Guide to student blogging

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  • 1. 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 commentsjchallinor@dmu.ac.uk 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 from you. 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. 1 Jane Challinor De Montfort University 2009
  • 2. 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. 2 Jane Challinor De Montfort University 2009
  • 3. Getting started 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: http://www.stephenfry.com/blog/ http://wsysinspireindia.wordpress.com/about/ http://daydreamlily.blogspot.com/ http://thesecretlifeofamanicdepressive.wordpress.com/ http://clayoven.wordpress.com/ See if you can find others – search via Google blog search or “blogs of note” on Blogger.com 3 Jane Challinor De Montfort University 2009
  • 4. 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 Popup Hyperlink text Sample Blog Entry Popup content Width Height 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 time? A typical schedule for the blogs to be submitted (the topics will be different depending on the subject studied): 4 Jane Challinor De Montfort University 2009
  • 5. 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 colleagues. 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) 5 Jane Challinor De Montfort University 2009
  • 6. 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. 6 Jane Challinor De Montfort University 2009
  • 7. 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, 2007)………….. 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, 2008). 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; Kim, 2008); 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 & Wu, 2008); 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 7 Jane Challinor De Montfort University 2009
  • 8. 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/) 8 Jane Challinor De Montfort University 2009
  • 9. 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
  • 10. 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 on them. 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 the student? 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: 10 Jane Challinor De Montfort University 2009
  • 11. • 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! Assessment criteria 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 cultural identity. 11 Jane Challinor De Montfort University 2009