Using Student Blogs As Reflective Practice


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The progression in the past decade of blogs from personal web journals to a platform for established professionals, corporations and writers has also created opportunities for education. This session looks at the use of blogs with graduate students at NJIT over the past two years as a method for regular student reflection on learning. Using either free services or commercial products, blogs offer the easiest method for students to publish online to a large audience without sophisticated web design skills. This allows them to focus on specific topics and on their knowledge construction. Built-in feedback tools allow teacher-to-student and peer-to-peer commentary. Though blogs can serve as e-portfolios, this project focused on writing concepts, publishing practices, intellectual property and digital design as a learning portfolio. This project will be incorporated into program competencies for students as reflective practitioners in addition to an established e-portfolio program.

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Using Student Blogs As Reflective Practice

  1. 1. Using Student Blogs As Reflective Practice <ul><li>Ken Ronkowitz </li></ul><ul><li>NJIT </li></ul><ul><li>PCCC </li></ul>
  2. 2. This presentation is available online at: Additional information on reflective practices http:// /serendipity
  3. 3. <ul><li>The progression in the past decade of blogs from personal web journals to a platform for established professionals, corporations and writers has also created opportunities for education. </li></ul>The Evolution of Blogs
  4. 4. Quick History <ul><li>Precursors: Usenet, Genie, CompuServe and Bulletin Board Systems and 1990s Internet forums with threaded conversations </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;weblog&quot; 1997 </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;blog&quot; used as noun and verb </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;blogger&quot; was Pyra Labs’ Blogger product (acquired by Google). </li></ul><ul><li>From eMarketer (May 2008) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>94.1 million US blog readers in 2007 (50% of Internet users) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>22.6 million US bloggers in 2007 (12%) </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Blogs Are Typically <ul><li>A web site, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. </li></ul><ul><li>Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>personal “diary” or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>public forum on a topic (politics, hobby, research...) </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Blogs In Education <ul><li>Much discussion & research focuses on them as </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a technology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a “portfolio” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a “web 2.0” way of addressing traditional writing practices </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a way to add discussion (commenting) to writing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>a method to give writers an audience (worldwide) </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. This Presentation <ul><li>looks at my use of blogs with graduate students at NJIT since 2007 as a method for generating regular student reflection on their learning. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Some Uses of Blogs in Education <ul><li>WRITING BLOGS </li></ul><ul><li>ePortfolios </li></ul><ul><li>Group discussion </li></ul><ul><li>Class journals </li></ul><ul><li>Personal journaling </li></ul><ul><li>Instructor blogs, discipline-specific (professional practice) </li></ul><ul><li>Course information </li></ul><ul><li>Links blog for course </li></ul><ul><li>READING BLOGS </li></ul><ul><li>Instructor’s blog(s) </li></ul><ul><li>Shared blog reading list </li></ul><ul><li>Discipline reader (blogs & RSS) </li></ul><ul><li>Student blogs as coursework </li></ul>More at Not all schools have access to the tools  
  9. 9. Blogs Offer Students & Teachers <ul><li>online discussion (time-stamped comments) </li></ul><ul><li>video posting (vlog) </li></ul><ul><li>podcasting platform </li></ul><ul><li>posting via email & cell phone </li></ul><ul><li>free web space for class materials </li></ul><ul><li>minimal web skills required </li></ul><ul><li>A way to address topics in writing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>audience, voice, publishing practices, copyright and plagiarism… </li></ul></ul><ul><li>through authentic writing in a digital medium. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Reflective Practice
  11. 11. Reflective Practice <ul><li>introduced by Donald Schön in his book The Reflective Practitioner (1983) </li></ul><ul><li>a continuous process that involves the learner considering critical incidents in his or her life's experiences. </li></ul><ul><li>involves thoughtfully considering one's own experiences in applying knowledge to practice while being coached by professionals in the discipline.  </li></ul>
  12. 12. Reflective Practice <ul><li>Asks you to reconsider the role of technical knowledge versus &quot;artistry&quot; in developing professional excellence. </li></ul><ul><li>Used most widely in teacher education, health professions and architectural design. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Example: In education, the process of the educator studying his or her own teaching methods. The “art” of teaching vs. the educational psychology textbook. A “meta” activity. </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Portfolios & Reflection <ul><li>Reflection </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A key element of learning - and of portfolios </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Many educators who work with portfolios consider the reflection component the most critical element of a good portfolio. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Students miss significant benefits of the portfolio process if they are not asked to reflect upon the quality and growth of their work. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Making unconscious reflection conscious </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Students Might Be Asked To… <ul><li>comment on why specific samples were selected </li></ul><ul><li>comment on what they liked /did not like in the samples (not always writing) </li></ul><ul><li>identify the processes involved in developing specific products or performances </li></ul><ul><li>describe and point to examples of how specific skills or knowledge improved (or did not) </li></ul><ul><li>identify strengths and weaknesses </li></ul><ul><li>set goals corresponding to the strengths & weaknesses & identify strategies for reaching them </li></ul><ul><li>do self-assessments (task, skill, growth…) </li></ul>
  15. 15. Elements of Design – NJIT – PTC605 <ul><li>required online grad course in a fully-online MS degree in Professional Technical Communication (and a Grad Certificate program) </li></ul><ul><li>provides an understanding of and competency in the visual presentation of information </li></ul><ul><ul><li>design principles, hands-on practice in visual literacy, layout and design, and graphic tools </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>integrates theories of design & composition with the technologies of electronic and print publishing.  </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Elements of Design – NJIT – PTC605 <ul><li>Program already requires an ePortfolio which is developed in a number of the courses including 605 </li></ul><ul><li>Student blog collects reflections on the elements, modules, projects and </li></ul><ul><li>their own work and is also </li></ul><ul><li>a design tool and </li></ul><ul><li>a product itself for core competencies of web & document design, writing & technical expertise </li></ul>
  17. 17. A Quick Look: Sample ePortfolios
  18. 18. Program Core Competencies
  19. 19. Portfolio As Design Project
  20. 20. Portfolio To Demo Expertise
  21. 21. More traditional portfolio usage
  22. 22. Sample Student Blogs
  23. 23. Students are encouraged to post beyond the course requirements, but within their blog’s mission.
  24. 24. The blogs should NOT reference the course itself or sound like “assignments.”
  25. 25. Students have had comments on their posts from the authors/companies/bloggers they have referenced.
  26. 26. <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reflecting after the semester </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evolving design </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Quirkitecture – Roles of the Blogger </li></ul><ul><li> with a green mission </li></ul>
  27. 27. Does the blogging continue after the course ends?
  28. 28. Lessons From Reflection <ul><li>Why are you blogging? (Is it just coursework?) </li></ul><ul><li>Blogs need a “mission statement” that shows the intent of the blog and helps establish </li></ul><ul><li>your audience ? an ideal reader  your emerging audience needs </li></ul><ul><li>Your blog will find an audience but you can also help an audience find you. </li></ul><ul><li>Citation, copyright, IP issues  </li></ul>
  29. 29. Lessons <ul><li>Bloggers need to develop a voice </li></ul><ul><li>Blogging has conventions , formality, informality… </li></ul><ul><li>Bloggers wear many hats (writer, editor, web designer, graphic artist… </li></ul><ul><li>Reading & commenting on other (incl. classmates) blogs aids reflection </li></ul><ul><li>How does design improve the writing? </li></ul>
  30. 30. The Future of Blogging <ul><li>Educators have already missed some opportunities for using blogs…. </li></ul><ul><li>Trends </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tumblelogs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Microblogging (short posts using Twitter) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Moblog (via mobile phones) </li></ul></ul>
  31. 31. Shameless Self-Promotion <ul><li>Save the Date : Tuesday, April 7, 2009 Better Writers, Not Just Better Writing: Online Strategies to Support Writers in All Disciplines </li></ul><ul><li>Location: Metro Writing Studio at the Metropolitan Campus of FDU in Teaneck, NJ (no fee!) </li></ul><ul><li>This hands-on workshop will take participants through the process of planning, developing, designing, and delivering online writing resources to support students across the disciplines. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ellen Spaldo , Director of Writing, Fairleigh Dickinson University; Janet Boyd , Coordinator, Metro Writing Studio, FDU; Kenneth Ronkowitz , Director, Writing Initiative, Passaic County Community College; Elizabeth Nesius , Coordinator of the Writing Center, PCCC </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. Teachers of Writing Should Write and… <ul><li>Teachers who use blogging in class… </li></ul><ul><li>Some of my blogging can be accessed via this aggregator </li></ul><ul><li> is Serendipity35 on learning and technology </li></ul><ul><li> is a companion blog to a poetry website at </li></ul>
  33. 33. Starting Out With Your Students
  34. 34. WRITERS AS READERS Reading & Subscribing to Blogs <ul><li>Using RSS and services that aggregate your subscriptions in one place. </li></ul><ul><ul><li> or Google Reader allow you to pull blogs that you have subscribed to and show you unread entries in one place </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You can browse their directories in different categories and see what is popular. All it takes to add a site is a click. </li></ul></ul>
  35. 35. Blog Hosting Services <ul><li>FREE (from Google) or </li></ul><ul><li>, </li></ul><ul><li> - ad-free WordPress blog incl. free assessment tool from the Chalkface Project and an ad-free wikispace </li></ul><ul><li>Services like offer blogs + social networking features </li></ul><ul><li>Students may be already familiar with sites such as or which offer “blogging” </li></ul><ul><li>Paid services such as </li></ul><ul><li>Does your school offer a blogging platform? (including Moodle and CMS tools) </li></ul>
  36. 36. Blogosphere Conventions To Address <ul><li>Regular posting </li></ul><ul><li>Hyperlinks to additional materials & sources </li></ul><ul><li>References to other blogs via links </li></ul><ul><li>Less formal writing style? </li></ul><ul><li>Allowing/encouraging comments, interaction and sharing of content </li></ul>
  37. 37. Professionals Blogging & Profe $$ ional Blogging <ul><li>Google </li></ul><ul><li>Sun Microsystem's offers blogs to &quot;any Sun employee to write about anything&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Microsoft has several public product blogs </li></ul><ul><li> The Times has many writers also blogging. </li></ul><ul><li>Check at </li></ul>
  38. 38. Ken Ronkowitz Director, Writing Initiative [email_address]