On using blogs as a learning tool

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In Social Media for Trainers, Jane Bozarth suggests using blogs as a common sharing space where people can contribute content in a chronological way. While it may seem less interactive than Twitter or Facebook and does not support the creation of a network of “friends” or “followers”, it nevertheless enables response to content posted as well as knowledge sharing.

The first thing you need to decide if you are going to use a blog for on-line learning is whether their will be one single blog for the course or whether participants will create their own individual blogs. In order for the effort to be successful, the facilitator would have to lead by examples and feed the blog (if there is a common one), or add input to her/her own blog (if using separate ones) on a regular basis to keep it fresh. Since blogging usually involves longer posts (compare to a tweet), this may require some effort. It is also likely to be less attractive to those who are weaker writers or may feel self-conscious about their writing abilities (there will be additional difficulties here in situations where we ask people to write in a second or third language).

Blogs can be used to host a course on line or to support a traditional classroom-based course.

Bozarth says that blogs can be used for course pre-work to:

v  Hold icebreakers
v  Do a skill inventory
v  Post questions in advance, so that the facilitator can prepare to answer them or integrate relevant content in the session

Between sessions, the blog can be used to:

v  Hold general discussions (including about the challenges of applying skills taught in class back in the workplace)
v  Post content summaries
v  Post links to relevant sites, YouTube videos, etc.
v  Do an on-line scavenger hunt
v  Hold a debate
v  Work on a case study
v  Get help from peers
v  Collect learner feedback
v  Carry out summative and formative evaluation
v  Post assignments (and even final projects at the end of the course)

An interesting extension of blogging is the use of wikis. Even more than blogs, wikis can foster collaboration between learners as they can edit the same materials to produce collective assignments. This could be used for group projects, or an all-class record of the course experience. Bozarth devotes a full chapter to this tool as well.

I see some challenges to the use of both blogs and wikis, including the time factor, as mentioned in my “Twitter” blog post. It may also not be appropriate to those training sessions that we offer in the organization as a one-day course (that in itself is a problem, very much “hit-and-run” training…).

I will have to work harder to find an occasion to test the use of blogging as a learning tool. I know writing is a useful tool for me; it helps clarifying and order my ideas and it usually serves to deepen my understanding of a topic. It is the ideal time to ask the all-purpose “So what?” and toy with possible answers.

What have you tried and how did it work for you?

 

Reference:

Bozarth, Jane, Social Media for Trainers: Techniques for Enhancing and Extending Learning, Pfeiffer, San Francisco, CA, 2010.

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