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You may (or may not) have noticed that I am no longer chief blogger for Synergy Learning. That title has been handed to Amy our resident marketing expert, health enthusiast and all-round lover of crunchy vegetables

She’s much more organised than I am and has put together a schedule for guest posts from team members. This week it’s my turn.

Since hanging up my blogging hat, I’ve embarked upon an Open University course. Some of you may be familiar with it – Technology Enhanced Learning: Practises and Debates (H800). I can recommend it.  As I don’t have any teaching experience it has given me a useful insight into practical problems faced on a day to day basis, educational theory, pedagogical practises, the role online learning plays in all that and a lot more to boot.

This is a dual purpose blog post as one of this week’s H800 activities is to give blogging a go. Now I’ve been blogging on and off for quite a few years but the purpose of the H800 activity is to consider how useful blogging is as a learning tool.

The activity is based around a paper written by Kerawalla et al, “Characterising the different blogging behaviours of students on an online distance learning course”. They concentrated on a group of e-learners who were encouraged to blog as part of their course with no expectations given or prerequisites set for what it should achieve.

Five different groups emerged and were judged on four criteria Audience, Community, Comments and Presentation. The groups break down as follows:

  1. Blogging avoidance: People who tried once but weren’t convinced of it’s use and preferred traditional methods
  2. Resource network building: Conscious of their audience, welcomed comments, rigorous proof-readers
  3. Support network building: Sociable community builders, not afraid to air their concerns, not too bothered by spelling and grammar
  4. Self-sufficient blogging: Blog for reflective learning, don’t care for comments although they were conscious of their presentation and checked other blogs for reference.
  5. Anxious, self-conscious blogging just to complete the suggested course activities: I think that one’s pretty self explanatory!

I would say I naturally fall into the ‘resource network building’ category. It seems to me that we try to hard to build useful blogs that engage users and invite feedback but because we are so conscientious in trying to achieve this the blog isn’t as successful as it could be. The ‘support network building’ group appear to be the best in achieving what a blog should. By their honest, open and seemingly slap dash approach to blogging they present a more human front and by default convey warmth, invite comments and build communities without having to try.

Kerawalla and her friends carried out this investigation to better understand the challenges students face when presented with blogging as learning support. The conclusion is that each student will evolve their own use for the tool and as a result a range of behaviours and patterns will evolve. This makes it difficult for education theorists and researchers to design courses in such a way that blogging as an activity can be replicated. As Kerawalla puts it:

Our findings suggest that, in many circumstances, it may be appropriate to make blogging activities flexible, voluntary or loosely prescribed, so as to give students the opportunity to adapt blogging to meet their own needs, whilst still completing the required activities. (page 32)

From my own point of view I find blogging very useful for articulating your thoughts to an unknown audience as you don’t know who will be critiquing it, giving you the motivation to make it the very best representation of your ideas.

Maybe that’s why I’m not so great at attracting comments!