Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools1BRIAN SHARLAND AN EXAMINATION OF BLOGGING IN SCHOOLS UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS – MA IN ICT AND EDUCATION PROGRAMME
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools2Table of Contents Proposed Study ...................................................................................................................................... 3Research questions .............................................................................................................................. 3Literature Review ................................................................................................................................. 4Research Design ................................................................................................................................. 10Survey design ...................................................................................................................................... 11Analysis of results .............................................................................................................................. 20Summary of baseline data ......................................................................................................................... 21Survey questions on issues to do with blogging ................................................................................. 24Conclusion ............................................................................................................................................ 54Recommendations for future blogging approach in classroom and at home .......................... 60Online Links .................................................................................................................................................... 61Bibliography ................................................................................................................................................... 61
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools3Proposed StudyResearch questionsMy overall research brief is as follows:I would like to critically study pupils’ general experience of blogging in classroom and at home.Through the use of interview and survey I will explore a number of issues related to blogging asdetailed in the questions below. I wish to explore these issues as I have been using bloggingmyself as a teacher, to explore and write about various issues and I have also begun to use it inclass with my pupils. I have been encouraging pupils to blog personally and have also begun touse blogging as a part of my own normal classroom activities, through getting pupils to blogabout what they have learnt about in class.These investigations will hopefully help me to understand the place and value of blogging in theclassroom as well as look at issues which could affect the usage of blogging in the classroom.This critical study will therefore serve as a ‘snapshot’ of some of the current activity andattitudes related to blogging in the classroom. I will therefore be use to use this as a basis formaking recommendations for future blogging approaches, attitudes and possible policy.From the research brief the following questions can be extracted. These are numbered toenable cross-reference with lesson design, interviews and analysis and I will come back to themin the results.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools41. How do institutional attitudes to blogging shape the experience of using blogging in theclass?2. How do teacher attitudes to blogging shape the experience of using blogging in theclass?3. How do pupil attitudes to blogging shape the experience of using blogging in the class?4. How do parental attitudes to blogging shape the experience of using blogging both in theclass and at home?5. Does having increased or reduced access to technology improve blogging usage andexperience?Literature ReviewIn order to consider the impact of blogging on a set of pupils, I think it is necessary to firstconsider what a blog is, as it is the central technological concept around which the studyrevolves.Before moving onto academic texts on blogging I began by using my account on Twitter, amicro-blogging service to ask the question as to what is a blog. I felt as an exercise this wouldwork as a way of hopefully generating a slightly different definition of blogging through using ablogging service such as Twitter. Twitter is a micro-blogging service which has grown inpopularity in the last few years and therefore is a good example of a blogging service with alarge impact and audience.I decided to use a method of marking words called a hashtag in my short post called a tweet toask #whatisablog? (https://twitter.com/sharland/statuses/189043203431866369). I also usedthe same hashtag to post my own tweet stating that: “#whatisablog A blog is online
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools5communication that is multimodal, expressing either official or personal points of view, as wellas facts” (https://twitter.com/sharland/statuses/189043707650125824).When I accessed the hashtag to see what other tweets had been written using the same tag Isaw that the hashtag had already been used previously. A user called @obsoletedogma hadposted“This is my blog. I blog on my blog & blog readers read it. #whatisablog”(https://twitter.com/ObsoleteDogma/statuses/187566549492703234).Another user called @b_fung had retweeted the original tweet by @obsoletedogma (a retweetincludes the original person’s tweet and their username in a new tweet) and had added theirown comment“There are many others like it, but this one is mine RT @ObsoleteDogma This is myblog. I blog on my blog & blog readers read it #whatisablog”.(https://twitter.com/b_fung/statuses/187566790510002176)A twitter user who follows me responded fairly soon with their own interpretation of what a blogis. User @Jon_Torbitt stated that“@sharland #whatisablog a method of communication that starts 1way and evolves intoa discussion on a specified topic”(https://twitter.com/Jon_Torbitt/statuses/189044120751325184).
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools6This definition of blogging shows how blogging could be used as a non-linear discussion tool.This possibly builds on Donelan’s definition of a weblog or blog as an asynchronouscommunication tool (Donelan 2010). A blog is useful for soliciting opinions and contributions ona topic; however, it could quite easily be used to expand on or develop an original idea intosomething else.In this short exercise of using real world tools blogging I was able to identify some aspects ofwhat a blog is: I was able, in a very short space of time to post a question in a structured formatusing an online blogging tool and receive an appropriate response. The use of Twitter as a formof computer-mediated communication to compare my own opinion with others is an example ofblogging which in itself gained rapid usable results. The definition provided by user@Jon_Torbitt seems to match the process I went through in requesting a definition of blogging.I was able to see from the two tweets, which had already been posted before I wrote mine usingthe hashtag, that a blog for many people is something which is theirs and they have ownershipover it even if their blog is not necessarily unique in the world. From the response I receivedsoon after I posted my question I can also see that for some a blog is a place of communication.These issues of connection, communication and ownership I feel are vital for considering theimpact of blogging on pupils and their experience of it in school. These issues I will come backto later.For a more technical definition of what a blog is Lanksher and Knobel (2006) state that it is a“website that is updated frequently with new material posted at the top of the page” and thatblog entries or posts are ‘arranged in reverse chronological order so that the most recent postappears first’. Their broad use of the term ‘material’ rather than ‘text’ is helpful as it allows one
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools7to consider that blogging may not just be about text but about content. This is seen in thedevelopment of blogging tools in the last few years which do not rely on text only but encourageor almost exclusively focus on non-textual blogging methods such as posting images toPinterest.com or videos to youtube.com.Richardson (2010) backs this up by saying how the Internet now provides multiple avenues forcontent creation. He sees blogging as a means of publishing content to the web. By using theterm ‘journals’ with the connotation of written work and then stating that “It’s not just blogs.Multimedia publishing by the masses has exploded” (Richardson, 2010) he reinforces the ideathat blogging has moved beyond simple text writing into other forms, as discussed earlier. Thisalso indicates that for many users, although they do not see themselves as blogging online,their actions, such as uploading video to YouTube or status updates to Facebook, form a part ofthe blogging experience.Creating video, image, audio or text-based content for a blog is therefore part of the standardprocess of blogging. The purpose of blogging therefore needs to be explored regardless ofwhat content is posted. Willet (2009) argues for the use of a social environment in learningwhere people with similar interests or goals can come together in ‘affinity spaces’ for sharingknowledge. One could argue that a blog run by a pupil as part of a network of blogs allows forthe creation of an affinity space which is managed by the pupil especially in light of thecomments and further links which fellow pupils could pose. This forms a more philosophicalapproach to the purpose of blogging.Merchant and Davies (2009) offer a number of more practical suggestions for the learningpotential of blogs including link aggregation, project design and reflection and observations onlearning activities. I agree with them that blogs are multi-modal texts and this modality, which is
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools8more flexible then printed books, offers many more learning opportunities when used properly inclass. In my survey I will be looking at the usage of blogging for learning purposes rather thanthe range of modal texts which are used, as the range of modal texts used are I believe,secondary to the question of what the blogging would be useful for.Dowdall (2009) links good critical literacy with social context and states that this can be viewedas a social and political endeavour and lead to an increased ability to question social reality.His approach could be a useful way of establishing the educational value of blogs in situationswhere, due to a lack of understanding, blogs have not originally been viewed as worthwhilelearning tools in class. Blogging should be placed within an effective context but even more soit could become the vehicle through which pupils not only learn but also demonstrate the criticalliteracy necessary to be able to make value judgments about their own social reality and theirown learning context.Creating an ‘affinity space’ online could lead to further complications. Davies and Merchant(2009) briefly outline the ‘moral panic’ resulting from more traditional views about schooling andthe impact of new communicative practices. Although blogging has been around for a numberof years awareness of it continues to grow in the school sector. Davies and Merchant suggestthat there are many pupils who are ‘uninvolved’ in digital text production (which I feel refersexactly to blogging) and that critical reading and nuance in dealing with online texts throughskilled teachers would improve safety.Another issue to consider is the ‘Digital Divide’. The Digital Divide is the gap between groups ofindividuals distinguished by a range of factors with regard to access to or knowledge ofinformation communication technology (Chinn & Fairlie, 2004). A better way of understandingthe impact of the Digital Divide is to look at a more positive response to the Digital Divide, which
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools9is the term ‘digital inclusion’. Digital Inclusion as defined by Seale (2009) is when all membersof society have access to the affordances provided by technology. Seale raises the issue of‘technological determinism’ which takes the view that simply through the application oftechnology resources to a context the context will improve. Although Montagnier andWirthmann (2011) state that low income is the single most important factor for non-access to acomputer at home, both they and Seale in her list of social exclusion factors identify manyissues which could form a part of digital exclusion.Extending blogging into the classroom therefore has issues when considering whether pupilshave access to technology at home in order to blog. This has implications for the class teacher,as they will need to consider the methodology of blogging in use at home in order to informclass use. I will investigate this issue in the survey through questions on access at home.A further complication of the Digital Inclusion issue can be seen in circumstances whereteachers and pupils are unable to use readily available technology to blog. In my classrooms Iencourage pupils to use mobile phones as part of their learning environment; however, anumber of schools ban mobile phones (Telegraph article May 2012) and there is evidence ofsome shift towards that view amongst some teachers and schools (Offerton School Policy).This may lead to a situation where pupils, despite having the economic capability to gain accessto technology such as a mobile phone, which could be used for blogging purposes, could thensee that usage banned. These pupils would then form a part of the ‘Digital Divide’ throughinstitutional attitude towards technology.As a potential balance to the issue of digital access and divide are the benefits of blogging as acollaborative communication tool. Olson and Olson (2010) discuss groupware as systemswhich support groups, often embedded in an organization. Although they do not initially
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools10mention blogging as a form of groupware, blogging systems which allow for multiple usersblogging together such as http://Wordpress.com or http://Posterous.com I feel would fit thedefinition of a groupware system. Olson and Olson do include blogging as a form ofcommunication tool and hence I would place blogging as a form of computer-mediated-communication which would enable pupils to collaborate with that mediation of the format ofblogging.Olson and Olson describe a list of issues for adapting groupware in context and the third one is‘Disruption of social processes’ (Olson and Olson 2010). They see groupware as having thepotential for threatening existing structures and demotivating users crucial to its success. In theresearch I hope to see whether collaboration through commenting on blogs has a positive affecton pupils and whether using blogging in a class context is a positive experience or not.Ramage (2010) does suggest, though, that evaluating collaborative technologies is not easyand that it’s not about establishing whether a specific technology is right or wrong and is moreabout the evaluation process. I will therefore not be seeking to establish whether blogging ismore effective or not than other technologies but simply use anecdotal qualitative answers frompupils to ascertain the overall impact of blogging. I intend to use Ramage’s strategy forevaluating communication technologies as part my conclusion.Research DesignI will be using a fixed research design. I will be using surveys which will therefore require afixed structure to ensure consistency in application.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools11Survey designThe major focus of the critical study will be using surveys across as many different schools andage ranges as possible in order to gauge accurate and consistent opinion. I will aim to surveypupils, staff and if possible parents. All participants will receive a single survey.These are the questions used for the survey as well as justifications for each question.q1: How old are you?Pupil can choose between age 5 and 18. This is required in order to identify impact of bloggingat different age groups.q2: What school year are you in?Pupils can choose between years 3 and 13 although I suspect the majority of answers will comefrom older pupils. This will also allow me to segment the answers based on year group.q3: What type of school do you attend?Although there are many different types of state school I have decided to ask simply for pupils tochoose between state and independent.q4: Which area of the UK do you live in?
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools12I have used broad geographical areas such as London or Midlands for pupils to identify wherethey live. Although some pupils may live in one area but attend school in another I feel thisnumber will be low enough not to affect results.q4: What do you mostly use the internet for?The range of answers are as follows and pupils can choose more than one● Reading news● Shopping● Playing games● Communicating with others through email● Communicating with others through social networking● Communicating with others through blogs● Watching videos● Listening to music● Other:This will show what pupils are generally using the Internet for. As pupils will be allowed tochoose more than one activity, I will be able to see where the largest proportion of activitiesexists.q5: What technology do you have access to at home?Answers are as follows and pupils can select more than one:● Mobile Phone (not a smartphone)● Smartphone such as Blackberry or Apple iPhone● Computer (PC or Mac)● Laptop
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools13● TabletI have chosen to focus on technology which is possible to use for blogging purposes. I aminterested in seeing what pupils do have access to at home and to be able to correlate that withlevels of blogging.q6: When expressing your ideas online how confident do you feel in putting themacross?Pupils must choose on a 1 to 5 point scale with 1 being unconfident and 5 being extremelyconfident. I am interested in scoring what level of confidence pupils feel they have as this isrelevant to the blogging experience.q7: What might prevent you expressing your ideas confidently online?Answers are as follows and pupils can choose more than one● Expectations and opinions of friends● Expectations and opinions of teachers● Expectations and opinions of parents● Not knowing who is reading● OtherThis question will hopefully demonstrate what sort of limitations pupils are either placed under orplace themselves under when communicating online. This question is also related to the nextquestion as well as two final questions asking whether blogging could improve confidence.q8: When expressing your ideas in class how confident do you feel in putting themacross?
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools14Pupils must choose on a 1 to 5 point scale with 1 being unconfident and 5 being extremelyconfident. I am interested in scoring what level of confidence pupils feel they have as this isrelevant to the blogging experience.q9: What might prevent you expressing in writing your ideas confidently in class?Answers are as follows and pupils can choose more than one● Expectations and opinions of friends● Expectations and opinions of teachers● Expectations and opinions of parents● Not knowing who is reading● OtherI am interested in seeing whether there is a disconnect between pupil confidence in class andonline and how blogging could be related to this, as well as what limitations pupils operateunder.q10: When you write something online are you aware of the audience?Answers:● Yes● NoWith this question and the next I would like to see whether pupils are aware of the online impactof what they write.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools15q11: What audiences are you aware of?Pupils can choose more than one:● Friends● Family● Teachers● Class● Wider Internet● OtherWith the previous question I am looking to see whether pupils are aware of the impact of whatthey write through understanding what audiences they are writing for.q12: Why are you aware of the audience?Pupils are given a paragraph textbox to write their own answers in. For those pupils who arenot aware of audience this will encourage them to consider why not.q13: Do you know what blogging is?Answers are either yes or no. This will separate pupils into those who do and don’t understandwhat blogging is, as a number of questions need to be asked about current blogging habits.q14: For this question pupils are given a web link to a site explaining what blogging isand then are asked what they think blogging could be used for
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools16Pupils can answer using a paragraph textbox. This will give pupils the opportunity to offer theirown opinion on the usage of blogging.q15: Please choose what type of blogging you doAnswers are as follows and pupils can choose more than one:● I write blogs for a combined class blog● I have a personal blog which I use only for class● I have a personal blog which I use for my own blogging● I have a micro-blog● I know what blogging is but do not currently blog● Other:This question will allow me to identify the core reasons pupils use blogging for. I am lessinterested in topics which they blog about due to the high potential variety but more interested inpurpose.q16: If you are blogging which blogging services do you use?Answers are as follows and pupils can choose more than one:● Twitter● Facebook● Posterous● Wordpress● Edublogger● Weebly● Blogspot● Kidblog
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools17● Google Sites● Tumblr● Other:Although possibly less relevant from academic perspectives I am interested in seeing whatservices pupils use as the services listed here feature mostly free but some paid options as, wellas general blogging services as well as others aimed at the educational market.q17: What do you blog about in class?Answers below and pupils can choose more than one:● Homework● Reflecting on class work● Examples of work● OtherThis question looks at key activities for pupils in class when blogging.q18: What subjects do you use blogging in?Pupils can choose more than one:● English● Maths● Geography● History● ICT● Computing / Computer Science● Art / Textiles
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools18● Food Technology● Physical Education● Business Studies● Sciences● Other:I am interested in seeing where pupils predominantly use blogging, as the traditional subject forusing it will be ICT.q19: Do you blog in classes where the teacher does not use blogging?Pupils can choose only one:● Yes● NoThis question is part of my aim to understand barriers and attitudes towards blogging in class.q20: Have any of the following people prevented you from blogging or expressedunhappiness with your blogging?Pupils can choose more than one:● Teachers● Friends● Parents● No one has ever prevented me from bloggingThis question forms part of my aim to identify issues or attitudes which might prevent pupilsfrom blogging.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools19q21 through 24 : Have you ever been unable to blog due to a lack of technology at home /in class?Answers:● Yes● NoThis question as well as the simple follow-up question asking pupils to expand on their answerslook at what issues such as lack of technology access could prevent pupils from blogging.q25: If you are using blogging in class how has it helped you?Pupils can choose more than one:● It helps me remember facts and information● It helps me think about the work I have done● It helps me collaborate with other pupils in better ways● It helps me get better feedback from my teacher● It has helped me improve my writing skills● It has helped me improve my confidence● It has taught me how to interact better online● Other:q26: Do you ever comment on other pupil’s blogs?● Yes● NoI am interested in seeing whether beyond personal blogging pupils do engage with blogs writtenby others.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools20q27: When you receive comments on your own blog do these help you or not?● Yes● No● I haven’t received any comments on my blogI would like to see whether comments received on blogs are helpful or not as part of exploringthe usefulness of blogging as a collaborative tool.q28 to 31: The last four questions are paragraph text answer questions● How can blogging in class be improved?● How can blogging at home be improved?● Do you think blogging could improve confidence online?● Do you think blogging could improve confidence in class?In these questions I am looking for qualitative statements from pupils on the potential benefitsand outcomes of blogging.Analysis of resultsOver a period from the 3rd of June to the 20th of July my survey was completed by 243respondents across a number of schools in the UK. All results were achieved throughcommunication via Twitter with a number of teachers who then shared the link to the survey withtheir pupils. As these schools were spread over a wide area I was unable to go to theseschools to assure the quality of results, although some results are from my own pupils. Inreading through the full set of results I can see that some pupils either misunderstood thequestion or selected answers which were inconsistent with other answers elsewhere. An
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools21example of this is that a number of respondents put their age as 5 (which was the first option inthe list of ages) but no respondents were younger than in year 7 in school.Many of the questions had spaces for respondents to put their own thoughts or opinions in.Where I have used them in the analysis below I have copied them in exactly as written in thesurvey, including spelling and grammar errors and have italicised their responses. All answersused by the respondents have been cross-referenced with their survey result number. A copyof the survey data is available in the appendix under links to online information.Summary of baseline dataThe question ‘How old are you?’ showed a tight range of ages in the profile (excepting the 11who answered 5 years old) with a few aged 11 and 16 and one 18 year old respondent, themajority were aged 12 to 15. This is a useful spread when considering that the majority of‘blogging’ takes place through social media sites where the minimum age for signing up is 13(Facebook.com 2012). It is also useful to note that although this limit exists a number ofchildren choose to ignore it (Time.com 2011).
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools22As expected, the age range was largely similar in results to the question ‘What school year areyou in?’ which showed that the majority of respondents were in years 7 to 10. The range ofyears covers pupils who are in Key Stage 3 after leaving primary school up to the first year ofGCSE.1/10https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/gform?key=0Avu-‐‑HXaqPj0idFY4SlFXOVJySjlNU1E0YzZObE…243 responsesSummary See complete responsesHow old are you?5 11 5%6 0 0%7 0 0%8 0 0%9 0 0%10 0 0%11 6 2%12 40 16%13 70 29%14 57 23%15 54 22%16 3 1%17 0 0%18 1 0%What school year are you in?3 0 0%4 0 0%5 0 0%6 0 0%7 37 15%8 69 28%9 55 23%10 78 32%11 1 0%12 1 0%13 1 0%
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools23The question ‘What type of school do you attend?’ yielded only 6% of respondents fromindependent schools which meant that it might not present me with the opportunity to compareindependent and state school opinions on blogging however it does provide value in showingthat the responses do cover different sectors of education in the UK.In my initial questions I asked ‘Which area of the UK do you live in?’. Looking at the spreadof respondents the south of England, encompassing London, South East and South West, with45% of respondents was the largest block. Correlating answers with economic status in eacharea may not be possible due to relatively small samples.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools24Survey questions on issues to do with bloggingIn the next section of questions I looked at the use of the Internet and technology by the pupils.The question ‘What do you mostly use the Internet for?’ showed that the top three activitiesfor pupils were; communicating through social networks, listening to music and watching videos.Modern teenagers could regard this set of activities as a ‘stereotype’ of Internet usage.Although it is possible to regard social networking as blogging, only 14% of respondents listedcommunicating through blogs as one of their activities. This failure to connect social networkingand blogging is an interesting result to come from the survey.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools25For the next question ‘What technology do you have access to at home?’ pupils indicated ahigh usage of smartphones (76%) versus standard mobile phones (40%). There may be asmall difference between this result and reality as pupils may have defined a normal phone as asmartphone. Interestingly, laptops at 88% were higher than desktops at 65%, hinting at a verymobile use of technology at home alongside the high use of smartphones at 76% and tablets at38%.For the next set of questions I wanted to look at how pupils view their own confidence incommunicating online and in class and compare the results. This would help to show if therewas any disparity between online communication and class-based communication. For the firstquestion on expressing ideas online the grading was across 5 points from unconfident toextremely confident. Points 1 to 2 yield a percentage of 7% lacking in confidence with 35% in
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools26the middle versus 57% on the confident end of the scale. When comparing to the question onexpressing ideas in class points 1 to 2 yield a percentage of 22% on the unconfident end of thescale with 50% on the confident end of the scale and only 27% in the middle. Although thediscrepancies are minor it possibly indicates that overall pupils do feel more confident inexpressing their ideas in an online environment. This is evident in the comparison chart below.What could balance this, though, is that those who are answering here by and large seem quiteconfident in expressing their ideas online and this confidence may remain in class.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools27For both questions on expressing ideas confidently online and in class I also asked what factorsmight prevent them expressing their ideas confidently. The options presented were theexpectations and opinions of friends, teachers, parents and not knowing who is reading, as wellas other reasons. For both class and online contexts the expectations and opinions of friendswas a very high factor at 60% for online and 69% for class. This is unsurprising as it indicatesagain that peer pressure remains for pupils a key issue in being able to communicate andexpress their opinions online. Further research would be useful on the role of social networkingin this.0204060801001201 2 3 4 5Frequency Chart Comparison -Comparison between ConfidenceOnline and in Classideas onlineideas class
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools28A noticeable difference shows in how the influence of teachers are viewed. Online theexpectations and opinions of teachers affect only 10% of pupils in the survey but in class theyaffect 53% of pupils. Class influence I would expect to be high, although it is interesting to seethat it is still lower than peer influence. Online the influence of teachers is currently a factor butis probably limited as learning increasingly moves online in the form of online assessment, blogsand collaborative work. This indicates that perhaps teachers need to establish a better andmore obvious presence in online communication and collaboration by pupils.The expectations and opinions of parents affecting pupils in expressing their ideas remainsquite low (26% online and 12% in class) which could indicate a lack of engagement with whatpupils are saying online and in class. As for ‘not knowing who is reading’ this was reasonablyhigh in affecting online communication (52%) where communication can happen in the openversus 16% in class where pupils are more able to identify and perhaps ‘control’ what they aresaying.For the question on what might affect them expressing their idea online for the ‘other’ option anumber of interesting answers were given. I have analysed some of them in brief below buthave also grouped them into those who seem to express worries about both personalconfidence and safety online versus those who are extremely confident online to the point
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools29where nothing affects them at all. This indicates a wide disparity between teenagers from thosewho lack confidence to the highly confident. This is an issue which teachers need to take intoconsideration when rolling out work which entails online communication or collaboration.Pupils who are concerned about safety and privacy:‘What people will think of them’‘random people that add you’ - answer 33‘Family’ - answer 41 (and ticked ‘expectations and opinions of parents’ as well)‘Wether others dislike it or not’ - answer 104‘Who would care’ - difficult to analyse as might be sarcastic (answer 115)‘TROLLERS’ - this person has referred to Internet trolls (Shin, 2008) as an issue inaffecting how they communicate online. This could show that for this person negativecomments by others affect how they communicate online. (answer 128)‘Not being able to be anonymous’ - answer 137‘Expectations and opinions of everyone in general’ - answer 201‘Being followed by creepy people’ - answer 213Pupils who are not concerned about what other people think:‘Nothing’ mentioned by answer 40, 52, 63,119 as well as a comment ‘mothing myopinion is my opinion’ (answer 54)In the survey I was also keen on seeing how pupils view the nature of ‘audience’ (Bermejo2007) when writing something online and therefore asked them ‘When you write something
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools30online are you aware of the audience?’.This would indicate to a small extent whether they take into consideration the views andopinions of others or simply the ‘effect’ of what they are writing on the screen. 88% of therespondents showed that they were aware of an audience when writing something online. Forthose who answered ‘yes’ I then asked a follow-up question about audiences they were awareof (allowing multiple answer selection) and ‘friends’ came out top with 96%, followed by family79%, class at 60%, wider internet at 58% and teachers at 46%. This indicates to me that writingfor the expectations of teachers, although at a reasonable level of just fewer than half therespondents, is still lower than writing for the expectations of friends. This does beg thequestion as to whether teachers should be acting more like friends online? Ignoring the obvioussafety and morality issues this is evidently not possible but it does again indicate that whenpupils write online they are writing far more as part of a ‘social’ context rather than a learningcontext.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools31The reasons given by those who said they were not aware of the ‘audience’ when writing showsome interesting answers which back up some of the findings.One respondent (number 3) said ‘Because my twitter profile is not on private’. This indicatesthat for this pupil that they are aware that they are broadcasting in the open on the Internetregardless of who can read what they say or not. Although this may be acceptable for personalcommunication online this could become an issue when considering online communication forschool purposes.In the survey I then moved on to a section on blogging in class. The first question was a simpleone to gauge the level of understanding of what blogging is. 90% of respondents were aware ofwhat blogging is, which showed a good level of overall understanding.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools32For those who didn’t understand what blogging was I supplied a helpful link (BBC.co.uk 2010)with a brief definition of blogging and then asked the respondents what they thought bloggingcould be used for in class. The answers showed some good understanding of potential positiveuses for blogging in class. A selection below shows some interesting points.‘To tell other pupils and teachers things’ - answer 23‘we use something in class where we post sticky notes about what we are stuck on andsolve others problems, we could use this for blogging in class i think ............... ‘ - answer26‘helpful hints for evision’ - answer 79‘sharing information’ - answer 81‘expressing opinions and feelings’ - answer 96‘saying what you thought of the lesson. and homework’ - answer 126‘I could blog about school infomation and homework ect. This is an example of a blog icould do in class’ answer 148‘Your feelings and expressions about a certain class youve had’ - answer 157
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools33All the above points I have grouped as they show a good understanding by pupils as to thepotential uses of blogging in class. The answers give indications of pupils considering bloggingas a tool for sharing, recapping and evaluation.‘to say what has happened and i can keep track if anyone makes fun off me.’ - answer89This respondent showed an example again of how pupils can be quite concerned about theirpeer relationships when using online communication tools. For this pupil they see the Internetas a means of making connections even though these connections may be negative. Theyseem to only see the potential of blogging as a means to monitor their connections with otherpupils for fear of bullying rather than using those connections positively.‘i shouldn’t you should learn in class’ - answer 125.‘i think we shouldnt have to do it in class. people in your class will know about it andmaybe make fun of you. i think if you want to have a bolg you should have it on your ownwill not your school telling you to get one. its uneccesary to do it in class.’ - answer 164Although these respondents were the only two I could find, they do indicate that some pupils donot see blogging as part of the ordinary classroom experience. Whether it links to seeing onlinecommunication as part of only their ‘social context’ rather than their ‘learning context’ is difficultto tell but it remains an issue which teachers should take into consideration in the classroom.Respondents who selected that they did know what blogging was were then asked to selectwhat type of blogging they do. This answer has some potential problems in it due todiscrepancies between the results here and in the next question. As an example in this
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools34question 14% of respondents said they had a micro-blog whereas in the following question onwhat types of blogging services they use 50% said they use Twitter. Twitter is commonlyregarded as an example of a ‘micro-blog’ (Zhao, D. and Rosson, M 2009)and this therefore indicates that the pupils who completed this survey may not be fully aware ofcorrect definitions and terms related to blogging. Having said that the higher number ofresponses for ‘I have a personal blog which I use for my own blogging’ at 43% indicate at leasta higher trend of usage in that area.The following question about which blogging services pupils use this at least gives perhaps abetter indication of usage patterns for both blogging and social networking services withunsurprisingly high figures for Twitter and Facebook. Posterous, Wordpress and Google Siteshave small but reasonably significant usage figures. In my past experience these are servicesoften promoted as ‘class friendly’ forms of blogging. Usage of Tumblr is also reasonably highand reasons for this could be many, including pupils wishing to follow celebrities who useTumblr.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools35For my next question ‘What do you blog about in class?’ the results showed that my initialoffer of three options was perhaps limited. I was pleased to see that ‘reflecting on what youlearnt about in the lesson’ had a good result at 43% as it showed that blogging is being used asa reflective tool by pupils in class. This provides good evidence of why blogging is a necessaryand valuable exercise in class as it demonstrates a good proportion of pupils view blogging as alegitimate learning tool. There were a number of responses for ‘other’ and I have grouped someof the key usable answers below to indicate other potential uses.Pupils using blogging in class for self directed interests:The following selection of answers indicates that a good range of pupils uses blogs in class forself-directed writing on topics of their own choice. Whether this indicates a lack of direction or
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools36focus from teachers or not is difficult to tell although it could indicate that some teachers areworking on the basis of allowing pupils to blog on their own topics as a form of ‘self-directedlearning’ where pupils take responsibility for their own learning. As the topics in many of thesecases are not part of the set curriculum their learning through blogging on their own topics couldinstead be regarded as informal learning. The fact that pupils are using their blogs in class forthings which interest them demonstrates that they have taken ‘ownership’ of the bloggingprocess through blogging about their personal interests. This ownership could be both anegative and a positive result as pupils could see the value of blogging for themselves but notsee at as something with educational value.‘My life and interests’ - answer 24‘music’ - answer 29‘gaming’ - answer 43‘Minecraft (games)’ - answer 52‘Dogs’ - answer 60‘funny cats’ - answer 63‘stuff we like’ - answer 66‘anything that interests me’ - answer 191‘our own choice of subject’ answer 195’‘sometime we have the choice to make what we want’ - answer 207Pupils using blogs as part of Teacher-directed learning‘anything then teacher aprroves of’ - answer 59‘whatever the teacher asks us to blog about, - answer 65‘i did a history project about the history of fashion over a century and i blogged aboutthat as i had a lot of information and the subject interested me!’ - answer 190
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools37Out of the respondents fewer gave indications that blogging was used as part of teacher-ledactivities although this could be because the options given for the question were alreadyfocused on teacher led learning. These few do show anecdotally that pupils are using bloggingas part of activities set by the teacher.A number of responses also indicated that they do not use blogging in class including thisexample:‘We dont because its blocked at our school’ - answer 108.In later questions pupils also give further indications of technology restrictions in schools to dowith websites which could be used for blogging purposes. Although this is an anecdotalresponse, it indicates an issue which can occur of access to resources online being restricted inschools in various ways. I will explore these issues in more detail in response to findings ofthese questions.For the next question ‘What subjects do you use blogging in? I was not surprised to see thatICT comes out quite high at 55%. The other major technology subject Computer Science isfairly low at 4% which may simply indicate that not many of the respondents take this subjectrather than blogging is under-used in that subject. English at 21% had the other significantlyhigh result compared to other subjects. Due to the literary nature of the subject this mayencourage the use of blogging as a written form of communication in the subject. The majorityof respondents in the other column wrote that they did not use blogging in any subjects ratherthan listing any specific subject.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools38This disparity between ICT and other subjects is not necessarily a concern but shows that thereis room for the usage of blogging in other subjects. I could also speculate that as blogging isreliant on digital technology that this is why blogging is possibly viewed as an ICT only subject.For the next question ‘Do you blog in subjects where the teacher does not use blogging?’the result indicated that by and large pupils are only using blogging in situations where theteacher directs its use, with only 10% of respondents using it of their own accord. This isdisappointing but not surprising and indicates that blogging largely remains a teacher-directedactivity in class as opposed to a pupil-directed activity. This is a statistic which should hopefullychange over time.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools39For the next question ‘Have any of the following people prevented you from blogging orexpressed unhappiness with blogging?’ I was hoping to see what factors could negativelyinfluence pupils own approach to blogging if they are blogging already. I wanted to see if therewas a split between home and school on this issue and the results seemed to indicate a smallsplit. Parents and family at 26% showed a higher response than teachers or friends as anegative influence on blogging. Although this was a small split it does indicate that at homeblogging is viewed more negatively than at school.In the next set of four questions I wanted to look at whether restrictions related to technology athome and at school have affected blogging by pupils. For both home and school technologyrestrictions come in fairly low, with 10% for lack of access at home and 16% for lack of accessat school. The difference of 6% between the two shows that technology restrictions are perhapsmore of an issue at school.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools40The answers to the questions on what sort of restrictions are holding pupils back are also quiterevealing. For home access a few respondents indicated that lack of functioning technologywas a main barrier to blogging:‘My laptop was broken, also my internet has failed at times’ - answer 99‘When the Internet is down’ - answer 118‘my computer wasn’t working and my phone was out of money’ - answer 151This respondent has indicated that their parents due to an issue of e-safety or cyber-bullyinghave presumably proposed the lack of technology access:‘I’m not allowed on facebook because people bully me.’ - answer 122
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools41The next respondents indicate a cost issue similar to answer 151 above, which prevents themfrom having permanent access to the Internet at home:‘The service providers are too expensive so sometimes we have times at when we haveno internet’ - answer 128‘i never had much technology in my home until my dad got a new job’ - answer 183Although this next respondent doesn’t indicate whether cost is an issue, an outright lack ofsuitable technology at home is a considerable issue and has a similar impact to a loss of accessdue to financial reasons.‘i cannot blog if i dont have a computer, or a phone to use’ - answer 129Further respondents also indicated a lack of appropriate technology in the first instance due to alack for them of the right sort of device to blog with and for the second respondent a lack of asuitable Internet connection:‘I usually go on the internet on my iPod or an iPhone, and its not easy to edit or write ablog on something other than a Computer or Laptop.’ - answer 192‘Sometimes, when are Internet Connetcion is down, certain sites I visit often, like forinstance, blogs, will not be reachable, as some require a strong Internet Connection tobe used/visited.’ - answer 199As for technology issues which prevent access to blogging services at school a number ofresponses were made which illustrate some crucial points.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools42The following respondents illustrate two common issues of a lack of hardware resources andavailable resources such as the Internet connection not being sufficiently capable to supportpupil activities. These are critical issues which schools need to get right in order to supportquality blogging activities.‘I do History Club on Wednesday lunchtimes, and sometimes there are insufficientlaptops, or laptops that do not work, to go around the class.’ - answer 24‘sometimes there is lack of numbers for computers so not everyone has a computer sothey cant blog’ - answer 65‘because the internet was too slow’ - answer 31‘No wireless internet access at a decent speed.’ - answer 225The following are some of the responses focusing on the issue of blocking websites in schools.This issue is both simple from the point of view of preventing access to undesirable content butalso complex in that false positive blocking takes place both intentionally and unintentionally.Certainly these responses from the pupils indicate that for them school blocking procedures area hindrance to what they see as legitimate activity online.‘because they have blocked most of the games and websites encluding facebook andemail’ - answer 32‘because they have blocked lots of websites’ - answer 34‘because most of the blogging sites have been filtered such as Facebook,Twitter andmore. ‘ - answer 35‘because theres not computers in every class and were not alould to use are phones insome classes unless asked to.’ - answer 46
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools43‘because i was doing a blog about a game, and suddenly the game subject was filtered, iwas not able to do that subject anymore.’ - answer 52‘Pages we blog on are usually filtered, unless they are pages the teacher hasrecommended them or we are using them. - answer 206’Answer 46 above and answer 118 below also indicate a further issue with technology access inschools which is the banning of mobile phones either in the whole school or in classrooms. Thisagain is a highly complex issue which demonstrates how one opinion ‘mobile phones should bebanned in school’ can affect the opinions of pupils and some educators who may believeotherwise that mobile phones should be allowed in schools.‘we are not allowed to use phones’ - answer 118When it comes to understanding the use of mobile phones within classrooms there are multipleareas of potential usage from using them as an aide-memoire in class to accessing educationalapps. Mobile phones can also be used as simple blogging tools through the use of a range ofdedicated applications available through most online app stores for modern smartphones. Aquick look at iTunes app store shows a number of apps such as Posterous, Wordpress, Tumblrand Path which are all dedicated blogging apps as well as apps for services such as Twitter andFacebook. Continuing to block the usage of mobile phones can will therefore ensure that pupilsare unable to use a further avenue of blogging in class.For the next question ‘If you are using blogging in class how has it helped you?’ themajority of the answers received showed fairly similar levels of response. Three answers wereslightly more in-depth and therefore merit discussion. 56% said that blogging helps them
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools44remember facts and information, 39% said it helps them think about what they have done and33% said it helps them get better feedback from their teacher.These three responses show that for those pupils who are using blogging the activity largelyhelps them with memory retention of what they have been learning in class. My own pupilsoften use their blogging accounts to recap what they have learnt about in their lessons.Although I did not explore the nature and use of multi-modal texts as part of answering thisquestion, as it would have taken an extensive series of questions, I am confident that the usageof different modes of communication in blogging remains secondary to the key learning benefitsdescribed by the pupils.The pupils who said that blogging helps them think about what they have done have indicatedthat reflection on what they have learnt about is an important aspect of blogging, as opposed tosimple remembering. Feedback from a teacher will obviously also assist with reflection throughteacher input on what a pupil has written about.The remaining answers on improving confidence, writing skills etc. show that although the levelof response was not as high, sufficient replies were given. This demonstrates that pupils do seeblogging as having a range of benefits beyond simple assistance with recall and reflection.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools45To complete the survey I asked four open questions related to blogging. Many of the responsesconfirmed or repeated previous issues, although there were some further relevant points madeand these are analysed below.How can blogging in class be improved?Some respondents repeated concerns about lack of web sites related to blogging due toblocking in a school context. This respondent saw it from a slightly different point of view.‘Use newer technology of blogging (facebook).’ - answer 2Whereas other pupils were seeing the lack of access to these sites as simply being blockedfrom something they use this pupil defines Facebook for themself as a new form of blogging.Although anecdotal, this perhaps reinforces the issue that some pupils at least correctly viewmodern social networks as an acceptable alternative form of blogging.This does also again feed into the argument regarding the appropriateness of social networks inschool and leaves teachers and schools with the responsibility to decide the best path forwardfor their pupils.The next two points pick up on a further issue to do with blogging in the classroom.‘More time for blogging’ - answer 4‘More organised’ - answer 5
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools46These two respondents indicate that for them they lack the time to blog in class and also thatblogging in class should follow a more organised approach. On time issues the respondentseems to indicate that for them blogging is a very restricted activity in class and that it should bemore free in terms of time. This could support the usage of blogging not as a stand-aloneactivity but as an activity which supports other learning activities in class.The second respondent mentioned an issue to do with the organisation of blogging. With myown classes I have used both set activities for blogging and allowing free time to blog. On abasic observational level I have seen that only a small sub-set of pupils blog freely and activelywhen given unstructured time to blog. More consistent blogging came through organisedactivities although a few pupils indicated less enjoyment with structured blogging.A counter-point to this argument of more organisation with regard to blogging came from thisrespondent:‘By presenting it as more of an option - or some kind of motivational reason - moststudents see it as more writing or awkward and boring to do.’ - answer 88Whereas structured blogging activities may yield advantages for those pupils who require amore organised approach other pupils may still benefit from a looser approach to blogging inclass. A mixed approach would therefore seem sensible.The next respondents state:‘have the teacher blog back’ - answer 7‘have the teacher comment on our blogs’ - answer 8
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools47This I think is a crucial example of how blogging can be made effective in a school environmentthrough encouraging the teacher to blog as well. Blogging is about communication andcollaboration and encouraging teacher contributions will ensure that communication andcollaboration takes place not just between pupils but also between pupil and teacher.This emphasis on collaboration as a requirement for effective blogging was also picked up on bythe following respondent.‘i think everyone should at least write one comment so all thoughts and views areaccounted’ - answer 13In the survey I had also asked how many pupils comment on other peoples blogs and 47% saidyes versus 42% who said no. This shows that there is room to encourage pupils to comment onother blogs. In the question on whether receiving comments on blogs has helped or not 43%said it had helped.Continuing with the issue of communication the following respondent wants to encourage pupilsto express their own opinion more in blogging. This I feel is necessary as part of establishingeffective communication online.‘Pupils could talk about themselves more, and be more confident in submitting their ownopinion.’ - answer 24The next respondent takes the idea of blogging as communication further by suggesting:
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools48‘We could blog on other pupils work to help them and give your opinion’ - answer 65Although this could be easily achieved through the comments section on a fellow pupil’s websitethis suggested methodology, although not very workable in class, is a good example of usingblogging as an evaluation and reflection tool in class. Encouraging commentary and feedbackthrough whatever mechanism is available should be encouraged in class.How can blogging at home be improved?As well as improving blogging at school respondents were asked about improving blogging athome. Some respondents focused on an issue was has been described before of inadequatehardware resources and internet connections which hamper blogging at home.Although illustrating the point of e-safety again, this respondent is worthwhile highlighting:‘Parents could be more relaxed in knowing that domestic blogging is not dangerouswhen used correctly.’ - answer 24The respondent identifies an anecdotal example of parents who do not trust ‘blogging’ activitiesonline. Whether their lack of trust is limited to blogging or simply social networking sites ingeneral is hard to tell; however, it does identify potential generational issues highlighted as wellby the 26% who felt that family, including parents, had prevented them from blogging orexpressed unhappiness with blogging in question 20.Respondent 79 has a completely different take on parental involvement in blogging when askedhow it could be improved:
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools49‘it is sent to a sensor e.g. parent so things uploaded can be monitored’ - answer 79This is an unusual response as it seems to be incompatible with a number of other commentsabout opening up restrictions on technology. The pupil concerned who wrote this was in year10 but gave their age as 5. It indicates that parental consideration and support remains a factorfor some pupils when blogging at home. Whether that parental consideration remains positiveor not is difficult to tell. The respondent’s answer also indicates that the censor could besomeone else and that a parent is merely an example. One could consider therefore that forthis pupil they are simply looking for a trusted ‘guide’ when using blogging services and that aparent is therefore the best option.This issue of privacy comes up again with the following respondents:‘More privacy to who the blog is viewed by.’ - answer 84‘blogging should show you all the possible viewers of you information ad blog.’ - answer99Privacy remains a key concern for many pupils when interacting online and this is also aconsideration teachers must acknowledge.Lastly the following respondent’s answer shows that for them home blogging could be improvedsimply by improving confidence. The question remains though about whether home bloggingwould be the tool that raises confidence?‘People actually being bothered to blog - if thier confidence was raised.’ - answer 88
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools50Do you think blogging can improve confidence in class?A number of responses for this were fairly simple either ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘not sure responseshowever like the previous two questions I will be looking for the qualitative answers.The following respondent begins with a simple benefit of using online blogging as part of a classsituation. They indicate that it offers the opportunity for pupils to be able to express their ideaswithout having to respond verbally. In a class context I think this could be an issue for teachersas they would need to be sensitive to how to incorporate non-verbal blog-based contributionsinto the class situation.‘yes as you dont have to express your ideas verbally ‘ - answer 3The following respondent indicates a potential positive in allowing ‘private’ communication withteachers. This obviously brings up a safety and child-protection issue with pupils contactingteachers in private, though I understand the reasoning in suggesting that pupils may be able tobenefit from having a more secure method of communicating with a teacher about work.Considering the large amount of comments worrying about what other people think about whatthey say this respondent makes sense, ignoring the safety issues.‘Yes because it allows students to comment to teachers in private’ - answer 6The following respondents pick up on the issue of pupils using communications platforms whichthey are familiar with as being a reason for them feeling more comfortable with what they arecommunicating. This shows that some pupils may be more interested in using systems which,as they are more familiar with them, could give them more confidence online.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools51‘yes because you are talking the way you are most comfortable and more people arelikely to understand what you are talking’ - answer 17‘yes it can because i do not fell confindence in class showing the class my work.’ -answer 30Although the following respondents don’t reference confidence in their answer they doacknowledge that blogging could help with communication skills which in itself can boostconfidence. This respondent also acknowledges that blogging could help with ICT skills as welland this certainly is possible, as blogging requires not just simple writing skills but also imageand video editing, basic website management, advertising online and even programming skillsdependent on the blogging platform.‘Yes, it helps with communication skills, and ICT skills.’ - answer 24‘yes because you could slowly begin to talk more about the work in class and give outyour opinion which can sometimes help alot’ - answer 65Finally these respondents look at the issue of commenting on blogs. The first respondent veryaccurately portrays the two sides of the argument regarding commenting on blogs, byacknowledging both their positives and negatives. Commenting can produce excellent debatesand friendships but can produce negative feedback through bullying. The second respondentseems to understand that people can often ‘hide’ behind a screen, which produces negativecomments.‘Yes, but with different pupils looking at the blog, depending on the comments or theexpectations of the blogger this could increase or decrease confidence
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools52e.g. - no comments could mean your boring or many means you interesting- bad/hurtful comments or arguements via clashes of opinions.- or could start debates and create friendships on mutual hobbies/interests’ - answer 88‘no its on a computer so is hiding behind a screen’ - answer 115Do you think blogging could improve confidence online?The following respondents identify a key benefit of online communication in the ability tocommunicate with others who have different opinions to themselves. These people recognisethe positive benefits of this in improving confidence through the exchange of opinion. Most ofthe following responses seem to focus on the nature of online ‘comments’ received in responseto work.‘yes because people you dont know could have many different views to those aroundyou’ - answer 13‘yes because nobody knows who you are so they can nottake the mick out of things yousay’ - answer 22The following respondents instead see this exchange of opinions online as a potentiallynegative experience. The rationale for this comes through ‘not knowing’ who is responding towhat they write online and their responses being negative.‘no, as you dont know what people are reading what youre righting and may makingcomments that are not very nice’ - answer 17
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools53‘Yes, but again there is the chance of decreaseing confidence - similar reasons toblogging in school, except there can be worse comments and there is a bigger range ofpeople and their opinions on the internete.g. generation gaps/ differences.’ - answer 88This disparity between how pupils see the potential ‘benefit’ or ‘disadvantage’ to themselves ofonline communication is an important issue related to online blogging and is an issue whichteachers need to be aware of.Teachers who are therefore working with blogging in class should be mindful of this disparity.The attitude they should develop could be based on the following respondent’s approach.‘It depends on the feedback given.’ answer 24The previous respondents who either seemed not bothered by what people had to say (answers13 and 22) and the respondents who seem extremely bothered by the potential negativecomments others could leave seem to be on the extreme end of understanding how to deal withcomments received online in that their negative or positive outlook is decided on before anycomments or response are received from other users online. Answer 24 suggests a bettermethod of dealing with online comments or feedback by getting the pupil to assess the nature ofthe feedback and then presumably respond accordingly.The following respondent makes the point that blogging will lead to pupils expressing theiropinions and interests. I see this as a possible recognition that the activity of blogging will leadto pupils being challenged to open up about what they think. This therefore may be seen as asimple acknowledgement of a benefit of blogging.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools54‘Yes because the blogging make the students express their opinions and interests’ -answer 37ConclusionI would like to use aspects of Ramage’s (2010) criteria as part of the conclusion on blogging inschools. The criteria I have chosen to use are as follows:Effectiveness: In order to understand the effectiveness of blogging within a school context Ican point to my use of Twitter to solicit assistance from other teachers. In a relatively shortspace of time I was able to gather well over 200 responses to the survey from a wide range ofschools. I had also written a supporting blog on my own site to explain what I was doing.Ramage references the use of mobile devices as a means of commenting on blogs and, as hasbeen seen in the results, pupils have commented on the ban of mobile phones in the classroom.This indicates that to increase the effectiveness of collaborative communication phones shouldbe allowed in school.Usability: Although I did not investigate the ease of use of certain services, some pupils didcomment on feeling comfortable using blogging as they are familiar with the activity. Looking atthe high usage of services such as Facebook and Twitter, this would indicate that pupils arefamiliar with those services and are therefore comfortable using those services.Standards: Pupils indicated a good use of a range of services online which they used forblogging. Although interconnection between them for the purpose of cross posting information
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools55or using information from one service in another can range from good to patchy pupils can usesome services which are interconnected. As was indicated fairly frequently in the surveyresults, however, services such as Facebook are banned in school and in some cases at home.In terms of allowing ‘standards’ related to blogging, where pupils are able to freely applyeffective blogging and writing skills across a range of services, to proliferate in schools thisblocking of services may be counterproductive.Individual effects: The survey results showed a range of individual effects of blogging fromaccepting and using it to being wary of it and rejecting it. Institutional attitude towards bloggingthrough blocking services has an impact on the individual effect of blogging and shows thatpupil’s approach to blogging can be adversely affected. The inclusion of some negative opinionregarding blogging, which does not seem to be influenced by institutional attitudes, shows thatteachers cannot assume that all pupils will ‘accept’ blogging when introduced into class. This isan interesting conclusion as it contradicts a stereotype of the ‘digital millennial’ (Phung A. 2012)who is naturally keen on using technology in class. Some pupils also did not seem to be awarethat social networking is a form of blogging.A definite benefit which was seen through some of the results was that pupils do generally feelmore confident when discussing something online through a blog. It remains to be seenwhether that confidence can be brought through into face-to-face classroom interactions. Thiscould be seen as part of teachers encouraging pupils to see blogging as an activity which theycan be in charge of rather than relying on structured teacher led activities to encourage use.Group Effects: In assessing commenting on blogs I saw that pupils were gaining positivefeedback from comments on their own blogs. This does indicate that blogs can positively effecta group through the use of commenting. Although only 25% of pupils indicated that blogging
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools56helped in collaborating with other pupils, I regard this as reasonably significant value, whichreinforces the notion of positive group effects. Some pupils were interested in being able tointeract with their teacher through their blog and this could create an issue with e-safety. Thislevel of communication seems a vital aspect of the blogging experience which some pupils wantto tap into as well.Organisational effects: Through the blocking of services such as Facebook it is easy to seethat for some schools at an organisational level blogging in the guise of social networking is notseen as having a positive effect. What was also noted by pupils quite frequently whendiscussing technological barriers in school was the lack of functional equipment in school forblogging. This shows that potentially the positive organizational (as well as group andindividual) effects of blogging are being mediated by a lack of functioning technology. Thismediation of the positive effects of blogging is something which may be difficult for schoolmanagement to see as without the technology working properly to the level of pupil expectationsthey will be unable to see the positive benefit.Societal effects: Many pupils mentioned in the survey results the ability to exchange opinionand thoughts with other people online as being a positive thing and some pupils (althoughseemingly more in the minority) saw it as a negative thing due to concerns regarding privacyand safety. Whether it is a negative or a positive effect for pupils when exchanging commentsonline it is easy to see that blogging does have a societal effect. Conversely, society itself mayalso affect how pupils blog due to perceived reactions by other people online to what they haveto say.To conclude the use of Ramage’s criteria for evaluating blogging as an effective collaborationand communication tool, I feel that blogging remains a positive use of technology as the basis
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools57for collaborative communication. It has broad positive effects on all levels from individual tosocietal but there remain key issues which hamper its use in the class.In addition to exploring the above criteria for assessing blogging I will use my original questionsto reflect on what has been learnt from the research on blogging.1. How do institutional attitudes to blogging shape the experience of using bloggingin the class?As has been noted a number of times in the analysis of the survey results, a key issue whichcomes through related to blogging in class is that both blocking of certain websites andtechnology such as mobile phones by schools hampers it. This does not fully prevent bloggingfrom taking place as has been shown by the wide use of services which do support blogging.Mobile phone bans also do not fully prevent blogging from taking place, as pupils can still usenormal desktop computers to blog. This does mean that mobile blogging where pupils can blogoutside of a fixed classroom can be limited due to lack of access to technology like tablets orphones.2. How do teacher attitudes to blogging shape the experience of using blogging inthe class?What was less apparent from the survey results were the direct attitudes of the teachers toblogging in the class. However from the high proportion of respondents who indicated throughthe subjects they blog in, the services they use and their good understanding of the usefulnessof blogging in the classroom it is easy to see that the teachers who they are directly involved
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools58with in the classroom are very keen on blogging. Where teacher’s attitudes are negative, ittends to relate to the blocking of either social networks and/or technology such as phones.3. How do pupil attitudes to blogging shape the experience of using blogging in theclass?Pupil’s attitudes towards blogging seem largely shaped by their standing amongst peers. Somewere very open to the idea of blogging and did not have any concerns about what others mightthink about what they were saying online. A number of pupils also expressed concern about theramifications of posting online due to a variety of reasons:• Privacy• Worrying about what other people might say in response to what they post online• Lack of confidenceThese issues expressed by pupils reinforce the idea that despite the widespread use of digitaltechnology today many pupils do maintain valid concerns about what they are doing online.This does mean that bringing blogging into the classroom is not necessarily going to be met withuniversal approval from a class and that teachers should continue to teach Internet safetyseriously regardless of pupil’s understanding and usage.4. How do parental attitudes to blogging shape the experience of using bloggingboth in the class and at home?The impact of parental and family attitudes towards blogging was less evident from the surveyresults although the key question of who has prevented or expressed unhappiness with
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools59blogging showed that 26% of respondents felt that parents or family had expressedunhappiness with blogging.Making a link between that value and the reasons behind parents expressing unhappiness isdifficult although the reasonably frequent occurrence of comments on issues to do with privacyor e-safety by pupils in a range of survey answers does indicate possible reasons. As a teacherI frequently encounter concerns by parents about privacy online and e-safety involving theirchildren and this from personal and professional experience does seem to be a strong motivatorfor parental concern regarding their children blogging.5. Does having increased or reduced access to technology improve blogging usageand experience?This question was explored through questions in the survey on technology access at home andat school impeding blogging progress. For both contexts technology remains a big issue forpupils for different reasons whether it is lack of access to computers at school or decent Internetconnections at school or at home. The major issue with regard to technology restrictionsremains blocking of websites related to blogging at school. This was a frequent complaint frompupils and is an issue which hampers the uptake of blogging. One can understand that issuesof e-safety and privacy remain but that if one can find a way to extend access to certainwebsites at school the benefits may become more apparent so long as teachers can maximizetheir educational opportunities. Solving technology problems at home and school completelywill never be wholly possible however it remains an issue which needs to be dealt with.Finally on a more personal note I feel that teachers will need to be taught how to integrateblogging into lesson plans so that the next generation will have mediated access to computer-
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools60based communication alongside face-to-face communication as a vital part of negotiatingsocietal context and developing skills and innovation for the future. I believe strongly that it isno longer sufficient to simply hope that teachers discover blogging and begin using itorganically. Instead blogging should be required as a standard aspect of educational practice inthe classroom. Developing ideas for the use of blogging within classrooms is already anorganic approach amongst many teachers and this should continue to be encouraged asblogging is embedded on a wider basis.Recommendations for future blogging approach in classroom and athomeAs part of the conclusion I would also like to make recommendations regarding dealing withissues related to blogging in class and how policies could be shaped to minimize disruption athome and at school to do with blogging.• To increase the usage of blogging in schools staff should consider how pupils could usesome blogging services or related technology which they are already familiar with. Thisfamiliarity could increase usability.• Do not assume that all pupils will automatically accept blogging as something for class.Pupils may not necessarily see it as vital for their own educational progress andtherefore may not choose to accept it.• Get parents involved as quickly as possibly with regard to blogging through introductoryevents, explanations about technology being used and guides to safety and privacyonline. Encourage pupils to share their work online with their parents where possibleand get them to contribute through comments on their children’s work.
Brian Sharland – An Examination of Blogging in Schools61• Technology access including malfunctioning technology will obviously always remain anissue. As well as keeping on top of access issues, teachers should always buildactivities surrounding blogging to take into account potential lack of technology at homethrough ensuring good access at school.• Encourage pupils to see commenting on other pupil’s blogs as a positive aspect of theirclassroom practice so long as initially it is done in a classroom context only, beforedeveloping skills and confidence to handle commenting from the wider Internet.• Pupils do value the contribution which teachers can bring to online discussion throughblogs. Schools and teachers should be able to find a way to make this work whilstremaining within appropriate e-safety boundaries.• Teachers should vary their approach to blogging in class. Include both structured andun-structured blogging activities. Blogging should also be used not just as an activitywhich is used on its own but is used as part of other learning activities e.g. blogging ascience experiment.Online LinksSurvey Data Results on Google Docs - https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Avu-HXaqPj0idFY4SlFXOVJySjlNU1E0YzZObEtmalESurvey Form -https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dFY4SlFXOVJySjlNU1E0YzZObEtmalE6MQ#gid=0Bibliography
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