I have had an increase in enquiries from staff in the college recently about using collaborative tools for learning. The fact that people are beginning to see the benefits of these collaborative spaces is a welcome development.
With that in mind, this is a timely research paper from Miriam Sullivan and Nancy Longnecker from the University of Western Australia:
The study looked at the use of class blogs in four science communication classes. The students felt that the benefits of blogging to them included:
- improvements in their writing,
- intellectual exchange with other students, and
- motivation to write better.
They also benefitted from reading what other students had written. Making a weekly contribution mandatory increased involvement and the students saw the assignment as having greater value. Where blogging counts towards assessment, even if it’s only a small percentage, contributions increase (JISC 2009), and if blogs are not integrated with other assessments then they can be ‘underutilized’. Other problems that teachers may find are an increase in marking and large differences in the quality and quantity of posts from students.
Blogging can prepare students for a class, having already thought about the issues and expressed a view. This allows the teacher to move quickly to deeper learning rather than having to coax contributions out of students who are staring at their feet because they haven’t done the reading! It also allows quieter or less confident students the opportunity to compose their contributions and to have their voice heard.
Sullivan and Longnecker believe that group blogging “fits squarely within current pedagogical recommendations for authentic learning in web 2.0 environments. It provides real-world context; requires sustained activity; allows multiple perspectives; collaboration; and articulation of knowledge.”
JISC (2009) Engaging Learners in Critical Reflection – University of Edinburgh in Effective Practice in a Digital Age, JISC (2009) http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/programmerelated/2009/effectivepracticedigitalage.aspx#downloads retrieved October 2014.
Sullivan, M., & Longnecker, N. (2014). Class blogs as a teaching tool to promote writing and student interaction. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 30(4).