Online Blogucation
14Dec/100

A Holiday eWish: Digital Media, Blogs

Finding its way to the top of many instructor wish-lists this season is the incorporation of digital media into their courses. As I talk with professors and read through recent articles, it seems many instructors of hybrid, fully-online and traditional-courses are seeing signs that all seem to point to the same reality:  The use of digital media in education is on the rise.

In the pulse of current research on the subject, we find that across disciplines and educational levels, the use of digital media in educational contexts has been emerging rapidly and is outpaced by a growing demand for the same. Several factors, to include (1) access to Web 2.0 tools that can power digital media in our courses as well as (2) rising student interest and demand for digital media in their learning, serve as active ingredients in this brewing digital media revolution.

A simple Google search on the topic yields an outstanding 96.9 million hits- far more web pages, articles, blogs and resources than we could ever resolve to explore- even with perhaps a bit more downtime during this holiday season than we might enjoy throughout the year. Still, in a recent discussion in a Web 2.0 course I co-taught this past month, it was clear: the winter break exudes potential for course-improvement exploits and tempts many instructors (including myself) with the possibility of enriching our course(s) before their next spring-term run.

Earlier this month, I facilitated a dialogue with educators and administrators around the inclusion of digital media in eLearning. We discussed various tools and uses, among them, the pedagogical benefits of blogs. I was surprised to find that while the concept of blogging is not new, it has still not found its way into many courses, including blended and fully-online offerings. And so, I gravitate towards to asking the following, simple question:  With as much research and information is available on the pedagogical uses and educational benefits of blogs, how have you (and I) incorporated blogs successfully into our own courses?

If you find yourself having had a less-than-pleasant blog experience in the past or having not yet taken the plunge to incorporate the use of a blog in your traditional, blended/hybrid or fully-online course, consider that blogs can be used in your course(s) to:

  • Build engagement
  • Elicit collaboration
  • Foster interactivity
  • Develop literacy
  • Cultivate thinking
  • Promote tech-savviness

This short list represents just a few of the pedagogical benefits and objectives that can be accomplished through the effective use of a blog. Though seemingly-simple themes and prevalent in the research on digital media in education, we cannot underestimate their true impact on learning! Highlighting the first outcome (building engagement) as an example, we know from our own teaching and learning experience (and notable confirmation from formal research) that engagement is critical to achievement. Simply put, without student engagement, our instructional efforts and course content cannot facilitate the fullness of the learning experience for which they are designed! Combine this with a commitment to prepare our students for the communication and collaboration via the methods and platforms they will face in their “real world” and the resulting task might entail weaving into our teaching and learning the social sites, tools and digital media students often use on a regular basis outside of class.

In commenting on the use of blogs, Steve Hargadon, International Society of Technology in Education’s (ISTE) emerging technologies chair, offers several, simple ways to implement blogs in a course:

“Teachers can create simple blogs through which they communicate classroom work and activities…You can post an assignment on a blog and have your students post responses in the comments. You can put up a place for students to talk about their reactions to a chapter in a book.” Or, he suggests, teachers can assign individual blogs to students, encouraging them to communicate their ideas in writing and allowing them to receive comments on their posts from their classmates.

With so many great blogging tools at your disposal, you can take the plunge today to incorporate a blog component in an upcoming course. Below are a few suggestions to help you get started (and hopefully get you closer to checking-off another item on your Instructor winter-break wishlist):

Blogging Tools:

A seemingly endless number of tools are available for the creation and management of blogs. You’ll find many of them are actually free to use. I’ve compiled the following list of noteworthy options for you to explore:

  • Edublogs.org
  • Posterous.com
  • Tumblr.com
  • Blogger.com
  • WordPress.org

Sources:

Far from an exhaustive list, here are a few resources you might find helpful in your own research on the use of blogs:

  • Blogs in Plain English (A short introduction to weblogs): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NN2I1pWXjXI
  • Blogs for Learning, an online resource about instructional blogging: http://blogsforlearning.msu.edu/
  • Matrix of potential uses of blogs in education: http://www.edtechpost.ca/gems/matrix2.gif
  • Resources for educators wishing to learn more about blogging for themselves and/or their students: http://web20intheclassroom.blogspot.com/2008/01/blogging-in-classroom-why-how-and-lots.html
  • Top 10 Reasons to Use a Blog in the Classroom (A student-created list based on personal experience and interest): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfJETK3am1M

A few tips:

As a team, we often share with instructors tips and best practices we have identified in our own teaching. Here are a few on incorporating tools and technology in your courses:

  • Pedagogy should dictate the technology and tools we incorporate into our courses (rather than the availability of the tools alone).
  • Multimedia should add to the learning experience and be relevant to the course, content and students. (The right tool, a relevant graphic or a pertinent video can help to enhance your content and address the needs of multi-modal learners)
  • Providing students with clear instructions of your expectations, such as the participation guidelines of a blog assignment, is critical to the success of the assignment. (Working backwards from the perspective of what I would like my students to do with an assignment often helps me identify the critical components I would like to see in their participation).
  • Integrate assignments, such as blogs, early in the course design, being sure to clearly connect the assignment to course outcomes (Reynard,  2005). (This is a critical step before the assignment can become more than just an extra task for your students).
  • Once created, use the URL of your blog to create a link within a discussion item in your eCollege course. This will allow students to engage with the blog from within your eCollege course.

Indeed, blogs are a technology that can be easily applied to education. “What blogging really did is create a way to have conversations on the web that couldn’t have taken place before… It’s a simple technology to use. It’s easy to protect, so it can be used just within a classroom environment or just within a certain group of people (Hargadon, 2010).”

L. Rachel Cubas
International Academic Trainer & Consultant
Pearson eCollege
rachelc@ecollege.com

References:

Hargadon, S. 2010. Ed Tech Experts Choose Top Tools. The Journal. Retrieved from: http://thejournal.com/articles/2010/08/01/3-for-3.aspx

Reynard, R. 2005. Blogs in Higher Ed: Personal Voice as Part of Learning. Retrieved from:

http://campustechnology.com/articles/2005/01/blogs-in-higher-ed-personal-voice-as-part-of-learning.aspx

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eTeaching Institute
Instructor-led and hands-on courses, including Creative Uses of Web 2.0, are available through the eTeaching Institute. You can find out more on eteaching.ecollege.com.