Category Archives: Research

Research on reflective teacher blogs

Meridian Middle School computer Technologies Journal in its current issue asks this question:

Do the teaching-centered blogs of middle grades educators support
reflective practice? That’s the research question examined in this article, Reflection and the Middle School Blogger: Do Blogs Support Reflective Practices?

They examined 12 randomly selected blogs from a pool of 38 teacher-created, teaching-centered blogs. The goal was to determine whether they were useful reflective devices for practicing middle school teachers.

This is interesting to follow how they did this study. They developed a rubric to assess the quantity and quality of reflection displayed in each subject’s writing sample. Examples are included.
I don’t have enough background in this area to really know what I think yet but I plan to study it some more. I’ve only done a quick read but it appears to go in depth about the process. It should give us all “food for thought.”

The last paragraphs states:

The results of this study give insight into the efficacy of blogs when used by middle school educators. These results demonstrate the potential usefulness of blogs in promoting reflective practice with practicing teachers. However, results do not demonstrate that blogs are being utilized effectively for reflective purposes. This conclusion suggests multiple avenues for future research. For example, research examining exemplary middle school teacher bloggers who do engage in frequent and deep reflection would be useful. Understanding the process in which these bloggers employ and why they use their blogs to support reflective practice would be illuminating. Research to support Bolton ‘s (1999) contention that reflective teaching practitioners are leaders and trendsetters would be beneficial as well. 

Weblog Research

A few links to a wealth of research articles about blogging…

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Blog Studies

The

use of Internet technology to facilitate interaction, communication,

and collaboration is well documented but its use in establishing and

developing “personal voice” as part of learning is also now being

addressed through the use of blogs. Finding personal voice as a

pedagogical method is important to establish learner identity and

focus, and journaling has long been recognized as an effective way to

provide space for this to occur. The blog, however, provides a context

in which personal voice can be “published” by the student, which means

that attention is given to content, relevancy, and connection with

learning outcomes to a higher degree than a traditional journal

submission. The idea that more than one person will view the work is

quite powerful in promoting a sense of ownership from the student.

Teachers can also benefit from “hearing” the personal voice of their

students to begin to really understand the learning path of each

student through a course.

The above is the opening paragraph in an article, Blogs in Higher Ed: Personal Voice as Part of Learning, published by Ruth Reynard in eLearning Dialogue. 

I am glad to see studies like this coming out. The focus of this study was to answer these questions:

  • Is blogging perceived as a good way to establish personal voice by both students and instructors?
  • Is there a tension created by the published nature of the blog?
  • What do instructors need to do to contextualize blogging in a course?

In the first study

blogs were uses as a reflective tool and each student recived a grade

for their blog. The grade was based on the number of posts, not on the

content. Students were to reflect on course readings or personal

experience. The conclusion was that students found this more of a

“chore and were focused only on completing it for the grade. The

instructor’s comments were included. Those are interesting and lend

insight into the study. This instructor felt it is important to model

reflection and provide more guiding questions for the students. The

next plan is to try to use blogs to support more ownership of the

context from the students.

In the second study blogging was used as a journaling tool but was

optional. Out of 25 students, only 3 chose to blog. Those three enjoyed

the convenience and visual permanency of the blog. They discovered that

it made their sequencing easier in terms of thought progression. The

instructor felt that students within a class sharing their blog with

specific individuals t prompt response could be encouraged to support

small group connection and student-to-student support. He thought this

could probably provide more learning support than discussion boards

and/or chat.

The third study consisted of 27 students who blogged. They were in a

first-year creative writing class and were to blog twice a week on any

topic that interested them. A few times the instructor gave them a

topic. No grade was assigned.  Most students enjoyed this at

first, a few didn’t like it, five were very excited about it. One hated

it at first but is now hooked and continues to blog. This instructor

enjoyed blogging and checking student blogs. Blogging will contine next

semester.

In the fourth study 6 students participated in a language support

group. The project will continue next semester and be assessed more

carefully. Students have found that a blogring is helpful in staying

connected.

Summary and Recommendations from the article:

  • Blogging must be integrated early in the course design and must be clearly

    connected to the course outcomes before it can become anything more than just an

    extra task for the students.

  • Grading does seem to motivate the students, but it seems to be more

    effective to grade according to effort in relevancy to course content and

    outcomes than simply on numbers of submissions.

  • There is an issue with privacy, particularly with older students. This

    should be addressed by emphasizing how to secure and share entries.

  • Instructors need time to evaluate the importance of self-reflection as a

    methodological approach in learning as well as the value of integrating personal

    voice in the learning context. Otherwise the exercise will be perceived as

    futile to the students.

Small samplings here

but it’s a beginning. I am glad to see these type of studies coming

out. The good news is that they are going to continue the studies.

They are also going to attempt to better prepare each instructor by

discussing how blogging relates to course outcomes.

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Blogging voices needed!

I have a blogging colleague (an instructional technology specialist) who did some great work with weblogs in his elementary school last year. He had a blog, he had a tech committee blog, and what was best of all was that he had gotten many of his elementary teachers blogging with their students. This year all of his blogs have been placed on “inactive” status because they violate the county’s outdated telecommunications policy that bans student messaging. Now he is right in the middle of working with the office of technology in this process. They had him review several weblog services and the administrative controls. The county office wants them to be able to filter everything BEFORE it appears on the web. So as it stands, he cannot continue his good work with weblogs now. He has even had to change the name of his weblog so it won’t be associated with the school. The only reason he is allowed to have it up is because he has turned off comments. He and the office of technology are looking for research that supports the use of weblogs instructionally, the online safety of them and other relative research so they can go to the school board and attempt to change this policy. Needless, to say, my blogging colleague is frustrated with the whole situation and all his great plans for this year for weblogs are on hold.

Now, I’m not mentioning my colleague’s name simply because schools, especially elementary schools, don’t do well if things like this blow up into a big issue. Then we could all lose out with way too restrictive policies being implemented. The good thing is that the office of technology is looking with him to find relative research. The bad thing is that there is really not any research out there for elementary schools. This is something many of us have been thinking about but we still don’t have data that is needed. I know research is beginning to emerge but it is mostly at the university level with those who are involved in publishing. I do wish I had more knowledge here but you know in public schools we’ve not had the training nor the luxury of time to do this. I suspect educational improvement would be much further down the road if we had been more involved. I’ve dabbled in action research but still don’t know enough to be productive. I think recording our experiences is great and we know we are on to some good thinking about how to become more aligned with the 21st century. We know weblogs can be a wonderful tool that has countless possibilities for great academic use.. Our kids are in the middle of all this technology and we could be at the forefront teaching wise and appropriate use to kids. We can get them to think about how writing can be a tool for them to effect change and make things better. All this usually just scares schools though. They seldom give educators credit for having the ability to responsbibly oversee projects like this. I think a lot of fear exists among administrators to take a risk when “taking a responsible risk” is exactly what is needed to push learning forward.

I know also that when I started my weblog project at my former elementary school we were following the AUP policy and only had kids involved whose parents had signed those papers. I also met with the parents and explained exactly what I was doing and told them that there was the possibility of an inappropriate comment coming through but that if it did that would be handled in a responsible way with the kids. It could be a good teaching moment. They trusted me. Luckily, nothing ever happened but it could have. I monitored all the blogs and talked directly with my kids about responsible use. On the other hand, I do suspect that if I had gone further and asked the county office for permission to do this project, it probably would have been a no – based on lack of knowledge and not wanting to take a risk. The principal OK’d the project and trusted me to explore possibilities responsibly. I have to admit at the same time that I did not spend a lot of time talking about blogs directly inside that county. Deep inside I knew that the powers that be could have shut them down at any time. Now, I’ve shown the value, gotten good results with kids, and others are beginning to use them. But isn’t it a shame that I couldn’t have been a little more vocal right from the beginning.. My blogging colleague shared his vision and enthusiasm and is now shut down. Why can’t his good work count for more? Can’t that be a part of the “research”? He was doing good things with weblogs and getting his teachers right in the mix. That’s something that is hard to accomplish.

We need help! Anyone know of good research out there that I am missing? Got any thoughts on the best way to proceed in this area? I suspect that a lot of educators who are jumping on the blog bandwagon may inadvertently cause more shutdown on us if they don’t really think through what they are doing. We can’t just turn our kids loose on the web. We have to oversee and guide them. Weblogs can open up doors for us in the classroom. It truly is a stepping stone to all sorts of possibilities. I want to keep exploring and we desparately need good webloggers like my colleague who is facing a situation all by himself.

Let’s get a dialogue going on this subject. We need data, a plan, ideas, thoughts because I have a feeling that his shutdown may just be the beginning of many as we move forward.


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Now is the Time to Start Studying the Internet Age

This is lengthy, but I know many of you don’t have access to The Chronicle Review and this article will be of interest to you.

Jefferey Cole’s article, “Now is the Time to Start Studying the Intenet Age”, published in The Chronicle Review is so timely.

He directs the Center for Communication Policy at the University of Calfornia in Los Angeles and began a panel study of 2,000 Americans, returning to the same people year after year. His subjects are a national, representative sample. The study looks at the effects of the Internet as nonusers go online, as modem users become broadband users, and as some users (about 3%) give up the Internet. After only 4 years, they have collected irreplaceable data on how people use the Internet, its effects on their online and offline lives, and who does not use the Internet and why. They have even expanded this project to study people in more than 20 countries.

The article states these emerging facts:

  • The Internet is an important part of most Americans’ lives. Over 70% use the Internet at least once a month, and the average user is online for nearly 12 hours a week. The digital divide is closing. Latinos and African-Americans are the fastest growing population of users. Only 4% more men than women use the Intenet.

  • For users, the Internet is now the most important source of information. The Net is the first place users go for information for just about any type of question. The “always on” function of broadband has increased this trend because of ease of use. However, the Internet still trails television as a source of entertainment.

  • Users watch less television than do nonusers. In 2002, Interent users began to report spending less time with newspapers and magazine, about 45 to 60 minutes a week less than nonusers. Some users are spending more time with online newspapers. So far, about the same amount of time per week by users and non-users is spent with books.

  • Intenet users have healthy social lives. This is the opposite of what was originally predicted. Internet users get about an hour a week less sleep than nonusers do, but they engage in about 30 minutes more of physical activity. This may be becasue they are a few years younger. Users also spend more time in person with friends than do nonusers and report slightly lower levels of depression, alienation, and loneliness.

  • Use of the Internet increases productivity. This doesn’t mean they spend less time working though. Users are finding the line between work and home increasingly blurry. Many users report working more and harder than ever before, including late at night or on holidays when they are at home. E-mail is one of the most appealing elements of the Internet and the single biggest reason people go online in the first place, but it is becoming an enormous burden to many.

  • E-commerce is becoming more common. This had a slow start but is now expanding rapidly. Users like the wide selection and 24 hour availability. Users reluctance to pay for digital content is also beginning to ebb. However, both purchasers and non-purchasers have great concerns about online security and privacy.

  • More Americans will go online. In 10 years, 80-85% of Americans will have Internet access, matching the percentage of the Swedes, Finns, and South Koreans predicted to be online at that point. The rest of the industrialized world – Japan, Britain, and Germany, for example – will probably be under 75%. But it may well take 25 years before 90% of Americans are Internet users.

  • Wireless connections will become standard. By 2014 the notion of an Internet connection permanently anchored in one spot will become archaic. Users will expect the Internet to be everywher – garage, backyard, work, school, car, etc.

  • Education will make greater use of the Internet. The Internet’s impact on how we learn, both formally and informally, has been minimal and limited to the periphery of education. Over the next 10 years, as children who grew up with the Internet become teachers and administrators, they will begin to apply the Intenet to the foundations of learning.

  • Entertainment will not dominate the Internet. Television’s communal viewing and network programming that reaches all demographic groups in the nation makes it a better mediuf for entertainment. The real future of the Internet is information.

  • It will become hard to do some tasks offline. In 2014 most Americans will use the Internet to send letters, file tax returns, pay bills, etc. People who resist this will find it increasingly difficult and expensive to avoid doing so.

The author sums up saying that it is easy to see how changes in communication, buying, searching for information will occur. It is clear how technology is creating a major transition in how political campaigns are waged and financed, in how crime occurs, and in the development of children raised with the Internet and e-mail. But less clear, but much more important, is technology’s long-range impact on creativity, national and individual self-concepts, and the quality of personal relationships. Finally, he says that the greatest changes will not be the obvious ones, but the subtle and unexpected shifts that we can understand only through longitudinall, scientific research. That’s why it is so important for researchers to begin work on the Internet now.

This study really caught my attention in so many ways! First, I want to be around down the road to see all these exciting changes! It’s mind-boggling how much has changed in the last 20 years and just think what is ahead for us! Then in education we are so slow to take hold of these changes – oh, the frustration!

The fact on educaton – Education will make greater use of the Internet – that pointed out how its impact on how we learn, both formally and informally, has been minimal and limited to the periphery of education is discouraging yet I am encouraged that many of us are exploring possibilities with weblogs that focus on the learning of both the student and teacher. This is where I wish I knew much more about research and how to go about recording it so it will be useful. I hope our weblog records of our journeys will help. Just think, we never had a way to provide our records before to so many. We didn’t have a way to bounce our ideas and thoughts off to each other. We didn’t have a way to just quickly send out our thoughts and get reactions back. We didn’t have a way to peek in classrooms and see what others are doing who are from all over the world.

We’re sharing, learning, and recording but, in a way, it’s all so half-hazard. There is much to sift through. I think there is probably much we are missing (that we should be recording) but at the same time we are contributing by taking the time to record our actions, thoughts, plans, etc. I envy those who can take all these pieces and put it together in a form that let’s us build on what we are doing and continue to grow. I’m going to start thinking more on what areas weblogs could be used to keep records of learning, both formal and informal. Let’s encourage others to do more of this.

The author’s last point on the subtle and unexpected shifts that will occur is what I want to be around to see. I can’t help but think that weblogs in education are right in the midst of some of the good changes that will occur in education.  Yep, I want to see those changes but why or why won’t education move a little faster!


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