As an educator in the NYC Department of Education and a lifelong learner, technology has and always will be an integral part of my instructional life. But the idea of keeping an online journal was foreign to my vernacular and way of being. I kept thinking: "All of your innermost thoughts and feelings for all to see and read in the online log! Are they crazy?"
Although this is becoming more and more commonplace across the country, to me as an educator it seemed frightening. These Weblogs, or Blogs, have been described as the hierarchy of texts, images, media objects and data, archived chronologically and viewable in an HTML format. They are the newest way for students to voice their opinions and feelings online. While a few educators have already started using Blogs, many ask the potential for teaching and learning with students. What could this new technology be used for and how does current research measure up to it?
I will pose a few questions that draw on the social interaction of teaching and learning by using Vygotskyâ€™s theories (1978). Educators highlight the "knowledge construction" processes of the learners and suggest that "meaning making" develops through the social process of language use over time. As such, knowledge construction is discursive, relational and conversational in nature. Therefore, as students appropriate and develop language, they must have authentic opportunities for publication of their knowledge and understanding.
Through publication teachers can infer the process by which students transfer meaning and strategies appropriated within the social domain, making those strategies their own (Gavelach & Raphael, 1996). It makes materials accessible for subsequent reflection and analysis, allowing students to revisit and revise their artifacts; thus enriching their internal learning experience. Publication will offer feedback which, in turn, scaffolds learning in his/her quest for knowledge construction.
Blogs are, or can be, a useful tool for teaching and learning because they provide a space for students to reflect and construct their thoughts and understandings. Because they can be reflected and commented upon, they provide potential for feedback and thus allow the author to scaffold learning. Students can, after reading the Blogs, begin to construct meaning or ascertain knowledge about the subject or ideas in which they are interested.
Research has also shown that asynchronous chat such as on the Blackboard site (used in many schools across the country for online content delivery) allows the students to voice their concerns. The problem here is two-fold: asynchronous chat can be seen as a similar tool to the Blog. They both represent the studentâ€™s ability to promote understanding, opportunity, higher-order thinking skills and the feasibility thereof to promote learning. On the other hand Blogs are so much more than a single form of exchange of ideas. Blogs are a way for students to establish their personal and/or intellectual ownership of new concepts while they visualize and attempt to group abstract ideas. Blogs can become a studentâ€™s online soapbox.
Unlike a discussion forum that can be shared by many, a Blog is personal with the students being in full control of their online content. It can be a place for all students to figure out who they are in a risk free environment.
- Gavelack & Raphael, 1996, â€œChanging Talk into Text: New Roles for teachers and Studentsâ€ Language Arts 73 (3):182-192
- Osher, T. 1999, Birkbeck Web Forum of Teaching and Learning Online, www.Bbk.ac.uk/asd/view/view.html
- Vygotsky L. 197, Mind in Society, Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press.