Saturday, 9 December 2006

Reflections on blogging

As it's coming to the end of this semester, i thought it might be relevant to finish off with thoughts on blogs. It's testament to this format's appeal that it has taken off so much in the past few years to the point that politicians, radio DJs etc are all using them. But whether they are just a passing fad or not still remains to be seen.

Personally, I have found the experience of creating a blog very rewarding (tho to be fair it's more like a 'log' without the 'web'). It provides a simple and quick facility for compiling thoughts and research, from the pithy to the profound. And reading back through the entries, it automatically assumes a narrative, diary-like structure which adds up to create a fairly substantial body of work. Compared to researching and writing long essays (which I'm sure have their place in learning also), it is a significantly easier way to present learning. In addition, I feel there is greater scope than traditional academic writing to convey the authors personal character. Perhaps it is the diary-like quality, but it allows the writer to be slightly more informal and reflective (whether this is a good thing remains to be argued).

In terms of educational use, blogs are being put to many different uses, from sharing good practice between educators, to storing information and developing research. There is also the potential for using blogs to work collaboratively with colleagues and as a way of encouraging and facilitating debate. In a separate Guardian article the reporter writes that, "academic researchers are drawn to blogs because they're useful knowledge management tools. [One student] says that her site quickly became a kind of "mind gym", a place to test out and develop ideas and to hone her prose style. The social networking side of blogging became very important here, she says. Her blog helped her build links and share ideas with researchers in the area at other universities." While our own blog is not 'live' (which may come as a relief to some), the 'open' nature of published weblogs is likely to lead to greater dissemination of knowledge, and a more far-reaching opportunity for discussion, than might occur if academic output was confined to dusty journals.

As a suggestion for future courses, a search function on our blogs would be very useful. As one blogger wrote in the above article, "the blog has helped her focus her research more effectively... . Its search functions let her find ideas quickly". This would be useful, especially when it comes to assignment writing where the user needs to refer back to relevant posts.

In terms of future adaptations and uses for blogs, it seems that video blogging is beginning to take off. In yet another Guardian article, one media studies teacher relates his experience with his students, saying "his students were highly motivated to videoblog compared with previous years when they were asked to produce a more traditional presentation: "This time they all did the work and threw themselves into the task with gusto. It was also more enjoyable to teach, and more focused."" Another new technology coming out which may take off is in the form of logged audio discussions. Chinswing allows users to record audio snippets about certain subjects. Whether this format catches on or not again remains to be seen.

From the apparent success of projects using blogs to encourage learning, it seems likely that they play an ever-growing part in education. And from my own experience with blogs this term, I will welcome their ongoing use.

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