Stepping into Web 2.0: Blogging as a Rite of Passage for Educators

So here it is. The culmination of many a day’s hard graft. I have now completed designing the six week blended learning programme Stepping into Web 2.0: Blogging as a Rite of Passage for Educators which I am piloting with colleagues. Although, for practical reasons, the content has been created in Moodle, our VLE, all the action will take place online using Web 2.0 tools and practices. Participants will be reflecting on their journey via their blogs which can be found under the Communities of Practice link to the right of this blog (Monday 18th March). If there are any readers out there that have stumbled across this blog post and value the practice of blogging to support PDP, learning, teaching and assessment then if you have a moment please do read some of these new blog posts and add your comments. Your support may really motivate these educators who are new to blogging.

Below is the outline of my research proposal I had to present to my tutor at Huddersfield University which may help put my reasons and motivations for creating this programme into context.

Here is the short introduction for Stepping into Web 2.0 which you will find in Moodle.

Stepping into Web 2.0

“There is no better way to understand the impact of the Read/Write Web than becoming a part of it” (Richardson, 2010, p.38).

Image subject to copyright Presenter Media

Stepping into Web 2.0

Social media transforms teaching from static delivery of content to an ever-changing practice. The only way to learn this is through experience. Participating with emerging technologies outside your classroom is the best way to see the array of possibilities they hold” (Pacansky-Brock, 2013, p.46).

Welcome to this blended learning programme enabling you to step into the world of Web 2.0 by adopting and experimenting with tools and practices which focus on participation, collaboration, content-creation, reflection and collective knowledge. You will be writing a blog during your journey enabling you to reflect on your experience and share your knowledge with your peers thereby creating a supportive network and community of practice. You will understand the relevance of these technologies and practices and learn how they are being applied in a wide range of learning and teaching contexts. The underpinning pedagogical principles associated with this programme is based on situative, authentic, problem-based learning within the context of a social constructivist framework and a community of practice.

You  may ask yourself why it is necessary to keep up your knowledge and skills in relation to social media technologies and practices? Is it true that the bottom line is “effective teaching requires effective technology use?” (Ertmer, 2010, p.256).

Watch these two YouTube video clips for an insight into what other educators may think.

These are just two examples of resources created by educators to promote debate and perhaps controversy. Do we really need an alternative DNA pedagogy? How do you see yourself in relation to your confidence with Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL)? Are you a Woody, Buzz Lightyear or Rex? (Techstory, 2010, p.8).

There will be plenty of opportunity to discuss such questions throughout your journey so fasten your seat belts and let us get on the road – to e-tivity and Beyond!  Most of our discussions will take place on our public blogs however, if you have any queries related to your journey or you have a technical question then please communicate via our Yammer Group. This is our walled garden where our conversations remain private.

Twitter feeds for this group will be #stepweb2

References

  • Ertmer, P. A., Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A. T. (2010) Teacher Technology Change: How Knowledge, Confidence, Beliefs, and Culture Intersect, Journal of Research on Technology in Education, Vol. 42, No. 3, pp.255-284
  •  Pacansky-Brock, M., (2012) Best Practices for Teaching with Emerging Technologies. Routledge Taylor and Francis. New York
  •  Richardson, W., (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. U.S.A: Corwin.

All images are attributed to their original author(s). Any images not sourced are copyright from PresenterMedia ©

Blogging in the Edusphere: A Beginner’s Guide

blogging


What is a blog?
Who are the bloggers and why do they blog?
Blogging for Educational Purposes
The Educational Blogosphere
Tips for writing a successful blog in education
How do I get started with blogging?

It has been some time since I touched based with my blog and I have missed it.  I had planned to write a post on the complexities of pedagogy but I need to unravel that one when I have more time and patience. Since I am developing a blended learning programme on Web 2.0 technologies I started to think about how I should introduce blogging to those educators who are unfamiliar with the practice, so after a bit more digging around I have compiled this beginner’s guide which may be of use to the uninitiated. The content is not very “blog friendly” and breaks all the rules of a blog post in that it is too long, too formal and not punctuated with multimedia. This is because it has been written for a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) and therefore  will be divided into more manageable bite-sized chunks making it more accessible. However, having it here, all in one place, will enable me to find things more quickly when I need to reference material and isn’t this one of the advantages of a blog?

So below is my harvest after a few days toil.

What is a blog?

A blog is an online space in which an author can easily publish content to the web. The word originated from the term “weblog” which, as the name suggests, means a journal entry and this is generally how blogs started their life, as self-publications of personal musings. They are now, however, far more varied in purpose and design. This short video clip by Common Craft sets out to explain the concept of a blog in very general terms.

In a blog a series of posts are written and appear in reverse chronological order with the most recent post appearing at the top of the blog. One of the advantages of creating a blog is the ease with which multimedia content such as videos and images can be incorporated. The inclusion of hyperlinks to other relevant complementary resources can flesh out a blog and make it more interactive and engaging to the reader. The driving force behind an author writing a blog is perhaps the fact that it is in the public domain, although some blogs can be set to private or a limited number of authorised readers.  A blog gives a reader a “voice” to share thoughts and opinions to a wider audience. What makes blogging a collaborative, participatory Web 2.0 practice is the ability for readers to comment on the posts and share their own thoughts and ideas. Blogs therefore constitute a new and “unique communication genre” (Silva et al. p.56) which offers the author an opportunity to reflect, showcase, advertise and communicate news and ideas whilst readers are invited to participate and join in the conversation. Readers may become followers of blogs and can subscribe to them via RSS (Really Simple Syndication) so that new posts are automatically flagged up. This interchange between an author and his/her readers connects them in a “hyper structure known as the blogosphere” (Fessakis et al, 2008, p.199). This situates blogs within the context of the “expressive internet” that Tufecki (2008) defines as one of the hallmarks of the Read/Write Web making it more personal, social and collaborative.

“Blogs engage readers with ideas and questions and links. They ask readers to think and to respond. They demand interaction” (Richardson, 2010, p.18).

The surge in self-publishing on the internet is largely due to the socio-cultural climate in which technological advancements have facilitated the opportunities for people to express themselves and socialise through this new media ecology. Watch Wesch’s interesting lecture on How the Machine is Changing Us for more on this subject. Another reason why blogging has become so popular is simply that it is so easy to set up and maintain. Popular sites like wordpress, blogger,  tumblr and edublogs allow users to register and start writing their blogs easily and quickly. The majority of blogs are free to set up although for education and business there may be service agreement costs depending on the level of support and enterprise required.   So who are all these bloggers and what is their motivation behind their practice?

License: Some rights reserved by alamodestuff from Flickr Creative Commons

Attribution: Some rights reserved by alamodestuff


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Who are the bloggers and why do they blog?

Technorati is a useful website which monitors the state of the blogosphere and has been collating statistical data since 2004. The number of blogs have been rising significantly since then which is testimony to their appeal. Approximate figures suggest that there were only 4 million blogs in 2004 rising to 181 million for 2011.

Technorati divides bloggers into several categories: the hobbyist, professional full-timer, professional part-timer, corporate blogger and entrepreneur.  The so-called hobbyists contribute over 60% of all blogs in the blogosphere.

The backbone of the blogosphere, representing over 60% of all bloggers are “hobbyists” who “blog for fun” whilst expressing their “personal musings”. 60% indicate they spend less than three hours a week blogging, yet half of hobbyists spend time to respond individually to comments from readers. The main reason 72% of hobbyists blog is to “speak their minds” and their main success metric is personal satisfaction (61%).

Technorati’s sample survey of active bloggers provides some quantitative data on why people blog and how they measure the success of the blogs. Listed below are just the top 6 responses.

Why do you blog?

  • To share my experience and expertise with others
  • In order to speak my mind on areas of interest
  • To become more involved with my passion areas
  • To meet and connect with like-minded people
  • To gain professional recognition
  • To advance my career

How do you measure the success of your blog?

  • Personal satisfaction
  • Number of unique visitors
  • Number of posts or comments on my blog
  • Number of people who are sharing my content on social media sites
  • Number of links to my blogs on other sites
  • Number of RSS subscribers

Source: http://technorati.com/social-media/article/state-of-the-blogosphere-2011-part2/ (this website is no longer available)

This data suggests we are increasingly changing the way we produce and consume information online. Web 2.0 tools and practices pivot on the dynamics of co-creation and redistribution of knowledge. People want to share, they want to express themselves and they want to connect with others and be rewarded with feedback as “the thirst for making connections, for communication, is insatiable and that is why hundreds of new communities form every day” (Preece, 2010).

Edublogs is a service dedicated to students and educators who are blogging for teaching, learning, and professional purposes. Exploring blogging through a theoretical lens we can ascertain that it promotes authentic, situative and collaborative learning which supports social constructivist and constructionist pedagogical principles. Blogging can also promote communities of practice (Wenger, 1998) and extend personal learning networks. New theories of collective intelligence and connectivism (Siemens & Downes, 2005) give credence to online practices like blogging. So why are educational practitioners and so many learners immersing themselves in the blogosphere?

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Blogging for Educational Purposes

It is generally acknowledged that there has been paradigm shift from teacher-centred learning to student centred learning based on the social constructivist theories espoused by Vygotsky.  McLoughlin stresses the need for educators to expand their pedagogical vision “so that learners are active participants or co-producers rather than passive consumers of content, so that learning is a participatory, social process supporting personal life goals and needs” (McLoughlin, 2007, p.664). The practice of blogging can facilitate self-directed learning, increase metacognitive awareness through critical reflection (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2011) and support the construction of knowledge through collaboration amongst peers. Both educators and learners can benefit from this.

Downes highlights the fact that blogging gives “students a genuine and potentially worldwide audience for their work. Having such an audience can result in feedback and greatly increase student motivation to do their best work. Students also have each other as their potential audience, enabling each of them to take on a leadership role at different times through the course of their learning” (Downes, 2011, p78).

Blogs can be both monologues (having a conversation with self) reinforcing theoretical perspectives on reflective, problem-based, situative learning or blogs can be dialogues (conversation with others) in which communities of practice develop, (O’Donnell, 2006; Yan, 2009).

Will Richardson’s book on Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (2010) advocates the use of blogs, as “the most widely adopted tool of the Read/Write Web so far,”(p.10) and goes on to list some practical recommendations. I have modified this list substantially to summarise the main points and have included some of my own ideas.

Teacher Blogs – Reflective / Journal / Community of Practice

  • keep a log of successful lessons and practices
  • explore pedagogical issues whilst experimenting with different methodologies
  • critically reflect on teaching practices and experiences
  • plan strategies for future lessons
  • share teaching ideas
  • ask followers for advice, recommendations, research material, lesson ideas
  • reflect on observations of other teachers’ practice and lessons learned (vicarious learning)

Class Blogs

  • post information on news and events, homework, assignments
  • publish students’ work to showcase good practice
  • communicate with parents on a daily/ weekly basis to let them know about the learning topics
  • post photos and videos of classroom activities
  • incorporate multimedia exploring other Web 2.0 technologies to make the site more interactive and engaging for example embedding voice-thread, podcasts or creative art
  • provide links and resources to support assignments and homework
  • request learners to  harvest useful resources on a given topic and share them on the blog
  • post prompts for further reading and research
  • build a class newsletter incorporating all student content
  • link your class with another class in the world for cultural exchange
  • encourage learners (and parents) to use the comments feature to give feedback on classroom activities

Individual Student blogs enable students to

  • step into the world of Web 2.0 safely and securely under the advice and support of the teacher providing opportunities to discuss digital identity
  • express themselves and showcase their work (art, poetry, photography, creative writings)
  • personalise learning through the look and feel of their blog which they have ownership of
  • improve literacy skills
  • evidence group or individual project work as portfolios for assessment
  • collate relevant resources pertinent to a topic and discuss the significance of each whilst promoting digital literacy
  • self-reflect on learning experiences or classroom activities
  • develop self-directed, autonomous learning improving study skills and life-long learning skills
  • learn how to interact with others respectfully and respond to comments appropriately
  • explore the interactivity and collaborative nature of Web 2.0 and the sociality it engenders
  • extend the confines of the classroom, learning takes place flexibly meeting the needs of the learner.

Collis and Moonen stresses the importance of the “contributing student” pedagogy by emphasising the difference between an acquisition model of learning in which a learner comes to possess new knowledge and a participatory model of learning when learning is integrated into the learner’s world (Collis & Moonen, 2006).  Blogging ticks all the boxes for active, authentic, problem-based learning.

These are just some of the activities that you could pursue by employing blogs for teaching and learning. Watch this short YouTube clip on Blogging with students: How and Why before exploring some of the blogs listed below.

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You might also want to read Blogging in the Classroom: Why your students should write online and also a Reflection on the benefits of Classroom Blogging by primary school teacher who has been blogging since 2008.

So now we have established what blogs are, who the bloggers are and what blogs could be used for in education let us find a sample of blogs that could be of interest to you.

The Educational Blogosphere

It seems unfair to pick out just a few blogs when there are millions out there in the blogosphere. No exact figures can be traced for the number of blogs in existence but Tumblr states it has 193 million blogs (as of 3rd July 2014) and WordPress has its own statistical analysis which you can track for up to date figures. However, I have selected a handful which will hopefully demonstrate their wide and varied use in education for both learners and educators..  However, I have selected a handful which will hopefully demonstrate their wide and varied use in education for both learners and educators.

  1. First off, here is Neverseconds, a blog that started off innocently enough by a primary school student, Martha Payne as part of a school project which focussed on her school meals. Within a few months it reached international acclaim and secured hundreds and thousands of pounds for charity enriching many people’s lives. The power of the web! Listen to Martha’s story to find out why.
  2. This case study from JISC RSC includes a video explaining how a Geology Tutor set up a class blog to promote further enquiry and research amongst her learners. One student took up the mantle and even though she has since moved on to university continues to use her blog for reflection, analysis and synthesis of her own learning. See What I learnt in Geography this week.
  3. TeachNorthern’s blog post on criticality deserves a mention for three reasons. Firstly, it highlights the way in which, by penning her post with such an enquiring mind, the author is unravelling her ideas and thoughts in search of answers. She is undoubtedly on a journey. Secondly it characterises the nature of many blogs that wend their merry way from being both a conversation with self (monologue) and conversation with others (dialogue) and this is evident with the linguistic shift from the personal pronoun “I” to phrases like “you get the picture”. Thirdly, this post is personal and readable. It is informative, yet it is also a narrative in which you can clearly hear the author’s own voice. This is one of the joys of writing a blog, with “honesty, integrity and meaningfulness” (Downes, 2011, p.72) which is apparent when  she reflects on her reaction to a problem, “I had an emotional response to it which combined denial, connection, fear, recognition, anger…a whole bag of feelings, but I still don’t know what I think. Sometimes, finding out what you think takes time. And that – really – is OK too” (Technorthern, 2012). I agree!
  4. http://cathywint.posterous.com/a-video-tastic-lesson .This is a different type of blog altogether because it is evidently written for reflective practice and Continuing Professional Development although it is nevertheless described as a “personal space” by the author. Other ESOL teachers would no doubt learn a lot from all the various classroom activities she is willing to share.
  5. Learning with e’s is updated regularly and has many followers who are interested in emerging technologies for learning and teaching. Steve Wheeler is a thinker who likes to share his ideas, thoughts and feelings on education. See his pertinent blogpost on 7 Reasons why teachers should blog . Note that his blog posts are listed under the Creative Commons licence so “sharing” knowledge and experience is important to this author.
  6. Dave Foord’s site is another wordpress blog http://davefoord.wordpress.com/ which focusses on technology for learning and teaching. He is a consultant who uses the blog to share his experience and to reflect on his own practice. He has been blogging consistently since 2007.
  7. Edublogs has over 1 million sites blogs dedicated to teaching and learning. This blog entitled Integrating Technology into the Primary Classroom has almost everything you need to know about introducing blogs into the classroom and has won accolades from edublogs hall of fame. Kathleen Morris is a primary school teacher in Australia and has a wealth of experience in using blogs with learners.
  8. Metafilter, described as a “community weblog” is a different kind of blog altogether and is worth a mention because it is a unique community in which members share a variety of interests, news and ideas. A $5 fee is charged for membership and there are specific guidelines ensuring members contribute with respect and courtesy to others whilst at the same time promoting constructive controversy and active debate.

For more of the best blogs in education (from the principal to the primary school student visit the Edublog award site at: http://edublogawards.com/).

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Tips for writing a successful blog in education

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lapideo/198046070/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Attribution: Some rights reserved by lapideo Flickr Creative Commons

There is plenty of advice out there in the blogosphere on how to write a good blog post but context is key. Much of the advice focusses on how to entice, engage and maintain a reliable following of readers but this is not our main interest. See Downe’s critique of a journalist blogger’s tips for successful blogging which he dismisses, “the point of a blog isn’t to gather a loyal cadre of readers around you dutifully writing comments” (Downes, 2011, p.73).  This type of “vanity publishing” (O’Donnell, 2006, p.6)  and narcissistic pride is certainly evident in many professional blogs and is the motivation behind many blogger’s activities but it is of less importance for the learner or teacher trying to improve learning outcomes. However, it should be acknowledged that writing in the public domain can be a powerful incentive, “this public context encourages a unique calibre of thoughtfulness that does not typically happen in private journals” (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2011, p.110) and as such can be skilfully harnessed by teachers to motivate learners.

If you are writing a class blog for learners (and parents) this will be significantly different in substance and style than if you were writing on a more personal level to develop skills in self-reflection. However, since we are concentrating on blogs as both channels for reflection and communities of practice we will focus on a few characteristics. Let us remember one of the main benefits of blogging:

Part of the freedom of blogging is its immediacy and its flexibility: it is a space where anything from brief notes, first thoughts and links, to more worked-up essay style postings can live together. However, deeper dimensions are discovered if the blogger actively mines this archive gradually shaping it through addition and juxtaposition” (O’Donnell, 2006, p.9).

If you are writing for critical reflection then lay down the foundations by following one of the various reflective cycle models  such as Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle (1984), Gibb’s Reflective Cycle (1998) or Schon’s Reflection Model (1983). Remember to be analytical not just descriptive. Your “blogging voice” will develop over time and will improve once you start to read and follow other blogs. These are my own personal tips on blogging based on experience and some extensive reading around the subject. However, you will undoubtedly find your own strategies for successful blogging. These tips are simply a starting point if you are stepping into the edusphere for the first time.

  1. Have a clear purpose and focus for your blog or you will struggle finding your voice. What do you want to gain by undertaking the practice and how best can you achieve this?“Students need to identify and define a focus for their blog, establish goals and objectives for how and when they will contribute to their blog; identify, find, use and critique content and ideas to include in the blog; appropriately share content and ideas to an audience via their blog; and critique the effectiveness of their blog posts to meet their goals and objectives for their blog and the needs of their audience” (Dunlap, 20011, p.7).
  2. Be analytical rather than simply descriptive and back up your arguments by referring to relevant theory, journal articles, or other sources.
  3. Include live links to other resources  by hyperlinking text (the danger is that eventually some of these resources will become unavailable so for important posts which have a wide readership you might want to revisit these and do some spring cleaning).
  4. Incorporate multimedia to enliven the blog and make it more aesthetically pleasing although be wary of using imagery simply as “decorative eye candy” (Clarke and Lyons, 2004) which doesn’t serve a purpose.
  5. Reference all your work.  You do not need to use the full Harvard Referencing system (unless your blog is being included for assessment) but do make sure readers have enough information to find the relevant resources. This is useful when you return to your blog posts and want to avoid having to rummage around to find resources.
  6. Proof-read. We all make mistakes when writing online due to the spontaneous nature of blogging. The odd spelling and grammar mistake is inevitable but if your work is to be showcased to a larger audience or used for assessment purposes then be more careful.
  7. Personalise your blog so that your own voice can be heard, this makes your blog posts more readable. Read this short blog post on naval gazing about blogging which highlights this. Include narratives which draw the reader in but do not get side tracked by writing extensively about the cat playing under your feet if you are trying to make an important point.
  8. Make sure you are familiar with your organisations policies in relation to social media if your blog is directly related to your work. You may need to inform other colleagues within the organisation (they will no doubt be interested to read your blog anyway).
  9. Be mindful of your public persona even. Your personal musings and ramblings are evidently useful for yourself (and perhaps other readers) in helping you to unravel ideas and concepts but ranting and raving online may elicit negative responses and become known to your employer.
  10. Invite other readers to comment. “Constructive controversy” is useful, Ryman et al (2009, p.32) and gives us the opportunity to extend the boundaries of knowledge and shift our perceptions. Web 2.0 tools and the practice of blogging present the opportunity to “learn, unlearn and relearn” (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2011).

  11. If you want a wider audience send your links via twitter, facebook or email. It is a good idea to put links to other blogs on your own blog via the blog roll. You can also subscribe to other blog posts via RSS.
  12. Be respectful and courteous at all times. Allow other people to voice their opinions.
  13. Mutual coherence. Make sure your comments to other blogs or your reply to readers is “mutually coherent” (Yacci, 2009) in that you are responding in a useful and constructive way avoiding inane comments and platitudes. Simply stating that you agree with a post is not enough, why do you agree and can you add anything further to the conversation. Watch this super little video clip of primary school learners providing their own tips on commenting on blogs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDVSw54VU1A

  14. Reciprocity. When blogging to facilitate a community of practice post comments on other blogs and reply to your own comments. This “socially mediated metacognition” arises from the “reciprocal process of exploring each other’s reasoning and viewpoints in order to construct a shared understanding” (Gunawardena et al, 2009, p.14).
  15. Social capital (Tufecki, 2008) and the affective benefits. The driving force behind any kind of online community is the social aspect. We engage in social networking to redefine ourselves in the eyes of others, shape our identity and bond with others. The affective benefits of belonging to an online community, that is how we feel, is pivotal in motivating us to engage in our endeavours. Honesty, trust and respect glues a community together. Taking this into account, above all, when you start blogging, remember it is a social process in which you may re-establish a relationship with yourself and others so enjoy it! G&T anyone?

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References

Clark, C. & Lyons, R. (2004) Graphics for Learning. Jossey Bass Willey

Downes, S., (2011) Access: Future. Practical Advice on What to Learn and How to Learn [online] Available at: http://www.downes.ca/files/books/Connective_Knowledge-19May2012.pdf [Accessed 12 November 2012]

Dunlap, J.C., Lowenthal, P.R., (2011) Learning, unlearning, and relearning: Using Web 2.0 technologies to support the development of lifelong learning skills. In G.D. Magoulas (Ed.), E-infrastructures and technologies for lifelong learning: Next generation environments. Hershey, PA: IGI Global

Gunawardena, C. N., Hermans, M.B., Sanchez, D., Richmond. C., Bohley, M., Tuttle,  R., (2009) A theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools. Educational Media International, Vol. 46, No. 1, pp.3-16

O’Donnell, M., (2006) Blogging as pedagogic practice: artefact and ecology, Asia Pacific Media Educator, Vol. 17, pp.5-19 [online] Available at: http://ro.uow.edu.au/apme/vol1/iss17/3 [Accessed 21 September 2012]

Ryman, S., Hardman G., Richardson, B., Ross, J. (2009) Creating and Sustaining Online Learning Communities: Designing for Transformative Learning. International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, Vol 5, Issue 3, pp.32-45

Tufecki, Z., (2008b) Grooming, Gossip, Facebook and MySpace, Information Communication & Society, Vol. 11, No.4, pp.544-564

Yacci, M. (2000) Interactivity Demystified: A Structural Definition for Distance Education and Intelligent CBT, [online] Available at: http://www.ist.rit.edu/~may/interactiv8.pdf [Accessed 24 October 2011]

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How do I get started with blogging?

If you have not read many blogs before I suggest you go to some of the blogs listed in Educational blogosphere to get a feel for how others express themselves.

You might want to find other blogs not related to education and wordpress is a good place to start. They have what is called freshly pressed blogs on a weekly basis which are the most popular blogs. Unfortunately you will need to register with wordpress first to be able to view them all.
Freshly pressed!

An example of freshly pressed sites.

Once you have established your objective for blogging and know what you want to achieve then register with wordpress (or one of the other main blog host providers like blogger, edublogs, tumbler or posterous) and create your first blog. Spend some time personalising your blog so that you are happy with how it looks. Think carefully about the name of your blog as you might not be able to change this at a later date. You might not want to use your own name and prefer to use a blog name which identifies your area of interest. You do not need to name your organisation. When you write your very first post be a bit spontaneous and do not attempt any topic too complex which will stifle your creativity. You might want to start writing about your reasons for blogging and what you hope to achieve on your journey. Put some time aside to get 3 or 4 posts written within a specific time frame to get accustomed to the process and get into the flow.

Russell Stannard has produced some simple video tutorials on getting started using wordpress which may help you get started at http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/wordPress/index.html

Remember, be brave and bold, you have a voice, express yourself.

References 

Clark, C. & Lyons, R. (2004) Graphics for Learning: Proven Guidelines for Planning, Designing, and Evaluating Visuals in Training Materials. Pfeiffer

Collis, B.A., Moonen, J.C (2006) The contributing student: Learners as co-developers of learning resources for reuse in Web environments. In D. Hung and M.S Khine (eds.), Engaged learning with emerging technologies. Springer Dordrect, Nederland.

Downes, S. (2011) Access: Future. Practical Advice on What to Learn and How to Learn [online]. Available at: http://www.downes.ca/files/books/AccessFuture.pdf [Accessed 16 October 2012]

Dunlap, J.C., Lowenthal, P.R. (2011) Learning, unlearning and relearning: Using Web 2.0 technologies to support the development of lifelong learning skills. In G.D. Magoulas (Ed.), E-infrastructures and technologies for lifelong learning: Next Generation environments. Hershey, PA: IGI Global

Fessakis, G., Konstantinos, T., Dimitracopoulou, A., (2008) Supporting Learning by Design Activitgies Using Group Blogs. Educational Technology and Society. Vol.11, No. 4, pp.199-212

Gunawardena, C. N., Hermans, M.B., Sanchez, D., Richmond. C., Bohley, M., Tuttle, R., (2009) A theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools. Educational Media International, Vol. 46, No. 1, pp.3-16

McLoughlin, C., Lee, M., (2007) Social Software and participatory learning: Pedagogical choices with technology affordances in the Web 2.0 era, Proceedings ascilite Singpore 2007

O’Donnell, M., (2006) Blogging as pedagogic practice: artefact and ecology, Asia Pacific Media Educator, Vol. 17, pp.5-19 [online] Available at: http://ro.uow.edu.au/apme/vol1/iss17/3 [Accessed 21 September 2012]

Preece, J. (2010) Sociability and usability in online communities: Determining and measuring success, Behaviour and Information Technology, Vol. 20, No. 5, pp.347-356

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools
for Classrooms
. U.S.A: Corwin.

Silva, L., Lakshmi, G., Mousavidin, E., (2008) Exploring the dynamics of blog communities: the case of MetaFliter, Information Systems Journal, Vol.19, pp.55-81

Tufekci, Z. (2008b) Grooming, Gossip, Facebook and MySpace, Information Communication & Society, Vol. 11, No.4, pp.544-564

Wenger, E. (1998) A Social Theory of Learning, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Yacci, M. (2000) Interactivity Demystified: A Structural Definition for Distance Education and Intelligent CBT, [online] Available at: http://www.ist.rit.edu/~may/interactiv8.pdf [Accessed 24 October 2011]

Yang, S. (2009) Using Blogs to Enhance Critical Reflection and Community of Practice, Educational Technology & Society, Vol 12, No. 2, pp.11-21

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Gin and Tonic anyone?

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Gin and Tonic anyone?

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After discussing reciprocity (Preece) and multiplexed affective patterns (Yacci ) I think I need a drink!

The “affective” nature of belonging to an online community is very interesting and Craig and I have been grappling with it especially since Yacci believes that emotions do play an important role in the learner’s perceptions of interactivity.

Whilst reading a Solus report entitled Twitter in Further Education I was struck by their use of metaphor in relation to growing successful online communities by applying the same etiquette you would if you were organising an event. Although the report is focussing on Twitter rather than communities of practice this helps me somewhat in trying to respond to colleagues’ posts.

Poor event: The host is not there to greet guests, there’s no entertainment, no food, not many people turn up and no one knows anyone else…people will probably not be staying for long.

Enjoyable event: The entertainment is excellent, the food is good, all your friends are there… there is a real vibrant atmosphere. People will probably want to hang around and will be regulars at the event.

So I better get my skates on…

By the way, one of our fellow bloggers, Paul McKean, @MoodleMcKean is statistically one of the top tweeters in FE. So if you want to join a fun party online then catch up with Paul on Twitter.

So in the spirit of Web 2.0, anyone for a G & T?

You might need one if we are to discuss multiplexed affective messages and Laurillard’s conversational framework!

Solus (2011) Twitter in Further Education [online] Available at: http://www.namss.ac.uk/sites/default/files/twitter_in_further_education_report.pdf [Accessed: 21st October 2011]

I must add, that I do allow for differentiation and so if a G&T is not your type of tipple I should be able to provide something else!

Who stole the lolly stick and why?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/recyclethis/185807557/

Hands down! Choose a lolly stick instead.

Once upon a time there lived a scholar. This scholar believed he could transform learning by focussing on improving communication and participation in the classroom, thereby raising academic achievement. He conducted a classroom experiment with a mixed ability group of 24 teenagers from a typical comprehensive school.

(Classroom Experiment on UniTube at: https://unitube.hud.ac.uk/View.aspx?ID=3179~4u~vz7aUON7 Broadcast on 27/09/2010 for BBC2)

The first thing he noticed whilst observing lessons was that the “interactivity” in the classroom did not encompass all learners’ needs. Teachers often asked questions but only the higher level learners ever put their hands up to answer the questions leaving the lower level learners to switch off. Also, it appeared that some teachers were not aware of all learners’ understanding of the subject matter.  So the scholar developed a strategy which the teachers and learners had to comply with.

1)      Learners were not allowed to put up their hands to ask questions. The teacher was given 24 lolly sticks. Each stick had the name of a learner on it. Throughout the class a teacher would take one of the lolly sticks and call out the name of that learner to answer a question thereby involving all the learners at some point in the lesson.

2)      The learners were given small whiteboards to write their answers onto. The tutor could then view all learners’ responses without having to focus on any one individual. This feedback from the whole class increased the teacher’s awareness of their overall level of understanding and could pace the lesson accordingly.

3)      All learners were given 3 traffic light coloured paper cups; red, orange and green. They were used to highlight their level of understanding to the teacher enabling the teacher to support individuals on a one to on, need to know basis.

Help Me Miss!

Red:“I’m totally lost and cannot budge until I get help”.

Orange: “I’m a bit stuck”

Green: “I’m doing fine”.

4)      The learners had 15 minutes of P.E every day before lessons to get the blood flowing to the brain with the aim to increase their attention span.

5)      One of the teachers was given “constructive feedback” on her performance by two of the learners who were taught observation skills.

The teachers struggled with the new strategies and the learners found it unsettling. The teachers thought the process undermined their professionalism.  The scholar persevered. Over time, some of the lower level learners began to reap the benefits. Communication and participation improved. The higher level learners who found the process very frustrating at first began to realise that whole class participation gave other learners a voice. Teachers were getting valuable feedback to reflect on their pedagogical framework and were made aware of who needed help and when. The chapter was about to finish. But there was dissent in the ranks. One day, the teachers found one of the lolly sticks had been stolen by a learner.

Who stole the lolly stick and why…..?

I don’t know. Sorry guys. You’ll have to watch part 2 of the Classroom Experiment.

But what has all this to do with interactivity?

Everything.

As eLearning evangelists we are always exploring innovative and exciting new technologies to increase “interactivity” with the aim of improving engagement and promoting active learning. It is our maxim. Yet as this low tech classroom experiment highlights if you dissect the concept of interactivity it is largely to do with communication. Of course it’s not quite as simple as Muirhead and Juwah point out  in their review of the literature on interactivity (2004). It is indeed a “multifaceted concept and can be described to mean different things in a variety of contexts” (Muirhead and Juwah, 2004, p.13). But before getting down to the nitty gritty of online interactivity I have been searching for the bare bones of what “interactivity” means. Muirhead’s definition of interactivity resonates well with my own understanding of it. Isn’t it primarily about “communication, participation and feedback?” (Muirhead and Juwah, 2004, p.13).

So whatever you think about the scholar’s strategies in this story in the classroom experiment, good, bad or downright scary, I have found it personally stimulating. It has made me reflect that interactivity, without the whistles and bells that technology affords it, is as simple as a mutually coherent dialogue between individuals that satisfies their needs. The teachers at the school were not getting the feedback they needed to respond effectively to the learners’ needs. The exercise merely illustrates that simple, interactive strategies can be put in place to improve teaching practice without having to resort to highly technical solutions.  I love Yacci’s definition of interactivity based on his 4 characteristics in Interactivity Demystified: A Structural Definition for Distance Education and Intelligent CBT

  • Interactivity is a message loop;
    whether this is student-student, student-teacher, student-computer
  • Instructional interactivity occurs from the learner’s point of view;
    and how often do we as practitioners fail our learners by thinking that their answers to our questions with a titbit of feedback has completed the process?
  • Instructional interactivity has 2 distinct classes of outputs: content learning and affective benefits;
    how often do we as practitioners tend to focus on the content learning rather than the affective benefits when we all know that fun learning is the best kind of learning?
  • Messages in an interaction must be mutually coherent?
    Any parent will know what this refers to:

6 year old son says “Mummy look, I’ve made a monster, see what it does!”

Mummy says, “Wonderful darling, come and sit down for dinner”.

Confessions of a bad mother!

So know I’ve got some basic understanding under my wing I now need to think about the task in hand.

What kind of interactions are made in online communities using social media and what can we learn from this?

I can also apply one of Feurstein’s killer questions from his Instrumental Enrichment and Metacognition programme which focussed on helping learners to think for themselves.

  • What have I just done?
  • How can I apply this?

I am sorry! I have already lapsed into reflective monologue blogger. I will try harder next time but, I do find this kind of reflecting blogging helps scaffold tacit knowledge to make it more explicit.

Anyone want to join me in a Blogger’s Anonymous meeting? Hi, my name is Beth and I am a monologue blogger!

 “People take turns telling others what they already know and their monologues often bear no relation to one another except that they address the same topic or question.” (Allman, cited in Williams 2006, p.109).

Does anyone know who stole the lolly stick and why?

For business and for pleasure. Who reads blogs anyway?

It occurred to me that I don’t actually read blogs “for pleasure”, which is a shame, as I often hear about interesting blogs from the media which I would love to read but somehow forget about in the whirlwind of everyday living.

Yes, I do explore some eLearning blogs but I only “lurk” and explore the resources. I rarely contribute. So, whether we read blogs for work or pleasure I thought I would conduct a simple poll in a 3 pronged attack! Firstly, it would be interesting to note if anyone even responds to it which would be an indicator as to how blogs can be used to “gather information”. Secondly, I wanted to “explore” this polldaddy thing-a-me-jig to see if it works and thirdly it is a useful exercise to find out whether it is just myself who isn’t a community blogger. How many of us actually do read them? With the accessibility of 3G phones I wonder if blogs are a more inviting prospect and therefore something that more people would get involved with in the future. I remember hearing about some fascinating blogs written during the Arab Spring but I knew I would never log on late at night after the daily grind of work, commute and family committments to enjoy reading them. However, now I have my phone with internet access what a joy to be able to read a blog on the train every day! I shall find a few!

In the meantime, tell me what your favourite blogs are?

To blog or not to blog….

…that is the question.

This is my first blog post using WordPress and the purpose of this blog, in the short term, is to examine and evaluate the use of blogs to create communities of practice. Wenger is the advocate of Communities of Practice and to what extent do online blogs facilitate the emergence of a useful and effective community.

My first blog using edublogs, Sheardie’s Action Research Blog, was primarily a monologue and a self-reflective tool so I am interested to explore how we can use blogs to create “dialogue” amongst peers, to share, collaborate and LEARN.

I have really enjoyed our first session this morning and like the structure of the module. I am pleased that we are dovetailing Web2.0 technologies such as YouTube, Flickr, RSS etc. I can’t wait!

I will see blogs from a different perspective and looking forward to the bird’s eye view!

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