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Beginning to blog - using blogs in teaching and learning

By Dr Alison Hramiak, senior lecturer in teacher education

There's potential for both teachers and students to use blogs in the classroom to promote different kinds of learning. There are many ways in which blogs could be used.

  • Blogs could be used just as normal diaries - they don't always have to be reflective if all you want to do is get your students into the technology, but it's not a bad place to start. Try them as diaries and see how reflective they become anyway. Tweeting is OK and many of your students probably do this anyway, but 140 characters is very limiting!
  • Students could be encouraged to blog about feedback on their assignments to engage with it and use it to improve their work.
  • Blogs can easily be deployed with Y12s and Y13s on their long term projects - a blog is also a useful 'authenticating tool'. For example, rather than annotating work as it progresses to show how an end product, such as a final presentation, was achieved, pupils could blog their progress on a weekly basis. This provides evidence of the means to the end, and also provides authentication that the work was theirs.
  • On cross curricular projects, blogs could be used to share work and progress with other members of the groups or teams. They could also be used to categorise the work, with different blogs for different areas of the work that everyone can contribute to.

This list is not exhaustive and there are many other ways in which blogs could be deployed given a creative teaching mind and the time to implement the ideas.

Do be aware that teachers need to provide academic guidance to students so that they 'get' how to reflect in their blogs - if reflection is what you're aiming for. Teachers need to ensure that students fully understand the links between what they're doing in completing the blog, and the actual purpose of the task in terms of developing their reflective practice.

Before using blogs, it's worthwhile stopping to think about the benefits of them and then trying to get this across to the students so they approach the idea more positively. For example having an online rather than paper-based reflective system means that it's easy to sort entries, keep them in chronological order and trace progress in a more efficient and organised way.

In summary, a blog provides a detailed, chronological, well ordered account of developments in learning in a way that pen and paper are not always able to do. These aspects of blogging make it potentially very valuable for teachers and students alike.

For further reading or any other queries regarding this article please email Dr Alison Hramiak at a.hramiak@shu.ac.uk

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