Sunday, October 10, 2004

Blogging ‘in theory vs. practice'; blogging = friendship

Actual Event Date: 10 Oct 2004 (Mon)


Reading Steph en Downe's Sept issue of Educause review ( link ) sparked a series of thoughts which will be the subject of this week's short article. I begin with discussing 3 key distinctions between educational blogging in theory and real life practice. Then share (with the world!) my personal new found perspective on blogging on a more human level. I.e. blogging is just like friendship.


Educational blogging: in theory



  1. Blogs let learners get valuable feedback from peers, teachers & whoever they open their blogs to. // [see personal comments in italics below]

  2. Blogs let students who otherwise have problems communicating in class, a common ground to voice their opinion. // [see personal comments in italics below]

  3. Blogs let learners communicate and participate in a community of self-directed learners // [see personal comments in italics below]


Educational blogging: in practice



  1. Blogs let learners get valuable feedback from peers, teachers & whoever they open their blogs to. // depends. Do students really post what they feel? Can they do so without fear of repercussion from other students or faculty? Grade Savvy students know exactly what values their instructor holds, and smartly posts exactly what their instructor wants to hear. Are all these ‘doctored' comments truly valuable in a student's learning experience?

  2. Blogs let students who otherwise have problems communicating in class, a common ground to voice their opinion. // depends. An international student who is weak in the use of English or timid in sharing his personal ideas and views may still choose not to contribute to the blog.

  3. Blogs let learners communicate and participate in a community of self-directed learners. // depends. There are bloggers who choose to read a lot more than they write (E.g. Dan Appleman ). Does a lack of active blog participation prevent one from feeling part of a community of bloggers? Conversely, does reading and occasionally commenting on a number of power blogs, automatically create a sense of community to the group blog?


The problem with Enforced educational blogging


One common fear educators who have experimented with blogging is ‘ Do students drop their blogs the moment the semester is over?' Will Richardson ( weblogg-Ed blog )'s research over the years confirms this fear. And he notes that the inherent censorship of an institution served blog will never allow the student bloggers to write with passion. Downes sums up this problem best when he asked ‘What happens when a free-flowing medium such as blogging interacts with the more restrictive domains of the education system?'


Fear of controversies



  1. Some schools are using it, but many more are worried about the controversies that go along with blogging. Students & faculty who may be racist or stereotyping other races or religious groups can easily cause the institution they are at unnecessary bad publicity. Eric mussleman, of Indiana University Bloomington, & Harvard University and Slater's lawsuit with Diebold Election System are some of the many noted controversies. Use google if you need more examples.

  2. What then on the posting of copyrighted content? There are more blog entries in the web than anyone can read in their lifetime. Should blogging really take off, what is to stop a new form of plagiarism in the form of copying and intelligently modifying blog posts?


In short, even with the utopian idea that surrounds the educational impact of blogging, there are still enough pitfalls surrounding blogs that keep skeptical educators at bay. Some anti-blogging faculty describes blogs as ‘a white man's vanity page'. Speaks volumes of their views on the use of blogging in education.


Blogging = Friendship


I love Downe's description on the blogging practice as not just about posting cool articles and wonderful insights. ‘No, it's not about the writing…' as Downes pointed out, but the outcome that ultimately occurs if everything else is done right.


A crazy thought hit me as I was reading his article. That is, Blogging is just like friendship . Both activities require communication to be truly successful. Can one have a decent friendship without communication? How good is a blog without readership & comments? Blogging helps students reflect on what they are thinking and carry on a conversation about topics of interest over extended period of time, and bring in other readers of similar interest. How different is that from true friendship? You share insights, hopes and dreams with those whom you connect to at a personal level; you help further each other's interest in same topic, and rope in people who connect to your group interests. Under such a comparison, it is not hard to understand why blogging is so popular.


My insight on blogs this week can be summarized below:


In a nutshell: With greater ease of use, and better understanding of best practices in blogging, the gap between the theory and practice of ‘blogging in education' will narrow. In time, building upon the mistakes we learnt from the past, educational blogging could truly become the missing link in supporting lifelong learning.


My question for this week is:


“If blogging is like friendship, under what situation or circumstances do you decide to give it up? And why?”


Cheers,

BH


“Have you talked to your best friend recently?”


Misc. information:

Time Spent on this week's assignment



•  1 hour a day, 5 days a week.


•  Posting on edublogger


•  2 hour (rough total) thinking, collecting my thoughts to blog.


•  Grand Total = 7 hours

4 Comments:

At October 28, 2004 at 10:33 AM, Blogger David said...

The questions about people dropping their blog is a great one. I would expect another study could show (we should do this!) that the number of nonassigned posts on a student's blog is an excellent indicator of whether their blog will last or not. If they see no value but a homework dropbox, why should they keep it? If homework is one small part of what goes on, wouldn't we expect the blog to survive when the homework stops?

I would expect that number of comments from nonclassmates would also be an excellent predictor of blog survivability (proxy for the student's connections with the broader community).

 
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