Jenn Spiess of TechKNOW pointed out this article, “Reflection in an Always-on Environment: Has It Been Turned OFF?”, by Helen Chen. It comes out of Stanford University. The author states that the learning environment that students reside in is one that is characterized by multitasking, visual orientation, immediate gratification, and parallel processing. This environment may lend itself to students who are left with only their reactions instead of their reflections. The importance of building reflection and critical thinking into the learning process was emphasized. The author points out how it is not just a matter of providing time to reflect, but recognizing that reflection for the purpose of learning is a skill that needs to be taught, possibly through an apprenticeship model. This is where blogs can shine.

Barbara Ganley’s blog and her student blogs are pointed out as a great model for asking students to make their thoughts public and open to commentary. The author highlights how Barbara realized that as an instructor she needed to engage in the same activities and risks she was asking her students to take. She blogged herself and through the blogging both faculty and students have reflective thinking and community building built through “blogging-as-conversation” rather than just “blogging-as-monologue.” The article mentioned other strategies such as e-portfolios.

First, it was great to see Barbara’s good work recognized. Then having an article talk about the reflection process was of great interest to me. The article got me thinking more about ways of teaching reflective thinking skills and how to write those reflections. I have used comment starters to help students dig a little deeper into their thinking and writing. This helped my students think about their responses in a different manner. See my list here and here.

I didn’t require this, just suggested that they “bump up” their responses to the comments and begin to think about them in new ways, ways to help us learn. Then I invited them to share other ideas for comment starters and ways to reflect. Then we’d take the time to discuss where the reflections were leading or changing our thinking. Another thing I do is have the students strive to end a post with a thought-provoking question. The question should be one that will make their reader think about what they have written and add to the conversation. I steer them away from questions that require just a yes or no. I walk a fine line between intruding on their writing so that their voice remains. I try to watch that carefully and not control but suggest and guide so that the student will think. At the elementary level a teacher has to really work at getting them free of trying to come up with a response that is authentic and not what I (as the teacher) wants but what they want. You have to allow time for them to think about all this. I’m teaching though and inviting them to discover new ways of communicating and learning. Blogging in our classrooms is not just a matter of letting them write with no feedback. We have to teach and I find that daily I am redefining and thinking about my teaching and learning.

Darren has his posts on “blogging on blogging” and “blogging prompts”. See his “Scribes and Chat” and “The Scribe Post”.These posts are all about the student voices on what they are learning and Darren’s take on the process. It is excellent. I know we have lots more samples out there. We need to give more thought to ways we can help the students reflect instead of just react. Then blog about it!

Thanks Jenn, not only did you send some wiki examples but this post pointed me to an article that got me really thinking and reflecting. I love this blogging world…..