The point is not to write a lot, but to write regularly. If students write something every day, they develop not just the ability to reflect on their own learning, but also the habit of reflection.
Picture from LATINA Spring 2009.
We see the blog as a free and open form, which people use for many different purposes. They may turn inwards – to reflect on the events of day; describe problems, difficulties and solutions and to analyze their own work and thought processes. But they may also use the blog as an external memory: summarizing lectures, readings and discussions; testing concepts and expressions; exploring new ideas and relationships: storing information and information sources ….
The important thing is to express what you think and feel, observe and question. The blog works best as a personal genre.
Levels of skill
Blogging is a skill like any other. You start from scratch and develop as you go along. Many of the people involved – staff and students – are absolute beginners. Some have some experience. Others are experienced bloggers.
The aim of LATINA is to let everybody go one, or two, or three steps beyond their current level.
And by the way: do not worry about your English language skills. In a global course like LATINA, these skills will vary a lot – depending on your country.
I don’t see staff blogs as very different from student blogs. Web centered teaching and web centered learning are both emergent fields of activity, development and reflection. Teachers and students are both exploring virgin territory. The task of the student is to learn new skills and concepts – as fast and as deeply as they can. The task of the teacher – or rather of the teaching team – is to design structures and processes that support intensive learning.
Students as teachers
But we ask the students to engage in teaching as well as learning.
Students will present the results of their own work on several occasions during the course. The last “presentation”, towards the end of week 3, is actually defined as a learning event. The blog is an excellent tool for brain storming and testing out ideas and approaches in connection with such presentations.
Much of our work is done in groups (and we change their composition all the time). Group work involves learning from each other. This is usually called peer learning – but might as well be called peer teaching.
You can also use your blogs to continue the discussions that go on in the groups and in the class as a whole. You can read what other students write, and you can comment on their blog posts. In that way peer learning and teaching go on at all hours, inside and outside the formal class.
Some student blogs
- Library 3.0
- Lynn’s blog
- What did I learn today? May 11, 2009
- LATINA report. Spring 2009
The educational impact of the web
Teachers are expected to teach. But what does that imply in a digital world?
Dan Tapscott writes:
In the industrial model of student mass production, the teacher is the broadcaster. A broadcast is by definition the transmission of information from transmitter to receiver in a one-way, linear fashion. The teacher is the transmitter and student is a receptor in the learning process.
This is not the whole truth, but it describes a pattern of thinking that I’ve met in many teachers as well as students.
I’m a professor and I have knowledge. You’re a student, you’re an empty vessel and you don’t.
Get ready, here it comes.
Paulo Freire called this the banking concept of education. Teachers are walking banks that hand out coins of knowledge that students may put in their own purses.
Teachers as learners
Now the vault is broken. For students on the web, the texts and tools they need – the currency of knowledge – is becoming freely available everywhere. The role of Wikipedia and Google are well known. These are general tools with an educational impact.
But the field of learning, teaching and research is also breaking through traditional barriers. In science we speak about Open Access – to the results of academic research. In education we speak about Open Educational Resources (OER) – or free access to the resources teachers develop to promote learning.
See Fostering Learning in the Networked World for a good summary (from a US perspective).
Lecture notes, slide sets, course plans and curricula used to be guarded and treated as private property. Some belonged to the teacher and some to the institution. Today, the web invites us to share them. Those who do so – and their supporters, constitute the OER movement.
LATINA blogging is based on OER principles. We want teachers and students to share their learning processes in a public rather than a protected space. For the LATINA teachers, this is both an experiment and a new experience.
We find that student blogs give new and specific insights into how students learn. We expect that teacher blogs will give people in the course similar insights – direct, local and concrete – into the teachers’ world. Taken together, the two sets of blogs add a new and powerful channel for communication, conversation and learning within the LATINA learning environment.
In LATINA, writing an open blog, under your own name, is the normal approach. In some cases, however, alternatives are needed.
- If you want to restrict a single message to a particular set of persons, you should probably use Google Docs or e-mail rather than your blog.
- If you don’t want the blog as such to be linked to your real name, you may write under a nickname.
- The rest of the class will know about the link, of course, but we will ask them not to reveal it to others.
- Blogs will normally remain on the open web after the course, but you have the possibility of restricting access through password protection.
- Since blogs are included in the assessment, they must, in any case, remain in the (closed) institutional archive for a certain period after the course.
- Bloom’s taxonomy
- Electronic Frontier Foundation. Intellectual property. Guide for bloggers and other web authors.
- Fostering Learning in the Networked World: The Cyberlearning Opportunity and Challenge . A 21st Century Agenda for the National Science Foundation. Report of the NSF Task Force on Cyberlearning. July 2008
- Mott, Jon. PLNs, Portfolios and a Loosely coupled gradebook. June 16, 2009. Adapting teaching to the web.
- Links to all current LATINA blogs are posted on the LATINA Summer web site – see the right hand margin.
- Links to all blog posts on LATINA (in English) by Tord Høivik (Plinius) are collected here.