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The advantages of blogging in learning

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I did not plan to be an OU blogger but the option of 'access to your personal blog' on the StudentHome page caught my attention and the rest is history. 

I have found blogging my journey with H800 (so far) useful on a number of levels

  • Sometimes ideas occur to me which I want to flesh out a little but which don't really fit into the forums and which I don't imagine my fellow students to be especially interested in (though I am, obviously, happy for them to engage on the blog)
  • As I make notes about tutorials, webcasts, papers etc. then blogging them firstly means I have had to organize my scribblings into coherent sentences and points, and secondly I know I will always be able to find them!
  • I will get very engaged in a specific point which I want to record and reflect upon. 
  • The emotional aspect of studying again after 20 years is considerable. Blogging is a vent to some of those doubts, frustrations and joys
  • If I make my blog posts public (which I do) it is a way for other people to engage with what I am doing - entirely on their own terms (not by me backing them into a corner and talking excitedly about what I am learning for hours!)

TMA2 offers an opportunity for me to write about how blogging is, and could be, used in education and learning, I can anticipate many of the administrative and organizational objections but I can see huge opportunities for a better learning experience, and more effective learning, for learners. 

When blogging was an 'activity' on H800 the response of most students was, at best lukewarm. I got that! It was not exactly required, but it was 'encouraged'. I immediately understood why it would be a useful activity for people but the activity didn't explain it well. It certainly failed to inspire students to use their blogspace. A few wrote a few posts but there was palpable reluctance! 

In the TMA I plan to explore how the reflective and organic nature of a personal blog can facilitate very deep learning - and circumnavigate the ever present threat of 'strategic learning' whereby students learn exactly what is necessary to pass the course, rather than aiming to get a full and deep and broad appreciation of the subject being learned. 

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Picture of Anna Greathead

Richardson's helpful bullet point lists

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I do like a list! And this paper was full of them! 

Firstly was the three approaches to studying:

  1. A deep approach based on understanding the subject
  2. A surface approach based on memorizing pertinent facts
  3. A strategic approach based on getting good grades

In fairness to the author it was explicitly stated that most students will employ all three approaches at some point in their learning which made a lot of sense as I really could identify with all three! The tension between approach one and three is most interesting - a genuinely engaged learner will really want a broad, deep and satisfying engagement with the subject - to really 'get it' and make the connections necessary to put their new knowledge to work somehow. However - the genuinely engaged learner may also be busy and overburdened and pragmatic enough to know that reading a fourth journal article about a particular subject is unlikely to make any difference to their final grade and therefore lay it aside for striking out into a new curriculum area which may appear on the exam. Tempting as it may be to dismiss approach two - lets be honest - we've all done it!

The next list, how students perceive (define?) learning, began as a five pointer but a sixth was added later:

  1. Learning as the increase in knowledge
  2. Learning as memorizing
  3. Learning as the acquisition of facts or procedures
  4. Learning as the abstraction of meaning
  5. Learning as an interpretative process aimed at the understanding of reality
  6. A conscious process, fueled by personal interests and directed at obtaining harmony and happiness or changing society

Students who reported their learning as being points 1 - 3 were reported as being more 'surface approach' learners whereas the deep learners were more likely to define learning as points 4 - 5. The sixth point was added later and include a more specific purpose to learning. Again - I am pretty sure I could have defined learning in any of these six ways depending on who asked, when and about what. My gut feeling is that this is less about dividing students into groups (the point 2 definers) and more about students defining individual learning experiences. The article also suggests that learners move from points 1 - 6 (presumably in a somewhat linear fashion) as they progress on their learning journeys. 

The final list is a five point list of the approaches employed by teachers to their educating. 

  1. Teaching as imparting information
  2. Teaching as transmitting structured knowledge
  3. Teaching as an interaction between the teacher and the student
  4. Teaching as facilitating understanding on the part of the student
  5. Teaching as bringing about conceptual change and intellectual development in the student

Unlike the other lists - it seems that this one is more fixed. The researchers were 'surprised' that a move towards the bottom end of the list did not seem to be measurable as teachers became more experienced. There is some discussion about how the subject matter a person teaches may necessarily result in a somewhat different approach and also that teachers give the students what they expect and want from their studies. 

We are discussing this paper in our Tutorial later this week; and there will be a forum about it (which I haven't looked at yet as I wanted to read the paper, and jot down my initial reflections before I read what other people had thought.)

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