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1. Blogs in Teaching


user_48.png1.1 Lecturers

  • Reflective teaching practice for personal and professional development allowing for an ongoing diary that includes written text, images and video. This is something that can remain personal or it might be shared with peers in a spirit of collaborative learning.
  • Knowledge sharing with peers about innovative teaching practices, new sources of information, research developments etc.
  • Collaborative working with peers through building up a body of knowledge and reflecting on that knowledge.
  • Course announcements and readings giving students the ability to comment on the announcements and the readings.
  • Annotated links for students giving students the ability to provide their own comments and to add to the provided links.
  • Course FAQ site giving students the ability to add their own comments on e.g. whether the answers to the FAQs were helpful together with their own answers to FAQs.

user_48.png1.2 Students

  • Academic reflective journal to develop meta-cognitive skills i.e. students reflecting on their own learning processes. Are they surface learners or deep learners? Which learning styles work particularly well? What is working well for them in the course and what is not working so well? The ability of lecturers to comment on the students' entries will facilitate this process.
  • Reflective course journal keeping a record of their academic progress. This might include objective criteria such as grades and tutor feedback together with students' reflections concerning their mastery and application of a body of knowledge.
  • Personal reflective journal with a focus not so much on the course and its content but on their experience with the course and with their learning. Are they enjoying the course? If not, why not?
  • Assignment submission and review through the lecturer setting an assignment task and asking students to write the assignment using a blog. The tutor can then comment on the work.
  • Dialogue space for group work so that students can engage in collaborative learning at a time and place of their own choosing.
  • Electronic portfolio of course work with provision for reflection through comments by the students themselves and, if allowed, by other students.
  • Social space for distance education students to get to know one another, to reflect on their learning and to talk about their real lives!

2. Example Blog


The blog below is written by Bertalan Meskó, MD (click on an entry title to go to the blog). Bertalan graduated from the University of Debrecen, Medical School and Health Science Center in 2009 and started a PhD in the field of personalized genomics. He is a medical blogger, a manager of medical projects in Wikipedia and an organizer of scientific events in Second Life. He launched the first university credit course in the world that focuses on web 2.0 and medicine for medical students. A blog of this sort might be used in teaching. The lecturer - in any subject - could maintain a blog on the theme of current practice in their field and ask students to conduct further research on one (ore more) of the blog entries. Students could then post their research to their own blogs for lecturers to mark. Blog posting would allow students to inform and be informed by the perspectives of other students. A basic learning sequence use of a blog might look like this:

Intended Learning Outcome
Learning Activity
Assessment
Students will be able to comment critically on a contemporary issue in teaching and learning with technologies.
At the end of week four of the semester students will choose one of the lecturer's blog posts on a current issue in teaching and learning with technologies. Students will be asked to draw on the knowledge that they have gained during the first four weeks of the course in order to critically comment on the content of the blog posting. Students will also be asked to engage in further research.
Students will be assessed on the quality of their final blog posting. Quality will be judged using the associated marking rubric.


The Medical Futurist
  • Six Challenges To Tackle Before Artificial Intelligence Redesigns Healthcare by berci.mesko@gmail.com (Bertalan Meskó) Today 12:00 am
    The potential of artificial intelligence for making healthcare better is indisputable. The question is how to integrate it successfully into our healthcare systems. For doing so, we have to overcome... Visit my blog to read the whole article and o...
  • News From 2037: Women Fired As Her Wearable Indicated Pregnancy Won Court Battle Against Her Employer by berci.mesko@gmail.com (Bertalan Meskó) Monday
    A short story about wearable sensors, predictive algorithms and their potential ethical consequences. 35-year-old Susanne Wolfort won a historic court battle against Japanese Shinsai Motors... Visit my blog to read the whole article and other...
  • Fitbit Ionic Review: Bromance with the Pebble Smartwatch by berci.mesko@gmail.com (Bertalan Meskó) Nov 16, 2017
    I’ve used the whole evolution of Fitbit devices from Fitbit One through Surge and Blaze, so it was obvious I’ll test Ionic. I was curious what the first smartwatch and fitness tracker combination... Visit my blog to read the whole arti...
  • Digital Health Supports The Fight Against Opioids by berci.mesko@gmail.com (Bertalan Meskó) Nov 14, 2017
    The widespread U.S. opioid & overdose crisis is an ever-increasing tragic concern for everyone: writhing victims, family members being fain to see their relatives suffer or die, doctors prescribing opioid pain-killers what they thought be...
  • Canada Brings Automation to Healthcare: An Example For Governments to Follow by berci.mesko@gmail.com (Bertalan Meskó) Nov 9, 2017
    The Canadian government recognized the current challenges in their healthcare system alongside the rapid technological developments and their potential for changing medicine for good. Thus, a Senate Committee invited researchers, ethicists, entrep...
  • The Top 8 Swimming Trackers by berci.mesko@gmail.com (Bertalan Meskó) Nov 7, 2017
    We test and review a whole range of health sensors and trackers but we haven’t touched upon swimming yet. The reason is simple: I’m not a Michael Phelps so to say. When it comes to swimming, it’s not... Visit my blog to read the ...
  • The Top 8 Technologies Combating Food Allergy by berci.mesko@gmail.com (Bertalan Meskó) Nov 2, 2017
    Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room in the US. Not only the number of people suffering from food allergies but also the complexity and severity of... Visit my blog to read the whole article and other ne...
  • Technologies Change Health Insurance: The Most Innovative Ventures by berci.mesko@gmail.com (Bertalan Meskó) Oct 31, 2017
    The accumulation of medical data enables health insurance companies to move from the 100-year-old concept of reactive care to preventive medicine. The future points to simple, fast and highly... Visit my blog to read the whole article and other ne...
  • The Future of Vision and Eye Care by berci.mesko@gmail.com (Bertalan Meskó) Oct 26, 2017
    3D printed digital contact lenses, bionic eye implants, augmented reality: the future of vision and eye care is full of science fiction-sounding innovations. Here is where digital health will take... Visit my blog to read the whole artic...
  • Do Digital Health Sensors Limit Our Freedom of Choice? by berci.mesko@gmail.com (Bertalan Meskó) Oct 24, 2017
    How do you live healthier with data? How do you get used to sensors and wearables? I receive plenty of questions after my keynotes about digital health; how it changes my life and how it could... Visit my blog to read the whole article and other n...


paper_content_pencil_48.png3. Research Articles

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image_warning_48.pngEllison, N., & Wu, Y. (2008). Blogging in the Classroom: A Preliminary Exploration of Student Attitudes and Impact on Comprehension. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 17(1), 99-122.
Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/24310

The discussion of student use of technologies should be approached with a critical eye but overall this is a useful article. The authors acknowledge the importance of using technologies in a pedagogically sound way and provides a useful summary of the difficulties of measuring the impact of a teaching innovation that uses a technology. They provide a succinct explanation of blogs and blogging and there is also a useful section clarifying the difference between discussion boards and blogs (the former are structured by discussion thread whereas the latter are organized by author). The potential pedagogical value of blogs is clearly explained with reference to teaching and learning activities (pp105-106).

College students (n=52) completed a series of writing assignments, submitted either as traditional, hard copy papers or as blog entries (submitted online and reviewed by peers), and then completed a survey instrument probing comprehension of material and perceptions. The study presents quantitative and qualitative data to explore (1) whether educational blogging is associated with gains in student comprehension, (2) the relationship between writing medium (online or hard copy) and student time on task, and (3) student perceptions of blogging in the classroom. Analysis revealed no significant differences in comprehension between blog and paper assignments, although students reported spending less time writing in the blogging condition.

Qualitative data from open ended questions (pp.113-115) revealed a need for more guidance regarding the process of reviewing and critiquing the work of peers. Although specific comprehension gains as measured by exam items was not associated with the blogging medium, student comments suggest that blogging was associated with other specific instructional gains, such as exposure to more diverse viewpoints and increased commitment to writing and thinking. The section on implications for teaching (pp.118-119) will be useful for those thinking about using blogs in their teaching for the first time. For example, the authors point to the need to guide students to an understanding that blogging in an academic environment is formal activity.

image_add_48.png Farley, A., Jain, A., Thomson, D., & Mulready, P. (2008). Engagement and Learning Through Social Software in Finance: The Trading Room Experience. Paper presented at the ascilite Melbourne 2008 Conference, Melbourne, Australia.
Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/melbourne08/procs/farley.pdf

This paper introduces and reports on the preliminary outcomes of a pilot study on the introduction of social software in a large-cohort 3rd year undergraduate Finance unit within the Bachelor of Commerce at Deakin University. Educators created on online trading environment called the "Trading Room". The Trading Room was designed to complement classroom based learning with an understanding of finance theory and its relations to current practice. It was complementary to the Blackboard Learning Management System by linking students studying this unit in a less formal environment. In this paper the less formal nature of blogging is seen as providing an arena for exploring ideas before producing more formal work. This is one way to address the issue identified in Elison's paper (above) about managing standards in blogging.

The Trading Room assessment task required students to adopt the role of the finance professional and critically reflect upon emergent international finance issues and case studies introduced by the avatar, Alfie D. To ensure optimal participation and learning outcomes, it was decided to integrate blogging into the subject as an assessment exercise. For 15% of their final assessment grade, students were asked to maintain a blog throughout the 13 week semester. A stipulation set for the exercise was that students were told to post regularly – with a minimum of fortnightly blog contributions required by students – there was no restriction on the number of posts made. Apart from posting to their own personal blog, the main assessment task consisted of a 400 word blog worth 10% to be completed in Week 5. 32% participants indicated that they would have participated even if the activity had not been assessed. That still leaves us with 70% who, presumably, would not have participated if the activity had not been assessed.

The authors make the important point that student interaction and activity - whether online or face-to-face - does not necessarily equate to learning. With this in mind, their survey instrument asked the question, "“How important has your participation in the blog sphere been in helping you with your learning?” 67% of students responding positively to the question. It seems, therefore, that students perceived the blogging activity to be valuable for their learning. Further detail is provided concerning how exactly the blogging exercises helped with learning. For example, students found the blogging exercise most helpful in reaffirming theories that they were learning. The theme of engagement and receiving feedback is found in this paper with students valuing both of these aspects of the blogging activities.

image_add_48.pngFarmer, B., Yue, A. & Brooks, C. (2008) Using Blogging for Higher Order Learning in Large Cohort University Teaching: A Case Study, Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 24(2), 123-136.
Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet24/farmer.pdf

According to the authors of this paper, weblogs, or blogs, have rapidly evolved to become a popular and influential form of online micro-publishing and computer mediated communication with the available literature suggesting that blogging has the potential to be a transformational technology for teaching and learning. In particular, it is claimed that blogging is a useful practice for the development of higher order learning skills, active, learner centred pedagogy, authentic learning, associative thinking, and interactive learning communities. The authors neatly summarize the pedagogical potential of blogs on p.124.

The paper reports on a case study of the development and use of a blogging resource in a large cohort first year arts subject - Cultural Studies - at the University of Melbourne. The teaching challenges are clearly identified in the first instance: content overload, impersonalisation of material, learner passivity and decreased motivation. Blogging was apprehended as a useful extension of and complement to existing ICT learning practices - e.g. multimedia modules - in the subject. Students were told that the objective was to reflect upon and discuss course content and/or issues that arose out of their learning experiences but that, otherwise, they were free to use their blogs in whatever way they wished and could write in a style and manner of their own choosing, as long as it was in English and didn't contain grossly offensive and/or inflammatory content.

We see the common theme of assessing the blogging activity with 30% of the students' final assessment grade being awarded for maintaining a blog throughout the twelve weeks of semester. We also see a theme indicated in other research - Kennedy et al - to do diversity in the student population with respect to prior use of Web 2.0 tools. In this study some students indicated that they had avoided blogs in their private lives and had no wish to use them for education. We also see another common theme - the use of Blogs as a quick and informal tool for discourse.

Researchers asked 24 combination Likert scale responses and open ended response questions to assess the participants’ view of the level of engagement in using the resource and the intellectual process associated with blogging, in the usability of the tool, how the tool might have helped their learning and reflection skills, the workload associated with the blog, as well as questions about how the blog tool helped support group processes. Initial results offer support for the potential of blogging as an enabling learning tool in higher education. Students valued the interactive aspect of the activity - commenting on other blogs and receiving - and found that blogging facilitated learning through helping them to remember and reflect.

image_warning_48.pngGagne, C. & Fels, D. (2007). Learning through Weblogs. In T. Bastiaens & S. Carliner (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2007 (pp. 2518-2526). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/26733

This study looks at students’ perception of the use of weblogs as learning tools. Two Ryerson University courses in Information Technology Management that require student to use weblogs are taken as examples. Course A used blogs as a way of introducing the concept of blogging as an interactive web tool. Students in this course were asked to maintain a weblog with a minimum of one entry per week for the entire duration of the course. They were not restricted on the quantity or quality of the content, or on the type of content that was expected although a grade was assigned for the blog at the end of the course. Students in course B were asked to maintain a weblog for one particular assignment. They were asked to maintain a daily weblog about their gaming experiences over a two week period of playing two different styles of games. Following the two week period, students analyzed their own blog entries according to a specific model of pleasure and game play and submitted their analysis for grading.

Twenty two students from these two courses participated in an online survey concerning their blogging experience. The results of the survey demonstrate that the learning experience using blogs and the impact of blogging were perceived as being neither positive nor negative. For example, there were 10 questions regarding the impact that blogging had on student learning experiences. Sixty-four percent of students (14 out of 22 students) rated their experience as neutral, while seven students (32%) had a somewhat positive or positive experience and only one student reported a somewhat negative experience. Thirteen (59%) of 22 respondents rated the impact of their blog task on learning the course material as neutral while five students (22%) considered the impact as somewhat positive or very positive and two students as very negative. Eleven students selected that they had not learned anything through blogging (11 students) and eleven students said they did.

It is interesting to note that whilst the blogs were not meant to be collaborative tools, the study suggests that implementing more collaborative aspects to individual blogs could also be beneficial to students. Based on the online survey results, it seems that students would have appreciated receiving more comments from instructors and other students. The Ellison and Farley papers (above) point to the value of being exposed to diverse viewpoints in blogging activities.

image_add_48.pngGray, K., Kennedy, G., Waycott, J., Dalgarno, B., Bennett, S., Chang, R., et al. (2009). Educating the Net Generation: A Toolkit of Resources for Educators in Australian Universities.
Retrieved from http://www.netgen.unimelb.edu.au/outcomes/toolkit.html

Gregor Kennedy and colleagues provide an extensive bibliography for the use of Blogs in teaching.

image_add_48.pngHourigan, T., & Murray, L. (2010). Using blogs to help language students to develop reflective learning strategies: Towards a pedagogical framework. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(2), 209-225.
Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet26/hancock.pdf

This is a very clearly written paper which begins with a literature review on blogging as a learning activity. The paper then describes a study of a blog integration process incorporating the activities of one teacher and a class of 45 students which took place from September to January during the 2007/2008 academic year. The students who participated in this study were second year MFL (Modern Foreign Language) students who had enrolled in the Language and Technology module at the authors’ University. The aim of the module was to introduce students to the integration of ICT tools into their personalised learning strategies. Students were required to post to their blog, detailing their various language learning strategies and experiences throughout the course of the semester. Students also had to submit a 1,000 word essay on their reflective experiences in relation to second language acquisition (SLA).

The authors describe the roles that the teacher must fulfill - learner support activities and pedagogical activities - to create a meaningful and effective blog integration context. This analysis gives a good indication of workload in integrating a blogging activity into teaching. The analysis should also help teachers new to blogging to anticipate some of the potential challenges. This paper is recommended if you are thinking of using blogging for the first time and want to understand pedagogical and practical issues that need to be considered.

image_add_48.pngJoint Information Systems Committee. (2009). Effective Practice in a Digital Age: A Guide to Technology-Enhanced Learning and Teaching.
Retrieved from http://www.jisc.ac.uk/publications/documents/effectivepracticedigitalage.aspx

You will find a case study on the use of Blogs in teaching in this publication. In this case study a blogging activity replaces an assessed oral component on courses at the University of Edinburgh Divinity School.

image_add_48.pngKennedy, G., Dalgarno, B., Bennett, S., Gray, K., Waycott, J., Judd, T., et al. (2009). Educating the Net Generation: A Handbook of Resources for Practice and Policy.
Retrieved from http://www.netgen.unimelb.edu.au/outcomes/handBook.html

If you want to look at how blogs have been integrated into teaching and learning activities you might start with two case studies provided by Gregor Kennedy and colleagues in "Educating the Net Generation: A Handbook of Findings for Practice and Policy". The first case study (p.27) describes the use of blogs by pre-service teachers to reflect on the applicability of their classroom management theory to the actual practice of managing a classroom. The second case study (p.30), journalism students use a blog to learn about blogging as a form of journalism. Both of these case studies are evaluated.

image_warning_48.png Stonehouse, P., & Shabb, C. (2010). Blogging in Graduate Education: Cotton Candy or Meat and Potatoes? Paper presented at the Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (SITE) 2010, San Diego, CA.
Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/33598

This qualitative study explored graduate students’ use of blogs to support the achievement of teaching and learning goals. The blogs were found to function in an integrated manner as a forum for students to engage other learners in discipline-specific conversations, cogitate, espouse theory and reflect on professional and academic experience. Study results demonstrate the potential for blog technology to enhance the development of higher order thinking skills. There is a solid literature review and the paper is grounded in an awareness of the need to have clear educational aims when making use of a new technology.

image_add_48.pngTan, S. M., Ladyshewsky, R. K., & Gardner, P. (2010). Using Blogging to Promote Clinical Reasoning and Metacognition in Undergraduate Physiotherapy Fieldwork Programs. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(3), 365-368.
Retrieved fromhttp://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet26/tan.html


This qualitative study investigated the impact of using blogs on the clinical reasoning and meta-cognitive skills of undergraduate physiotherapy students in a fieldwork education program. In this study, final year physiotherapy students were randomly allocated to group blogs to share their reflections on their own and their peers’ clinical practice. Blogging was used to help students reflect and focus on professional and evidence based practice within a supportive peer assisted learning environment. The text within each of the blogs was qualitatively analysed against concepts in the literature describing specific types of clinical reasoning and metacognition. A range of clinical reasoning typologies were found to exist in the blogs. Most notable were ethical, interactive and procedural reasoning along with evidence of metacognition. Blogging was found to be a good strategy for promoting clinical reasoning and metacognition in fieldwork education.

image_add_48.pngWilliams, J. B., & Jacobs, J. (2004). Exploring the Use of Blogs as Learning Spaces in the Higher Education Sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20(2), 232-247.
Retrieved from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/13066/1/13066.pdf

This paper begins by looking at the history of blogging noting - rightly - that blogs have been around since at least 1999. There is also some interesting information on the history of the Wiki which has been around since 1995. The discussion on the personal, idiosyncratic and theatrical nature of blogs helps in understanding the essentially informal nature of this mode of communication and the need to take this into account when considering the use of Blogs in education.

This paper explores the potential of blogs as learning spaces for students in the higher education sector. It refers to what was in 2004 nascent literature on the subject, explores methods for using blogs for educational purposes in university courses (e.g. Harvard Law School), and records the experience of the Brisbane Graduate School of Business (BGSB) at Queensland University of Technology, with its 'MBA blog'. The 'MBA blog' was trialled with students from two course units being encouraged to participate by making contributions based on the subject matter they were studying; viz. macroeconomics and international political economy. Whilst no specific instructions were given to students one way or another, the administrators of the blog fully expected there to be some cross- course unit discussion, and this is precisely what happened. Indeed, very little advice was given to students as to how they should proceed, other than how to log on, and how to use the blog editing facilities. In short, it was decided that the blog ought to be as student centred as possible, with the students themselves determining what shape and form the blog should take. Participation in the blog was optional, but students were advised that five 'meaningful' contributions in the six-week period of the unit would be sufficient to earn them five marks (within the flexible assessment system used in both course units). Ultimately, around one half of enrolled students elected to participate.

Results from the BGSB study show that some two thirds of blog participants either agreeing or strongly agreeing that the MBA blog assisted their learning (only 12% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing). There was stronger endorsement for the view that the MBA Blog increased student interactivity, some 77% of students either agreeing or strongly agreeing that the MBA blog increased the level of meaningful intellectual exchange between students (only 3% or one person disagreeing with this statement). In this study more than two thirds of blog participants would still have taken part had there not been the incentive of marks counting towards their final score. In Farley's paper (see above) 32% participants indicated that they would have participated even if the activity had not been assessed. In contrast to Ellison's findings (see above) the lack of instruction regarding Blog use does not seemed to have caused students difficulties. We might attribute this to the fact that students in this study were mature and highly motivated MBA students and more likely to be self-directed learners.