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Blogging for personal reflection
This guide has been created to support students who are EITHER choosing to use a
blogs for their personal reflection or who are are required to contribute to a blog as
part of their studies.
This guide covers blogs hosted on the web, and blogs which have been set up in
Blackboard, using the blog tool.
Whatever the format and purpose of your blog, this guide is intended to give you some ideas about
how to get started, what sort of things to blog about and how to do it safely and easily.
There are some useful additional resources appended on reflective writing, blogging in educational
settings and using blogs for other purposes – such as creating a personal website.
Feedback on the guide is welcomed: please email to the author Jane Challinor with any
So what exactly is a blog and what is it used for?
First you might want to look at this short video
And here’s a blog entry about the usefulness of blogging. This is an online blog and there is a space
at the bottom for you to leave comments. Why not leave one now? Do you agree with the points
made? What is your view? I write this particular blog and I’d be really pleased to get some feedback
Here’s another blog exploring the value of the blog in learning…..
Further information on the educational use of blogs can be found at the end of this guide.
Other uses of blogs are also described in the final section.
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Blogs in Blackboard
For Blackboard, if you have been instructed to submit periodic blogs through the unit or
block site, this quick guide will be useful.
You can also find detailed instructions here
However, the simplest way to get started is by clicking the “Assess” tab on your Blackboard
Module and then “Reflective Blogs”. You will find there a named blog is waiting for you.
Only you and the Unit Leader can read this. When you click on View, use the 'New Entry'
tab (top right of page) to make each entry. You can edit or delete this entry as often as you
like before the deadline.
This blog is your FORMAL, ASSESSED assignment for the Unit. It takes the form of a
reflective statement based on your experience of working with the material in the Unit.
The Blog Schedule is also in a folder under “Assess” and you must complete the Blog by the
submission date provided in your Course Schedule.
Blogs on the web
If you are setting up your own, web-based blog, a good place to start is Blogger.com where you will
find simple and clear instructions on how to begin and how to customise and develop your own blog.
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A great way to start with blogs is to read other people’s first, so you get an idea of what you want to
write about and the style you might want to adopt. Here are some others to look at- as you see the
topics and intended audience can be very varied:
See if you can find others – search via Google blog search or “blogs of note” on Blogger.com
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Blogs for summative and formative assessment
Here is a sample blog from Blackboard which gives a flavour of the length and content expected in
the short reflective blogs you are expected to contribute
Hyperlink text Sample Blog Entry
The structure of a piece of reflective writing has to cover:
Describe: What happened? Who was involved? What was your role?
Reflect: What went well, what went badly? What was significant?
Analyse: Why did what happened happen? In what ways was it useful for you
personal and professional development?
Conclude: What have you learned? What will you do the same or differently next
A typical schedule for the blogs to be submitted (the topics will be different depending on the
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Entry 1: Reflect on the extent of your previous experience of the content of this Unit
(Presentation Skills, Interacting with others and Teamworking skills) including your
reasons for completing this course.
Entry 2: Identify and reflect on a recent time when you have presented information
verbally or in a written form to colleagues at work
Entry 3: Identify and reflect on a recent time when you have used your
interpersonal/communication skills to good effect at work.
Entry 4: Identify and reflect on a recent time when you have managed a team of
Entry 5: At the end of the course, reflect on your completion of it.
Criteria against which the piece of work will be judged
A good blog will:
Clearly relate to the work context
Display evidence of in-depth critical reflection (i.e. – not merely a description of what
happened, but what you learned from this and perhaps also how it relates to theories
and concepts you have studied)
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Key tips for blogging
Start with a short introduction about yourself and your blog and invite people to make
comments, giving you feedback. [This is only possible if your blog is set up this way – that
is if it is public. In Blackboard your blog may have been set up to be private between you
and your tutor.]
Most people feel very self conscious when they first start to blog and think they have
nothing to say that anyone else will be interested in reading. Gradually your confidence will
increase – but only if you practise. As with most things, little and often is the key.
Blogs don’t all need to be in words! You can easily upload pictures and even videos to
illustrate what you want to say, as you will have noticed in some of the blogs listed above.
This is possible whether you are using Blogger or Blackboard.
One important tip is not to write your blog first in a different programme (say, a Word
document) and then attempt to cut and paste it into the blog. Although technically this is
possible, you will probably encounter problems with the formatting and the finished product
won’t look the way you intended.
Don’t forget that you can edit and re-edit your blog as often as you like (in Blackboard, just
click on “edit” at the top of the entry. With Blogger you can save entries as drafts until you
are quite sure you want to publish them – but even then you can go back and change them
at any time!
Make sure you stay within copyright law if you are using videos, pictures or quotes:
everything needs to be fully acknowledged and referenced just as in a conventional
assignment; you may also need others’ permission to use their images or illustrations.
Take care of your digital identity! A simple guide and workbook on the protection of your
privacy and development of a positive online identity can be found in this free download.
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Educational uses of blogs
“Weblogs” or “blogs”, a term coined by Jorn Barger in 1997, are online public writing
environments, which enable a single author or a group of authors to write and publicly
display articles, called posts, which are listed in reversed chronological order (Ellison & Wu,
2008; Anderson, 2007). Depending on the author’s wishes, blogs can include visual, audio
and video content, as well as features such as links to other blogs, information about the
author, and comments from readers (Ellison & Wu, 2008; OECD, 2007). The large number of
people engaged in blogging has given rise to its own term – blogosphere – to express the
sense of a whole ‘world’ of bloggers operating in their own environment (Anderson,
In educational settings, blogs can be used (1) by institutions and teachers as an easy way to
produce dynamic learning environments for course announcements, news and feedback to
students; (2) by students as digital portfolios to collect and present their work; (3) among a
group of learners, using their individual blogs, to build up a corpus of interrelated knowledge
via posts and comments, enhancing collaboration; and (4) with the aim of linking, via
syndication technologies, different groups of learners and teachers (Franklin & van
Harmelen, 2007; Bartolomé, 2008; Farmer, 2006; Ray, 2006; Berson & Berson, 2006; Kim,
Educational benefits are projected specifically in the following areas:
1. Blogging can enhance reflection as well as analytical, critical and creative thinking by
encouraging students to engage with positions divergent from their own (Ellison & Wu,
2008; Farmer, 2006; Akbulut, 2007; Berson & Berson, 2006; Kahn, 2007); 2. Blogs can
enhance communication and promote more engaged learning, increasing student
motivation and participation (Berson & Berson, 2006; Farmer et al., 2008; Utrecht, 2007;
3. Blogging is an effective tool for user centred, participatory learning, highlighting the
individual learners and their unique authorial voices (Burgess, 2006; Akbulut, 2007; Ellison &
4. Writing for an internet audience not only enhances students’ writing skills, but also gives
them a sense of responsibility, authorship and ownership (Farmer et al., 2008; Ellison & Wu,
2008; Akbulut, 2007);
5. Blogs offer an opportunity for students to experiment (in a protected environment) with
different persona and expand their friendships; blogs foster deeper and more meaningful
interactions and help develop the social and civic skills (Berson & Berson, 2006).
Redecker, C ; (2009) Review of Learning 2.0 Practices: Study on the Impact of Web 2.0 Innovations on
Education and Training in Europe (European Commission Joint Research Centre Institute for
Prospective Technological Studies) p33
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Other uses of blogs
Blogs can be used for collaboration and as forums for discussion.
A post by one user can have a number of comments added which takes the form of a conversation
between the author and their audience. Blogs can have multiple authors and so many people can
contribute to the development of a body of knowledge. This is an example of a multi author blog.
In order to find linked postings for specific subjects, “tags” are used – short labels which identify the
key topics. In the multi author Learnex blog mentioned above, click on the “categories” box and find
posts with the tag “blogging”.
You can see the use of tags (or labels) more clearly in the Virtual Leader blog where they are given at
the foot of each posting, and in a list of all available labels in a side panel.
Blogs can also be a quick an easy way of creating a website:
to showcase your work, http://daydreamlily.blogspot.com/
or to pass on skills and knowledge to others (http://clayoven.wordpress.com/)
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Writing for reflection
Here’s a guide to the reflective journal written by Simon Mills at De Montfort University. Not all of it
will apply to your course, but there are some useful tips here.
What is critical reflection?
‘Reflection has been described as a process of turning experience into learning, that is, a way of
exploring experience in order to learn new things from it.’ (Boud, 2001)
Imagine how dull and uninspiring we’d be as people if we never thought about what we are doing,
are going to do and have already done! The act of critical reflection is to think about these things in
relation to our subject in order to gain a better understanding of our own understanding. Some
people argue that the ability to reflect on experience is what makes us human. That’s something you
might want to reflect on.
As academics we are always testing our knowledge of a subject by asking questions and evaluating
our answers using critical thinking. One way we demonstrate our knowledge and put it into the
public domain for scrutiny is by writing essays and papers. However, the kinds of arguments and
theories you will read in essays do not just happen, they take lots of work and critical reflection over
time. It is for this process where a reflective journal comes in useful.
What is a reflective Journal?
A reflective journal is a space where you can write your thoughts and feelings about your subject
and in doing so deepen your knowledge of that subject.
Writing is an important way to learn and gain understanding. It is often the case that in writing down
thoughts on a matter we discover that our understanding of that matter is inconsistent or partial.
Writing often brings us to the edge of our knowledge and forces us to think about what else we need
to know to inform our arguments on a matter. Writing about a subject is a great way to have to
reflect and think about that subject as well as record of what you have learnt.
Of course we do not reflect about things only when we write. We often think about things at all sorts
of times (in the shower or bath – Eureka!) or when we discuss them (as we will in seminars and
group work). Your reflective journal is a good place to capture any insights you have at these times
for future reference and in order to build upon them.
What should I write about in my Journal?
In this module we hope that you will be inspired by different kinds of media practice and ideas
9 Jane Challinor De Montfort University 2009
related to them. Use the journal as a place to ask yourself questions that relate to the module,
reflect about what you are reading and doing and document your learning.
In most workshops we will be discussing texts and also engaging in small-group work. The reflective
journal is a good place to capture your engagements with both the texts and your peers and reflect
Use the journal to keep note of topics of interest and problems you feel are important and might be
worth engaging with in your final project.
Reflect on your own media usage and how this relates to the ideas and theories you encounter on
this module and elsewhere.
What have been the moments of excitement, discovery or disappointment on the module? Think
about each workshop and lecture and consider how they connect with one another. Do you think
that you are starting to develop a deeper understanding of issues involving digital media? Reflect on
your practice in the other assessments and how you feel things could have gone better or worse.
DO NOT LEAVE YOUR WRITING UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE! MAKE USE OF THE TIME ALLOCATED IN
WORKSHOPS TO WRITE IN YOUR JOURNAL. EVEN IF IT’S ONLY ONE IDEA A WEEK IT WILL ADD UP
OVER THE COURSE OF THE MODULE.
Is there anything my reflective journal should not to contain?
Your journal is not a personal diary. It can be a diary of sorts. For instance you could use it to
summarize what you are learning on the module on a weekly basis, or chart your weekly media use.
That said, the journal is not just an intellectual exercise but can include emotional and affective
aspects of your media experiences.
However, your tutors are not interested in reading about your personal life and where you went
drinking last night – unless it is somehow related to digital media!
Should the journal have a specific structure and if so will this be provided for
Your journal will be written in your blogging space on Blogger.com. The structure of your journal is
therefore similar to that of a diary in that it is a linear sequence of time-ordered entries.
Is the journal private?
No. Your journal is on the Web and therefore public facing. It is therefore important that you keep
this in mind when posting material to it. Some things you should think about before posting material
to your journal:
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• How do your journal entries reflect on you? What kind of impression would that make on
someone who doesn’t know you?
• Is anything that is posted on your journal derogatory towards other people or institutions? For
example it is very unwise to slander other people or make unwise comments about companies and
institutions as these may come back to haunt you.
• Make sure you are not posting anything on your journal which breaches copyright.
• Do not put any personal information (your own or others) online.
• Bullying will not be tolerated both in comments or posts, and will be taken extremely seriously.
• Your journal is for learning purposes for the digital media module. Please do not use it to post
inappropriate or illegal content.
Remember to properly reference any sources that you use in your journal.
Take you time and think about your entries: reflect!
To be successful in this assessment students must:
• Demonstrate evidence of appropriate academic reading
• Demonstrate evidence of reflective thinking
• Demonstrate an understanding of key concepts related to digital media
• Demonstrate an ability to connect empirical research with academic debates
• Identify and analyse the relationships between digital media technologies, society and forms of
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