June 9, 2007
E-Coaching Tip #47 (Summer 2007) Journaling, Blogging and Wiki-ing
Blogs and Wikis -- Facebooks for the Mind!
We all know why discussion boards are so essential to an online course -- that is where "face-to-face" community develops and where learners experience social, cognitive and teaching presence. Discussion boards are also valuable in their ability to provide guidance, encouragement, and support questioning, dialogue and sustained thoughtfulness.
What about the other online writing and collaborative tools that are now so widely available --journals, blogs, wikis, etc.? How might these be used in an online course? What unique benefits might they bring to learners' experiences?
The short simple answer is that blogs support critical thinking, writing and collaborative skills within a personal yet shared communal space that feels dynamic, and spontaneous, despite its asynchronicity. Blogs might well be called the "facebooks" or "youtubes" of the mind. They are often also categorized as personal publishing tools.
Wikis, on the other hand, are designed for shared collaborative work -- for producing content and plans, such as reports, websites, or something as simple as a camping trip -- See a 3 minute video of how a wiki works -- <www.commoncraft.com/video-wikis-plain-english> or something as complex as the multilingual global content Wikipedia!
Journaling, on the other hand with its roots in the classic and traditional paper format, is more personal and more private, capturing and recording feelings, ideas and impressions that may not ready for public scrutiny or comment.
Let's consider each of these in more detail to help you plan how to use these tools for your teaching strategies in your next course.
More about Journaling, Blogging and Wiki-ing
Journaling can be done very simply within the Blackboard environment. A learner can create journal entries in any word processing application. Then if the journal is to be kept private between the learner and instructor, the journal can be submitted via a dropbox or simply emailed. If the journal is a shorter piece and is to be viewed publicly, then the journal might be simply attached or copied into a discussion post in the course site.
Using blogs or wikis in your course requires additional tools that will be in the next release of Blackboard that will be available for your fall 2007 courses.
What are Blogs?
By googling "blog" you will find lots of definitions of blogs. Here is one that we like.
A 'weblog' (or 'web log' or 'blog') can mean any authored content with an underlying chronological basis that is published on the World Wide Web. The content may be about any topic and consist of any media, including audio, images and video, though presently the majority of blogs are largely text-based.
A blog can be authored by one or more people, who are the blog 'owners', responsible for maintaining the blog. (Trafford, 2005)
Another popular definition of a blog is a "personal online digital diary" that invites readers to comment, respond, and critique the life events and thoughts of the blog owner.
Blogs started appearing broadly about 2003, and one web site estimates that there are more than 50 million blogs on the Internet today. But more on managing your own scholarly use of blogs another time.
Here are three resources for learning more about how blogs are being used in higher education.
1. <blogs.law.harvard.edu/palfrey/2007/06/> This is a blog maintained by John Palfrey, a Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Executive Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. This blog is not a course blog; it is a blog for the activities of the Berkman center. It is an unusual blog in that there are continuous postings from March 2003 up to the present June 2007. Dr. Palfrey's work focuses on Internet law, intellectual property, and the potential of new technologies to strengthen democracies locally and around the world. As you look at this blog, you will see that the amount of commenting by others is quite low. Commenting is what makes a blog feel more dynamic and "alive."
2. Paul Trafford's article Mobile Blogs, Personal Reflections and Learning Environments available at http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue44/trafford/ discusses blogging terminology and how to use personal reflective blogs in a learning environment.
3. Educational Blogging by Stephen Downes at <www.educause.edu/pub/er/erm04/erm0450.asp?bhcp=1> outlines ways that both instructors and learners can use blogging in instructional settings and describes the software required for blogging if you need to set up a separate blogging tool.
How are Blogs different from Journals?
Most definitions of blogs and wikis can't capture the very unique characteristics of blogs and wikis and how they compare with journaling as a learning tool. Here is a chart comparing the key characteristics of journals, blogs, and wikis.
So what does this mean when designing a course? Which tools are best for which instructional goals?
The first characteristic listed is the primary difference -- that of authorship and the resulting outcome or product. For those learning goals related most closely to individuals, the more personal and private journal may be appropriate. For those goals related to personal and public sharing and commenting and group reflection the blog may work best; and for group projects depending on collective work and products to be used or consumed by others, the wiki may be the first tool to consider.
This is just a preliminary and almost superficial look at these tools. As with many decisions in teaching and learning, the best answer to any question of design is "It all depends." Subsequent tips will explore questions such as, "What examples show a match between instructional goal and tool?" and "What time within a course might a tool best be used." Other questions? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional ReferencesLeFever, Lee. RSS in Plain English Created April 23, 2007. Common Craft Show Accessed June 7, 2007 <www.commoncraft.com/rss_plain_english>. LeFever, Lee. Wikis in Plain English Created May 29, 2007. Common Craft Show Accessed June 7, 2007 <www.commoncraft.com/video-wikis-plain-english>. Morgan, M.C. WikiandBlog. < erret.bemidjistate.edu/~morgan/cgi-bin/blogsAndWiki.pl?WikiAndBlog> Accessed June 7, 2007. Richardson, William. A personal blog to explore. http://weblogg-ed.com/. Accessed June 7, 2007. Using wikis in Education (Courses & projects using Wiki) <www.wikiineducation.com/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=76>. Accessed June 7, 2007. Young, J. R. (2007). An Anthropologist Explores the Culture of Video Blogging Chronicle of Higher Education. Washington DC, Chronicle. Volume 53, Issue 36, Page A42. < http://chronicle.com/weekly/v53/i36/36a04201.htm> Accessed June 7, 2007.
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