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Blogs in the Higher Education Classroom: Public or Private?

February 13, 2012

Blogs, such as this one, are nothing new. No one is groundbreaking or cutting edge by starting a blog (unless, of course, this is the 1990′s!). Blogs are a full part of what has been dubbed Web 2.0, the cluster of interactive, user-driven social media and technologies on the web.

Still, the use of the blogs and other social media as pedagogical tools for the classroom has seen slower implementation, especially in institutions and with faculty that are wedded to more traditional styles and techniques. Others are more interested in the integration of technology and social media into the classroom as a way of challenging pedagogical models and as tools to enhance and further current models. So, with that, I want to look briefly at the use of blogs as a pedagogical tool in the classroom, their benefits, and one of the major questions that needs to be considered in their use:

Should blogs in the classroom be public or private?

To do that, I will use this article as a starting point: The Appropriation and Repurposing of Social Technologies in Higher Education (just click on the link to read it, not gated!)

Social media, Web 2.0 and blogs have been spaces that are oriented towards openness, collaboration and networking – all things that can be beneficial in the classroom. In the interviews collected in the above paper, some of the benefits of blogging, specifically, are:

  • “I think it can encourage them [students] to learn more as a group, and to be more aware of each others’ engagement with the same materials” (p. 26).
  • I think it also enhances the role of the teacher, of them becoming a facilitator rather than somebody who has an authority to speak on a particular topic” (p. 26).
  • “A lot of the issues that students have with writing for assessment is that they do no really have a vision of who the audience is and blogging changes that….So the blog as an assessment tool brings back the notion of audience into the frame” (p. 25).
  • “[The lecturer] can be more aware of what level of understanding the students have from the reading and what is required to engage with students’ understanding and to stretch it” (p. 27).

The paper examines and compares two styles of blogging assignments, which are:

  1. The blog remained private between the teacher and the student, allowing for intensive and formative one-on-one support and limiting much of the riskiness and volatility of ‘true blogging’.
  2. Each blog was open to fellow class members and teachers only. Students were required to take turns posting substantive blog posts on the weekly readings and other class members would comment on the posting. The content would then act as a starting point for the weekly class discussions.

There are a couple of points to consider when determining if a more public or more private blogging experience is appropriate for your class.

  • “A group blog is more like a discussion board…people are having to think very carefully about what they say…whereas with a private blog…they can feel more relaxed” (p. 24).
  • Private blogs allow for more intensive support and feedback and more security for the student but limit the connective and networking possibilities of Web 2.0 (p. 22).

There are a few more things to consider. With the more private blog model that is given above, the assignment is not dissimilar from a weekly response paper or journal assignment except that it is posted on the web in a paperless format. It is a way for instructors to monitor the step-by-step learning and engagement process of students, giving appropriate feedback and guidance along the way. But if it the collaborative and connective possibilities of social media that intrigue you, this model lacks those unless some sort of sharing or commenting is implemented.

One of the great things about social media is that it is a new tool to meet pedagogical goals. Technology is actually limiting if we implement it simply for the sake of using something new.  Instead: outline your pedagogical goals and look for the tools that can best help you meet them.

If your goals is collaborative learning, critical engagement as a community, etc… social media, such as a blog, can be useful tools in meeting these goals.

You need to choose the model that  is right for your classroom and the one that fits your pedagogical goals and, in deciding, questions of  security, openness, and engagement need to considered.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Devikap permalink
    February 14, 2012 5:50 am

    Informative article and good perspective on both public and private blogging in higher education classroom.

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  1. Using Blogs in the Classroom « Beyond A Degree

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