Monday, March 28, 2005

Are blogs good for education?

Bill Bruck wrote in his blog,

Well, they aren't awful. They are fashionable right now, and so may gain learner acceptance. They get learners to write, which is inherently good, and to express their opinions - which may or may not be a good thing. But there's a fundamental problem with blogs: They are essentially optimized for easily publishing one’s opinions on the web. This is fundamentally a flawed model for education. It promotes narcissism, not dialog.

[my emphasis]

I generally agree with Bill's overall argument (please read the rest of the post for his argument). However, the conclusion that blog (or any collaborative tool) is fundamentally flaw for education is something which I disagree. I have made a clear distinction between collaborative tool and collaborative learning activity, see my first post to this blog. Hence I call this blog "Collaborative Learning Activities" which I look at how collaborative tools can be used for supporting Collaborative Learning Activities. It is the instructional (or learning) design which create the learning context and it is the tools which enable such design to be delivered. Yes, you should not use a hammer for everything. Some tools are better to handle a task than others. Following the linked discussion forum to Bill's post, a reader, Denham Grey, wrote,
There is some synergy to having all 3 forms (blogs, Wiki and bulletin boards) available to students. Here is how I see the play:

Bulletin boards:
Stay away from the dreaded threaded stuff. Include participation metrics in the grading system (originality, reciprocity, frequency, constructivism) not just me too / I agree comments.

Students should be requited to compile their e-portfolios, gather important links, keep a homepage, maintain rough notes, be open to annealing and refractoring practices. Collaborative writing is an important component of group work and a key skill in today's business word.

Encourage opinion diversity within a class. Provide 'protection' and a sense of permanency to timid voices. There needs to be some agreed social practice to summarize and synthesize those diverse opinions.

Now, we are starting to see how these tools can be used in educational setting. Here is another use suggested by David W. Locke:

What if blogs were used to keep class notes? I'm not saying do this, so that some students wouldn't need to keep notes. Rather, do it so that notes become a diverse source. Students would have to figure out things like source quality for themselves.

All these technique together, we have a better technological environment to create our learning context. The task, I still believe strongly, is the create the motivation and "learning context" to help the learners learn.


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