A varied and sometimes erratic record of what I'm learning inside and outside of the classroom

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Writing about Blogging: A Proposal

WritingThese past few weeks I've been working on a research paper about blogging as a learning tool and how it can be implemented in undergraduate classrooms. This topic is so exciting to me--having personally experienced the benefits of utilizing a blog in a course, I believe that research about how to optimize the use of this up-and-coming media is interesting and valuable for students and teachers alike. One of the greatest benefits for using a blog in an academic setting is to document the learning process. As I was discussing this paper tonight with Dr. Burton, my former professor for Digital Civilization, he suggested I model the process I'm talking about. When I told him about the proposal I wrote for my paper last week, he suggested I post it on my blog.

"It's valuable before it's complete knowledge," he said.

And I agree.

So here, in its entirety, is my proposal. Since its submission, I have done more research and have formulated more questions, which I would like to post soon. Any feedback is much appreciated.

(Photo credit: J. Paxon Reyes on flickr)




Writing in the Disciplines Proposal: Blogging as a Learning Tool

Introduction: 
My topic for this paper is blogging as a learning tool. This topic is important because as new technology emerges, there are new implications for using technology in education. As  blogging has become more popular, educators have wondered about its potential use in the classroom and how to make such use effective for both student and teacher alike. I chose this topic because I took a course last fall called Digital Civilization, in which each student was required to keep a blog and document his or her learning process. I found that the medium proved effective not only in helping me synthesize ideas and concepts but also in generating a sense of community within our class and a sense of being a part of the learning discourse at large. My audience is professors and students (primarily undergraduate), and my purpose is to show how blogging can enhance and facilitate  self-directed learning and to address concerns about using this new media in the classroom.                 

Thesis: 
Blogging’s inherent qualities give this medium the potential to facilitate powerful self-directed learning in the classroom. While  there are both benefits and concerns for teachers and students concerning its implementation, if properly guided, blogging can especially enhance learning for undergraduates by helping them become independent, self-directed learners.

Structure:
Concerning paper structure, I will start with an introduction and thesis (obviously) and then move  into the inherent qualities of blogging that give it potential to be an effective tool for self-directed learning. I will outline the positive results of blogging as a learning tool as described by students, researchers, and my own experience. I will then list and address the concerns with blogging expressed by both instructors and students and will offer suggestions on how to make blogging more effective for self-directed learning, as shown by the attached outline.

Review of Literature:
It has been surprisingly easy to find good articles on this topic (thank you, ERIC database!) There are articles on blogging at all levels of education, but the focus seems to be more on the undergraduate level for now. Judy Robertson’s article “The educational affordances of blogs for self-directed learning” will be one of the most important ones I use in this paper because it addresses the overarching theme of mine (blogs for self-directed learning) and provides detailed case studies and analysis. I will use this article to provide evidence for nearly all sections of my paper. Deng and Yuen’s article “Blogs in Higher Education: Implementation and Issues” will naturally be used in my discussion of issues students and teachers face when trying to implement blogging in the classroom. The other article by Deng and Yuen, “Towards a Framework for the Educational Affordances of Blogs,” will be useful for background information about blogging and explaining factors for teachers to take into account when incorporating blogging in the classroom. The article by Kerwalla et al. will also provide more information on a framework for helping teachers implement blogging. The articles by Ellison and Hsu et al. will discuss blogging’s impact on students and their attitudes toward the new medium.

The Next Steps:
Right now I have a good start on my paper. I have a basic outline, but I need to do more research (with both articles and interviews) to flesh it out and give my argument more weight and substance. I would like to interview Dr. Burton (and perhaps Dr. Zappala) about their use of blogging for our Digital Civilization class last fall. I will ask them how they felt successful in teaching students to blog and how they think they can improve for the second time they teach Digital Civilization this upcoming winter.  I want to read and incorporate more research about blogging in different disciplines. I haven’t had the time to do as much research as I wanted to. I want this paper to be thorough because  I would like to eventually present this  paper at a conference and/or submit it for publication.


Outline

I. Introduction
                  A. The rise of blogging: significance for education and self-directed learning
B. Definition of self-directed learning
C. Thesis : If properly guided, blogging can facilitate powerful self-directed learning for students, a skill essential to success in an increasingly technological world. Learning and knowledge is discourse, and blogging facilitates that discourse by merit of its open nature and its potential for lasting conversation. I will first discuss blogging itself and its benefits in the classroom, and then list concerns and ways to resolve them.
Questions to Consider: Can blogging be incorporated in any discipline and age level?  Should it be used in every classroom? Is such a thing feasible? What subject matter is least/most suitable for keeping a blog? Can blogging be effective for students at all levels? What external factors are needed to make blogging effective?

II. Positive (Benefits of Blogging in the Classroom): Why Blog?
                  A. The Nature of Blogging: Lending Itself to Self-Directed Learning
·       “The integration of blogs into instruction was more responsive to the learning styles of students by providing access to tactile and visual materials” (Manfra)
·       “Blogs have the potential to increase reflection, sense of community and collaboration in undergraduate classrooms” (Halic) Students can provide each other social and cognitive support
·       “In a constructive learning environment, the authentic opportunity for learners to publish artifacts of learning is critical. Blogs afford these types of authentic opportunities by allowing students to publish their thoughts for real audiences” (Deng).
·       Improves basic computer literacy
·       Provides a mode for self-directed learning
B. Positive results as shown in case studies and personal experience
·       Students could read and see how other students were doing
·       Teachers, reading about students’ struggles along the way, could better provide help to those who needed it
·       Specific skills built through blogging (improving researching skills, writing)
·       Though studies did show that comprehension does not significantly differ when students blog vs. when they write in more traditional modes, blogging did expose students to different viewpoints and helped them increase their commitment to critical thinking and learning.
III. Negative (Concerns)
                  A. For teachers
·       Can blogging exist in a vacuum? What external factors are needed to make blogging effective?
·       How to grade the material, provide guidance to students
B. For students
·       Privacy, basic technology concerns, the formality, how to comment on other students’ blogs, how to access other student blogs
·       How students can reconcile pre-conceived notions of blogging (blogging as a more casual medium) and blogging for academic purposes
·       Often limited interaction online: students sometimes found peer comments unhelpful

IV. Ways to Make Blogging More Effective (Addressing Concerns)
                  A. For teachers
·       Teacher feedback; teacher models how to blog, provides guidance to students to help learning curve
·       Teacher must answer the question “Why blog?”
·       Commenting: compulsory or voluntary?
B. For students
·       Privacy
·       Commenting/Creating community
C. Areas of future study (?)

V. Conclusion



Works Cited

Deng, Liping and Allan H. K. Yuen. « Blogs in Higher Education : Implementation and Issues. » TechTrends53.3 (2009). 95-98. Print.

- - - .  « Towards a Framework for Educational Affordances of Blogs. » Computers & Education.
56.2 (2011).  441-451. Print.

Ellison, Nicole B. and Yuehua Wu. « Blogging in the Classroom : A Preliminary Exploration of Student
Attitudes and Impact on Comprehension.”  Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia.
17.1 (2008). 99-122. Print.

Hsu, Hui-Yin and Shiangkwei Wang. “The impact of Using Blogs on College Students’ Reading
Comprehension and Learning Motivation.” Literacy Research and Instruction. 50.1 (2011). 68-
88. Print.

Kerwalla, L. S. Minocha, G. Kirkup, and G. Conole. “An Empirically Grounded Framework to Guide
Blogging in Higher Education.” Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. 25.1 (2009): 31-42.  
Print.

Robertson, Judy. “The educational affordances of blogs for self-directed learning.” Computers &
Education. 57 (2011): 1628-1644. Print.

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