Learn. Design. Coach. Perform.

Learn. Design. Coach. Perform.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blogs for Learning

Wondering how to connect with your learning audience through blogs?  Many of the principles of good news, marketing, or customer service blogs can apply to your blog.  Although good journalistic writing is a plus, that alone isn't going to make you a trusted blog superstar. 

You have to work on your writing skills as well as create community and trust.   Trust  and credibility aren't  just about credentials.  It is also about your personality.  Think of it this way: Professors Snape and McGonagall in Harry Potter both have excellent credentials.  If they each had a blog, which would be more credible?  To pump up your credibility, be very responsive and use video or audio to help establish a good relationship with your audience.  Make sure you use positive body language and tone in your multimedia. 

This how to article gives some very good advice that will also lead to good credibility:

1. Be authentic

2. Be transparent

3. Get inside your readers’ minds

4. Solicit feedback

5. Don’t be offensive or take big public risks

Click here to check out Buzz about the above blog post.  If you think that blogs are not great learning tools, check this out: the blog serves as a thought prompt, and the community members are sharing their own experience and perspectives with each other in response to the blog.  In a learning environment, you may want to require and assess comments for relevance and quality.  "Hey.  Nice tips!" isn't going help anyone learn very much.

The conversation after this blog is an example of exploration or informal learning.  Following up with a formal activity for learners like creating guidelines for a good blog and assessing three very different blogs can be a great way of teaching the new media literacy skill of judgment and modeling good blogging.

I've used blogs for teaching good research practices in art history.  Blogs have feeds, and I can send all the feeds to one tab in my Google Reader -- which is nice for me.  Peer support teams can subscribe to feeds where ever they like -- which is nice for them.

Blogs as an open or closed journaling tool allow students to ask meaningful questions of their peers or for the instructor to offer resources the student may want to consider.  Students can blog from their email, phones, or on the blog web site, which is very flexible.  They can text notes from the library or copy links into a new post.  Make sure to answer the "what's in it for me?" question.  You'll need to include links to possible blog tools and instructions for sharing their feed with you and their peers.

I've included a bit of text from one of my assignments that uses blogs to help students learn good research habits and think about one issue over time (instead of the night before the paper is due).

Research Blog and Literature Review

Collect information about possible sources for your midterm research paper and write a literature review summarizing at least ten citations from the current literature.  
Your blog for this course is a research journal and collaboration tool that helps you:
1) manage your research data and time,
2) receive feedback and suggestions from your instructor and peers, and
3) practice using your new knowledge and vocabulary each week through writing about a subject you choose.

What's a blog?  Check out this video: 

1) Blog your research activities during Weeks 2-6 of the semester with at least two entries and three resource citations per week.

2) In each entry, include a brief summary of the quality, content, and value of resources.  Include careful citations according to the Chicago Manual of Style for the Humanities. 
3) Use your topics and vocabulary for each week to discuss your research topic in one brief paragraph.

4) Compose a Literature Review (summary) of at least ten of the top sources that you intend to use for the Midterm Research Paper.

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