A Blog About Blogging

I (Clare) cannot get over how much I enjoy blogging! I found this great article on Teachers College Record about using blogging in the classroom. Since we have a blog I thought I would share the link with you. http://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=18070

An excerpt of the article is below.

Advances in Technology Pave the Path to Actual Learning: Using Blogging as a Learning Tool

by Toni Ann Brzeski — August 17, 2015

Do you know what the most common electronic device that college student’s possess? According to Joshua Bolkan, a multimedia editor for Campus Technology and The Journal, “85% of college students own laptops while smartphones come in second at 65%”. If technology is becoming a common practice among our students, what are we doing as professors to incorporate it into our classrooms? How can students use technology to reflect on their work? How can instructors use technology as a supplement in reading and writing courses? How can technology be used to deepen our student’s critical thinking skills? These are questions we should be asking ourselves in a world where technology is paving the way to learning.

INTRODUCTION

After attending school, working at part time jobs and internships, participating in extracurricular activities and spending time with family, it might seem that college students are too busy to fit all of their activities into the hours of the day. Given the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives, most students simply do not have the time to reflect on any part of their day, let alone what they learned in their college courses (Sharkov, 2012). It is our responsibility as educators to keep up with our students, to understand them, and to make reflection on course work a priority. If our students are not reflecting on their learning as a part of their everyday lives, then we are not really doing our jobs as educators.

In order to get to the bottom of this issue, and make reflection a priority, we must ask ourselves what we are we doing inside of our classrooms to promote reflection outside of the classroom. What are we doing in our classes to develop better reading, writing, and critical thinking skills?

MAKING A CONNECTION WITH TECHNOLOGY

Each semester, students step foot into my classroom with needs and interests different from those students with whom I worked before. Every semester, it is my job to take needs and interests and learn how to integrate them into my courses. While every semester is different and challenging, I have found that today’s advances in technology have been the key to bridging the gap between my students’ needs and the course curriculum.

Four years ago, during my first semester at Bronx Community College, I asked my reading students to purchase the book Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. At that time my students purchased the book from an actual bookstore or an online source and came to class with a paperback copy. In the fall of 2012 I asked my students to purchase the same book. What they did next surprised me: my students took out their Kindles and iPads and immediately purchased the book. It was simple: given the speed with which these electronic devices allowed my students to purchase the book, we were prepared to start reading it the following week.

There was not one student waiting on a delivery or taking time out of their busy lives to purchase it at the bookstore. What I learned from this experience is that we are in a world where our daily activities are rooted in our electronic devices. Kindles, iPads, and smartphones are devices that our students are not only actively using, but using comfortably. This is just about the time when I discovered blogging.

If my students were using technology to complete very ordinary tasks, such as buying a book for their college course, I then asked myself what other ordinary tasks my students are using technology for. At first I was hesitant—call me old fashioned—but I didn’t believe students would become better readers and writers by posting their reflections online. I continued to question myself. What good is this? Aren’t journals a place for reflecting and expression?

BLOGGING AND THE BENEFITS TO THE COLLEGIATE COMMUNITY

WHAT IS BLOGGING ANYWAY, AND HOW IS IT BENEFICIAL FOR THE COLLEGE STUDENT?

As stated by George Couros, the Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning at Parkland School Division in Alberta, Canada, “We want students to think critically about what they write. They are more likely to do this when they write for a larger audience as opposed to simply [writing] for the teacher. [Blogging] gives students the ability to archive their work for many years to come.” Therefore, having the “ability to [blog] [and] write for a worldwide audience has made an impact on many of our students” (Couros, 2013). Like Couros, I have found that blogging has had a significant impact. In fact, blogging is the very form of technology that has helped bridge the gap between my students’ interests and required course work.

Blogging gives those students an outlet for expressing their own ideas and reflecting on what they learned in class from the comfort of their own homes. As less interactive students continue to exercise their writing skills through blogging, re-reading, and building on their blog posts, their writing gradually improves over the semester. The fact that students can go back to previous blog posts and add thoughts or reflect on their own blogs—thereby, revising their work on their own without being told to do so by their teacher—is extremely beneficial and rewarding (Sharkov, 2012).

Blogging can be done on a train, bus, or even in a student’s own bedroom. Blogging doesn’t require the school library, or even pen and paper. A student can simply use a smartphone to connect to the world through blogging. When you present this type of accessibility to the busy student, he or she has the opportunity to engage with classmates beyond the short period of time that the student spends sitting in the classroom before heading out to a job or internship.

I have witnessed the benefits of blogging first hand. Last semester, I posted a question as a homework assignment on my blog site regarding a reading on Edgar Allan Poe. Within an hour of my students leaving class, they started to write blog posts on the site. My students were responding to my question, expressing their views, and in turn completing their homework assignment, while commuting home from school.

As I read my students’ blog posts, I was amazed at the level of insight that they were expressing in their entries. I had created a place where my students’ voices could be heard, and a place where they were able to interact and discuss a topic outside of the classroom using information that they learned while inside of the classroom. In essence, my students were taking time to reflect on what they learned in class, even with their busy schedules. In the past I would have taken a more conventional approach to this homework assignment by passing out comprehension questions on white paper and telling students to answer and bring them back to class the following week.

Blogging is beneficial to the teacher as well. For example, in my EDU 10 class, our class blog page contains all our work and posts can be found in one place with easy access. I find my students accessing our blog page from their cellphones, which tells me that they are able to complete assignments from anywhere—very convenient for them.

As a professor, I can easily assess my students’ reading, writing, and critical thinking progress by observing the improvement in their blog entries. This also keeps the line of communication open between my students and myself, which is helpful since our class only meets twice a week for a little over an hour. This blogging platform keeps the reflection ongoing throughout the week. Further, blogging allows me to learn my students’ point of view on certain topics and demonstrates their level of comprehension on what we are learning in class, in turn, helping me to create a lesson plan for the next class.

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