What are they?
“I always say, keep a diary and someday it’ll keep you.”
Anne Frank, Samuel Pepys and Captain Kirk were all bloggers in their day – and Stephen Fry, Barack Obama and even The Pope are all bloggers in ours. A blog is simply a diary, but as with all technological reinventions, it’s a diary, but not as we know it.
What does it look like?
Pingback, Bloggernacle, Post Slug, and Blogroll is not a 21st Century law firm, but a mouse mat full of terms designed to help users navigate this new medium of personal expression. But while the vocabulary might feel designed to exclude, the actual experience of using a blog is simple and straightforward – it’s just a webpage on which you type.
And within the blog pages, bloggers talk about anything and everything from the banal: Everything I know about motherhood, to the controversial: Banksy tagging Sanfransisco, to the cutting edge of national and international political debate. And education too. The blogroll on the OnlineUniversities blog lists the 50 top blogs that can help you surf the education new wave.
Whilst blogs can be customised to mirror content and the author’s personality, most share a common format:
- the title, author and date of an entry
- the posts (text) arranged in chronological order
- and an opportunity for the reader to share it with others, subscribe to the blog or leave a comment for others to see.
Blogs are predominantly text based, but can use images and sometimes embedded video.
The word ‘blog’ is a contraction of ‘web log’.
Where in the learner’s journey are you likely to come across it?
- Equality and diversity in education
Teaching and learning
- checking understanding
- to explore and understand a central theme
- to develop team- and group-working skills
- teaching and learning with technology
- developing literacy skills
- developing reflective practice
- developing time-management skills
- formative assessment
- reflective practice
Reviewing learners’ progress
- progress monitoring
- attainment monitoring
How can teachers, trainers & learners use it?
Blogs can be used to help develop learners’ writing style at any stage and in any subject. They can also develop their ability to make sense of, and form opinions about, the writing of others.
Example 1 – ESOL
At The West London College, Liz Boyden, an ESOL tutor (English for speakers of other languages), found it extremely difficult to get her 16-19 year old learners to write a daily diary – to practise their English writing skills and to generate evidence for their qualification. They found the task boring and a chore, unlike chatting to their classmates, which they really enjoyed. Then, in a breakthrough lesson, Liz combined the chatting they enjoyed with the writing she needed by introducing the learners to twitter, a microblogging site in which posts can be no longer than 140 characters. After creating their twitter accounts, Liz simply asked the learners to write a sentence telling the rest of the class what was on their mind. Learners then had to find any of their colleagues’ posts and reply. Running the session as a fun and slightly silly game, Liz got all of the learners past the technology-learning phase in just one lesson. And from then on they were hooked. Unlike email, which is 1-to-1 or 1-to-many communication, the blog’s many-to-many approach enabled everyone to be in on the conversation. From here, Liz then introduced her learners to tumblr, a site for posting and following extended blogs, and was delighted by the emerging quality of her learners’ reflective writing and by how much they enjoyed the process. It soon became more common for learners to write their tweets or blog posts outside lesson time rather than in. Blogs can be audience restricted and so are perfect for getting learners to reflect on their learning and practise their writing, and as all entries are date-stamped it’s also easy to monitor on-going activity levels.
Example 2 – peer review
In the visual arts, the ‘crit’ (or peer review) has long been established as an essential forum for developing artists’ practice. Here’s how they work: one learner introduces and showcases his or her work to colleagues and staff; peers ask questions, form opinions and give feedback. This empowered process, often no more than facilitated by tutors, engages learners, develops their understanding and teaches them about social interaction. At Plymouth College of Art, Martial Bugliolo decided he wanted to introduce on-line crits to his graphics lessons. Using a blog, learners upload their graphics and games design work for public or restricted viewing, introduce it if need be, and receive comment and appraisal from their colleagues.
What impact can it have on learning?
As with wikis and forums, the core strength of blogging is in sharing, collaborative work, and in considered comment.
At Kaye’s First and Nursery School in West Yorkshire, children throughout the school are learning how to blog. Year 5 children are responsible for collecting together newsworthy events from the week and blogging about school life on their intranet. The whole school, and the parents, can enjoy reading about the activities the children have chosen and their opinions about life in their environment. Educational benefits are clear, but the implication is that there will be a new generation of practised reflective thinkers, more comfortable with the process and the technology than the staff in their receiving institutions – a fertile grounding, however, on which further education can build.
Closer to today, blogging offers the opportunity to bring collaborative experience to areas of the curriculum where this has proved difficult or been ignored. Developing social skills, literacy skills and improving social anchors could all be improved through the integration of this technology in the curriculum.
But perhaps the most important impact is that when a learner makes their blog public they have become a publisher. And with that international platform comes the realisation that their writing should be as good as they can make it: accurate, considered, well written and illuminating – a dynamic that is rather more difficult to achieve if their work is only seen by their teacher.
At its best it will… (where appropriate – help for judging good or better)
At its best, blogging will be used to engage learners by turning reflective writing into an enjoyable and fulfilling activity. They will learn how to post conceptually sophisticated material and how to form and express constructive comment on the work of others. A watchful eye on comments made by learners can help staff determine the effectiveness of their equality and diversity training, allowing early and, if need be, subtle intervention to further develop understanding. And the monitoring of the date-stamped entries in a blog can enable staff to smooth out a learner’s work rate and avoid ‘cramming’ at the end of a long deadline.
At its worst it will… (where appropriate – help for judging satisfactory or worse)
At its worst, blogging will be un-choreographed and a distraction. Without being tied into specific educational priorities, learners will fail to move beyond the frivolous and fail to develop the ability to reflect on their own work or the work of others. Sound English skills will be ignored and shorthand ‘text-speak’ may be allowed to prevail. Staff may not be a visible presence in the debate allowing inappropriate language and/or behaviour to be established as the norm. Some learners may withdraw from the communication channel, or the provision, as a result.
What are the safeguarding implications?
As with all social media on the open internet, learners may read inappropriate material posted by others or receive hurtful comments on their own writing. Learners may be seduced into thinking that their posts, being ring-fenced to their friends only, are private. This is never the case, as all private entries can easily be ‘pushed’ into the public domain.
Blogging on a provider’s intranet is significantly safer as all users will be known to the managing staff and inappropriate behaviour can easily be challenged, as well as used as a barometer for equality and diversity training.
On the open internet, the ability to receive and respond to comments from unknown users introduces the possibilities for pre-abuse grooming. However, simply avoiding open internet blogging and the opportunity for learners to develop a sophisticated antenna for the inappropriate behaviour of others may be a more significant safeguarding issue in the long run.
Find out more
- List of blogging terms: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_blogging
- Stephen Fry’s blog: http://www.stephenfry.com/blog/
- Free blogging sites:
- The BBC’s blog pages: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/
- The Guardian’s blog pages: http://www.guardian.co.uk/tone/blog
- The Pedagogy of Blogging: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpRDNuda2sQ
- Twitter in plain English: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o&NR=1
For which CIF evaluative statements could it generate evidence?
|A1 How well do learners achieve and enjoy their learning?|
A1a.4 learners attend and participate as required.
A1b.1 learners develop personal and social skills, including, as appropriate, spiritual, moral and cultural aspects
A1b.2 learners enjoy learning and make progress relative to their prior attainment and potential
A1b.3 learners develop the literacy, numeracy, language and key skills required to complete their programmes and progress.
|A2 How well do learners improve their economic and social well-being through learning and development?|
A2.1 learners develop relevant knowledge, understanding and skills which contribute to their economic and social well-being
A2.2 learners increase their employability
A2.4 learners understand their rights and responsibilities at work.
|A3 How safe do learners feel?|
A3.2 learners say they feel safe.
|B1 How effectively do teaching, training and assessment support learning and development?|
B1.1 learning and assessment are linked to initial and current assessments and related activities are adapted to make sure they build on and extend learning for all learners
B1.2 interesting and appropriate teaching and learning methods and resources inspire and challenge all learners and enable them to extend their knowledge, skills and understanding
B1.3 technology is used effectively to promote and support learning, where appropriate
B1.6 learners receive constructive feedback on their progress and how they might improve
B1.7 learners receive help to develop literacy, numeracy, language and key skills to support the attainment of their main learning goals
B1.8 learning, teaching, training and assessment promote equality and recognise diversity.
|B2 How effectively does the provision meet the needs and interests of users?|
B2.4 arrangements for training and assessment are flexible to suit learners’ and employers’ needs
|C3 How effectively does the provider promote the safeguarding of learners?|
C3.1 learners are safeguarded and protected
C3.3 safeguarding is prioritised
|C4 How effectively does the provider actively promote equality and diversity, tackle discrimination and narrow the achievement gap?|
C4.1 manages equality and diversity, particularly disability, gender and race, and actively promotes equality and diversity among staff, learners, employers, parents and other partners
C4.2 assesses the impact of its work in relation to equality and diversity and takes appropriate action in response to its findings
C4.3 makes sure training in equality and diversity is effective so that leaders, managers, governors or supervisory bodies, staff and learners understand their roles and responsibilities in relation to equality and diversity
C4.4 makes sure that all learners and staff are protected from harassment, bullying and discrimination, including those based with employers and at other sites external to the providers