individual blogs have differing purposes and require different assessment features and rubrics.
- Develop formative assessment before you develop summative. Formative assessment indicates to students how they are tracking against what they are expected to achieve, but does not penalise them if they get things wrong.
- Plan to formatively assess a blog early in the semester, when students are posting and commenting frequently. Students who receive feedback early on will continue to post and comment throughout the course.
- Plan for inclusion: develop strategies for students from different socio-cultural backgrounds and with different levels of technology usage, ownership and knowledge.
- Develop assessment criteria and rubrics for student use as self and peer reviewers. Self and peer review promote collaboration and help develop a trusting community of practice.
- Using a rubric and marking criteria to support the student learning process can remove some fear of the unknown for students who have never blogged, or have only used micro-blogging sites such as Facebook. Show students the style of language, standard of writing and content expectations you have of their blog posts, reflective journal posts and comments. Provide examples so that they can see these aspects clearly.
- Post the rubric and criteria on the group blog or as a comment in the individual blogs.
- Hold an initial online meeting or make a podcast. Show the students the different elements of a blog, and examples of exemplary blogs. Explicitly outline your requirements of them, and discuss these with them.
- Ensure that your expectations about the number of posts, comments and reviews are absolutely clear to your students.
- Provide a safe, flexible and inclusive environment where students can develop skills for risk taking and self-regulation. Blogs should offer “an environment where learners can practice, fail, succeed and learn in a rich and realistic setting” (Morison, 2003, p. 359).
- Encourage student reflection using leading questions, statements and content, and ask students to present their reflection and its results in writing on the blog.
- Provide students with a range of potential blog content and ideas to encourage their learning beyond the classroom.
- Utilise RSS or Hashtags to aggregate content for the class.
Farmer, B., Yue, A., & Brooks, C. (2008). Using blogging for higher order learning in large cohort university teaching: A case study. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(2), 123-136.
Ladyshewsky, R. K., & Gardner, P. (2008). Peer assisted learning and blogging: A strategy to promote reflective practice during clinical fieldwork. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(3), 241-257.
Lindsay, J. (2016). Beyond blogging: Reflective and responsive practice using ThinkSpace [Slideshow]. Retrieved from Google Docs
Morison, D. (2003). E-learning strategies: how to get implementation and delivery right first time. Chichester: Wiley.
O’Connell, J. (2016, September 24). Digital scholarship powered by reflection and reflective practice through the use of an ePortfolio approach to course design in Higher Education [Slideshow]. Retrieved from Slideshare
Sheriden, L., Kotevski, S. & Dean, B.A. (2014) Learner Perspectives on online assessments as a mechanism to engage in reflective practice. APJCE, 15 (4): 335-345