Monday, June 11, 2007

Blogging in the Classroom

As more and more educational technologies, primarily those of the computer-mediated communication genre become pervasive and ubiquitous in learning institutions, teachers continue to discover alternative ways of improving the learning experience of students using these tools. One such technology that young people could easily relate to is the “blog”. A blog or a weblog, is a Web publishing tool that allows authors to quickly and easily self-publish text, artwork, links to other blogs or websites, and a whole array of other content (Crie, 2006). As such, this web-enabled technology provides teachers with excellent tool for communicating with students even beyond the four walls of a traditional face-to-face classroom. Blogs can be highly motivating to learners, especially those who otherwise might not become participants in the classroom, primarily because they can easily relate to its interface and functions which are essentially similar to a website. More so, it provides for learners effective forums for collaboration and discussion, while giving powerful tools for mentors to enable scaffolding to occur.

Blogs are an excellent way to fuse educational technology and “storytelling” inside the classroom and beyond school walls. As Huffaker (2004) stated, storytelling can be considered as the first steps to developing literacy. Inasmuch as blogs promote self-expression, authors can develop highly personalised content, developing in parallel the writing and reading literacy of the learner, at the same time allowing him to connect with an online community where he can get feedback, and continuously discover new knowledge from the topic he writes about. Blogs can be multidisciplinary, that is, reading other blogs and writing one’s own blog can be used in a variety of academic contexts. Thus, learners can express their perceptions on any number of subjects such as exchange of lessons learned after an experiment, discussion of the fundamental concepts of a formula being studied, situating themselves in a particular business or humanities context, etc.

There are a variety of ways by which mentors can use blogs in the classroom and thus improve the learning experience of students using this technology (Henry, 2007). These are: (1) creating standard class web(log) pages – essentially pieces of information such as class rules, links to syllabus, announcement of homework that are remarkably easy to put together in a blog and be updated easily; (2) teacher-written blogs which cover the developments related to the course which provides a nice and easy way to write and link information in the course that shows real world implications, such as file-sharing on the Net; (3) organization of in-class discussion wherein mentors can set a discussion issue every week, and have students debate it in comments.

Indeed, our awareness in e-learning technologies should always be maintained; we should always be ready to respond to new opportunities brought about by the constantly changing environment (Foggo, 2007). As permeation of new technologies at different levels of learning beset us, we as mentors need only to find the appropriate method to engage the users of these technologies and react responsively to their needs. Putting blogs in the classroom is easily one of them.