Analysis Of Technology Innovation In The Classroom

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Analysis Of Technology Innovation In The Classroom

  1. 1. Analysis of Technology Innovation in the Classroom: Blogs as Powerful Learning Tools Reviewed by Lisa Chizek, Composition Teacher Overview Technological and educational innovation: The use of individual student blogs as rhetorical devices in the first year composition classroom to facilitate writing, critical thinking, understanding of audience, community, and citizenship. The Problem of Practice As first year composition students enter college to learn, practice and develop writing skills necessary for active participation in a multimodal world, it is important that student needs are met using effective writing pedagogy and appropriate educational technology tools. While many first year writing programs aim to envelop writing students with community and citizenship, common practices in student writing leave only the instructor to provide assessment, feedback, and support which often produces static essays that limit student opportunities to reach out to the world around them through their writing. As the world continues to grow digitally, there is a great need to promote digital literacy through writing in first year college students to adequately prepare their entrance into an evolving world post graduation. Selfe and Hawisher, researchers in the field of digital media, define the immediate urgency to expose students to multimodal writing experiences in their recent text Literate Lives in the Information Age: “Today if U.S. students cannot write to the screen—if they cannot design, author, analyze, and interpret material on the Web and in other digital environments—they will have difficulty
  2. 2. functioning effectively as literate human beings in a growing number of social spheres” (2). If what Selfe and Hawisher argues is true, today’s writing students must have appropriate writing assignments that allow learners to practice pedagogically sound writing methods while being introduced to new media writing experiences. In many writing classrooms, sound pedagogical writing practices are present, but are not evolving as quickly as the information age. This often leaves students with college writing experiences that could be improved if new media opportunities were available and in practice. The problem of practice can thus be described as a fundamental need to expose first year writing students to effective technology that will work in tandem to promote digital literacy, practice writing skills, and forge a bond between community, citizenship and audience. One such tool to address the problem of practice is the integration of blogs as the primary mode of transportation between writing and community. The success of integrating blog technology to address the problem of practice would be measured by students’ abilities to write, reflect, analyze, and synthesize their experiences through the use of interactive, semester-long blogs. The Setting As previously stated, the general setting for the use of educational blogs is the first year writing composition classroom, where regular writing is necessary for completion and success. Within this setting, there are four primary components that will influence, evolve, and ultimately lead to the success of blog integration: the teacher, the learners, the subject matter, and the physical setting. The teacher’s role in assimilating blogs to the first year writing classroom is to
  3. 3. facilitate, guide, and support students on their blog writing quest. The teacher must first explain and demonstrate how to use a blog before students can begin their own blog writing. The teacher will also work as a facilitator to determine blog rules, guidelines, and web etiquette before blogging begins. While the teacher’s role remains active during the initial integration of blogs, as students begin to take control of their writing the teacher’s role shifts to act as a support and guide, rather than the sole leader. The learner’s role is equally as crucial to the success of blog integration as that of the teacher. As the learners become more confident in their blog writing and analysis skills, they will become leaders of their blog, experimenting with design elements and furthering their reflective and critical thinking through writing. By becoming leaders of their own blog, students will build confidence and independence in their writing skills while maintaining active in the classroom community. The subject matter posted on the blogs will be developed through classroom discussions between students and teacher. While the teacher will assign specific blog posts related to course material, learners will have a voice in the subject matter and will be able to suggest, comment, and work together to create post content relevant and interesting to course material and the community’s interests. The physical setting of maintaining regular blog posts will be shared between in- class posting time and at-home posts. During the early stages of blog integration, students will have in-class time to learn and familiarize themselves with the functions of their blog. Overtime, more blogs posts will be assigned as homework to stimulate thinking beyond the classroom walls and to continue to connect students with one another outside of class. Periodically, the teacher will reference blog posts in classroom
  4. 4. discussions to further bridge the distance between out-of-class work and in-class conversations and to further the deepening of students thought processes. Technology Integrated Solution Integrating blogs into first year writing classrooms is an effective method to address the problem of practice because blogs allow a platform for students to write with an audience in mind, connect to a larger community, and continue to build citizenship through their writing. According to a recent Educause Learning Initiative, blogs are conducive to openness which allows students to interact with their peers and an audience beyond the classroom (Windham 5). With the fluid and flexible nature of blogs, students are not only exposed to a new technology, they are also given an opportunity to read, respond, and interact with classmates and the world at large. Because blogs are public writing avenues, students will learn to think deeply about their writing, their audience’s needs and impressions, and ultimately, create an online space that is their own to explore reflection, critical analysis, and interpretations of course material. The integration of blogs will make a meaningful difference in addressing the educational need of co-mingling traditional writing practices with new media because it allows students to invest in their writing in meaningful ways that is embedded in classroom practices and expectations. Blogs provide a dynamic educational tool because they permit students to maintain individual writings that are open to a larger audience than that of the traditional classroom. This in turn allocates students as leaders in their own thinking and development while publishing and sharing their critical analysis to a wide audience. This works to further strengthen understanding and connection of citizenship, writing, and community.
  5. 5. Blogs also allow generous occasions for students to comment on one another’s posts, increasing classroom community and intensifying personal and professional relationships among different groups of learners. Those students that do not have a voice in class, may find a voice online through their blog, giving them a chance to express themselves when they may not otherwise feel comfortable doing so in the classroom. Ultimately, this serves to increase student-to-student interactions but also teacher-to- student relationships. With the integration of classroom blogs, concerns of logistics and realistic implementations of such technology for educational purposes should be considered. Students must have regular access to a computer with an internet connection both at home and on school grounds. While daily access is not necessary, at least once a week posts should be conducted to encourage regular and active participation in critical thinking and digital writing. The ideal integration of blogs would be a semester long project where students regularly posted, responded and conversed continually throughout the time span of the course. The use of blogs can be shortened and adapted for individual instructors’ purposes or needs, but a semester-long blog allows learners the possibility to reflect over time, augmenting both writing and communication skills with a sizeable community accessible in reach. While some funding may be necessary for various blog uses, many free blogs exist on the internet available for teacher use. Blogger.com, one of the largest and most popular blogging platforms hosts over one million users and is adding more each day (Nelson, Fernheimer 2). With the vast audience of Blogger.com, students have substantial options to reach a large community through their writing. Individual colleges
  6. 6. and course management sites may also offer opportunity for blogging. By using open source blogs such as Blogger.com, there is a privacy concern and risk that should be addressed. Individual instructors must determine their parameters of privacy before beginning blogging to determine if public or private blogs would best suit their goals and needs. By choosing a private blog, privacy is assured but audience is limited, weakening the connection to citizenship and a vast community. Choosing a public or private blog will also have tremendous impact on how audience is perceived. For the purposes of this solution, it is suggested that blogs be public to increase the education of citizenship and audience but that clear expectations for appropriate posts are discussed and outlined in class. Individual teacher preferences and expectations of the college, however, should dictate the appropriate mode of blog use. Review the table below to learn more about several free blogging programs. The table below provides an outline for three different blog programs available free on the internet Description Advantages Disadvantages Open to the public A free blog publishing User-friendly, creative (could also be seen as an Blogger.com tool from Google for design elements advantage), more easy thought sharing available, and very difficult to monitor, flexible regulate and control Free blogs available for Custom design Similar to Blogger.com, Wordpress.com personal or professional templates and automatic students are more use spam protection exposed to the public Blogs tend to be more A free service for online Offers privacy control, journal based on Livejournal.com journaling photo uploads and other personal narration rather publishing tools than academic reflective modes Benefits of the Solution
  7. 7. The solution of blogs to bridge the displacement between writing practices and digital demands has many benefits that centralize on three primary gains: audience, community, and citizenship. By endorsing blogs as educational tools, students can “create community by linking to other blogs to create a mini-web of sorts or by creating communities of common interest” (Nelson, Fernheimer 3). By linking students together outside of the classroom, the sense of community has an opportunity to grow, evolve and develop into a unique and dynamic discourse community overtime. Additionally, “as teachers, we can draw upon many aspects of blogs to engage our classes in issues of public rhetoric, and model the class as a discourse community” (Nelson, Fernhemier 3). With this concept in mind, blogs can be an effective vehicle to unite students with one another and to strengthen citizenship through their interactions with individuals outside of their immediate discourse community. Blogs can also benefit student writers by exposing them to conventions of genre and public discourse, reinforcing an understanding of citizenship. If citizenship “should convey the connections between the classroom and the so-called real world,” blogs fortify the road between students and the world they see around them (Tryon 128). Finally, we must “actively present in our practices how writing is a continually changing activity that shapes just who we can be and what we can do” (Wysocki et al 3). With Wysocki et al’s words in mind, blogs advocate voice, reflection, and great thought concerning the written word, while also creating moments of important technological advancement for students. With the interlinking of blogs and composition classrooms, helping students achieve a sense of community, citizenship, and recognition of audience becomes accessible, feasible, and exciting for both the students and the teacher.
  8. 8. As a composition instructor, I believe that the benefits outlined above would be present if another instructor implemented the suggested solution. I have tried implementing blogs into my own classroom and have found similar results, though I did not achieve such success right away. Although the benefits listed above appear easy to attain, it does require great time and consideration from the instructor’s perspective to discover such positive results. For example, the integration of blogs will only support such benefits if the teacher is able and willing to regularly read, respond and comment on student blogs. Many instructors may find the timeliness of the solution difficult because it takes a great deal of time to read student blogs and connect them to classroom discussions. If an instructor does have the required time to read and respond to student blogs, another important consideration must be made in order to achieve effective results. Regular communication of blogs inside the classroom and creating relevancy of blog posts to students is necessary to maintain the desired outcomes. When I first initiated blogs into my writing classroom, I made the assumption that what students blogged about would automatically link with classroom material and discussion. I failed to reference the blogs in class, missing an important connection between their thought processes outside the classroom and those within. Overtime, I have learned through practice that in order to effectively relate the concepts of audience, community, and citizenship through the use of blogs, the teacher must bring blogging into the classroom through discussion of posts and ideas presented by students in their blog writing. Implications The implications of blogs as a mode to enhance student writing through digital
  9. 9. texts can be regarded as a small representation of the future of writing. According to Wysocki et al, “teachers of composition should not only be interested in new media texts but should be using them systematically in their classrooms to teach about new literacies” (44). As Wysocki et al outlines in the above statement, the future of writing is soon to be intertwined with new media texts and so teachers should be continually contemplating how new technologies can play a role in enhancing student learning and preparedness for the “real” world. This presentation of blog use in the first year composition classroom is one suggestion addressing the greater need for further introduction of new media texts to writing students. The outlined solution presented here can be revised, clarified, and situated within immediate needs and contexts and should be viewed as an evolving discussion rather than the only solution available. As a writing teacher, I will continue to use blogs in my own classroom by furthering consideration between the concepts of audience, community, and citizenship. Works Cited
  10. 10. Nelson, Thomas, and Jan Fernheimer. "White Paper Series." University of Texas at Austin, Computer Writing and Research Lab, 22 Aug. 2003. 1-15. Selfe, Cynthia L., and Gail E. Hawisher. Literate Lives in the Information Age: Narratives of Literacy From the United States. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004. Tyron, Charles. "Writing and Citzenship: Using Blogs to Teach First Year Composition." Pedagogy 6 (2006): 128-32. Windham, Carie. "Reflecting, Writing, and Responding: Reasons Students Blog." Educause Learning Initiative (2007): 1-10. Wysocki, Anne Frances, Johndan Johnson-Eilola, Cynthia L. Selfe, and Geoffrey Sirc. Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004.

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