This month I jumped into a new medium to further my professional learning. I've been hearing about MOOCs for several years, but had never taken part in one. Until now.
For those that may be unfamiliar with MOOCs, this refers to a Massive Open Online Course.
Basically, this means it is a free online learning opportunity that is open to anyone who would like to be a part of it. Some colleges and universities have jumped on the MOOC bandwagon while others are produced by individuals, groups, or organizations. Although there is some debate about the effectiveness of MOOCs (driven largely by low completion rates), they seem to offer a good opportunity for free online learning.
Recently I enrolled in the #EdTech30 Course to further my professional learning related to educational technology. I was not sure what to expect, but so far this course has been a good experience. I have learned a few new tech tools and I've taken the time to stop and explore a few other tools I knew of, but had not really played around with.
Today I was going through the portion of this course that deals with blogging. The instructor (Seth Dimbert) provided an explanation of blogs and a few tools for creating blogs. One of the things I like about learning through a structured course is that it forces us to stop and think about things. In this case, I know what blogging is, I know some reasons to blog, I know some of the tools that can be used for blogging, but its been a while since I stopped and really thought about it.
As I begin to reflect on blogging, my first thought is that I need to post more often. I often come up with ideas for posts or even begin writing, but don't get it published. This is partly due to a busy schedule, partly due to procrastination, and partly due to the fact that thinking through topics and beginning to write about them accomplishes one of the purposes of blogging, even if the post is never finished. I believe that one of the primary benefits of a blog is that it allows us to reflect on a topic and to think about it in different ways. Ideally we will put these thoughts out there for others and our posts will result in a discussion, but the process of thinking about a post helps us to reflect, even if that post never makes to the world. This was one of the primary reasons I began this blog back in 2013 (To Blog or Not to Blog. . .). I wanted an opportunity to reflect upon my lessons and experiences in the classroom and to share my thoughts, ideas, and resources with other teachers.
Although I have not done much blogging with students, I think it affords them many of the same benefits. As educators we strive to become reflective practitioners, we should aim to instill this same practice in our students. Blogging offers students the opportunity to contemplate their learning and experiences while giving them voice. As teachers we need to consider the best medium for this practice. In some cases a full-featured, public blog makes sense, other times it might be better to use a simpler, closed environment that is not accessible to the entire world. It is also important to consider the structure of the blogging experience. Will topics be chosen by the teacher, by students, or some of each? Will posts be more informative or more reflective? Will students or the public be able to comment on blogs? Will you monitor posts and/or comments?
I'm going to cut myself off before this post becomes merely a list of questions, but you get the point that there are a lot of considerations before having students blog. I am certainly no expert on this topic, however, there are many people out there that are much more experienced with blogging than I am and I would encourage you to seek out their hints, tips, and advice for student and professional blogging. One good starting point is Pernille Ripp's 14 Steps to Meaningful Student Blogging.
Despite the potential pitfalls and numerous details that need to be thought through, I think blogging has a lot of value for students and teachers and I would encourage everyone to give it a try.