Weblogs as 'replacement' educational technology

Diaries and journals are a longstanding fixture of writing and foreign language classes. Journals are also commonly employed in other subjects, including lab notebooks in the sciences, and sketch books and portfolios for teaching the arts. Teachers often encourage students to keep notes of their own, and sometimes use these notes as an additional indicator of their progress. The earliest uses of weblogs thus far have been as replacements for writing journals. Despite difficulties, there are several advantages to the use of weblogs in this setting, especially in that they provide a more immediate and social environment for writing (Kajder & Bull, 2003), which when combined with the improvements to student writing that seem to accrue simply by moving to a computerized form of journals (Goldberg, Russel, & Cook, 2004), represents an obvious area for experimentation.

There has been a move over the last decade toward using portfolios of student materials to improve evaluation and learning. —Alex Halavais
Weblogs as ‘replacement’ educational technology (Alex Halavais)

Friday afternoon I had the pleasure of sitting through a number of final presentations from graduating English majors. My colleague Mike Arnzen blogged about the online portfolios that some students chose to produce instead of traditional 3-ring binders.

While praising the information management and convenience of the online portfolios, Arnzen also noted a few downsides — one of which was the fact that an e-portfolio is geared towards serving up the final product, rather than presenting a coherent reflection on progress.

But my freshmen who have been blogging almost since the first week of school will have a tremendous archive of material to consult when they are seniors. Those students who choose to submit electronic portfolios will probably be the ones who have taken plenty of new media journalism courses (and if I’m the instructor, I imagine they’ll be blogging). To compensate for the weaknesses of the online portfolio genre, and to help students take fuller advantage of the strengths of the online medium, perhaps we need to rethink the reflective introduction assignment, which currently assumes that the student will write an ordinary prose essay. For those students who choose to submit an online portfolio, perhaps that introductory essay needs to be rethought as a series of individual blog entries, which themselves contain links back to important blog entries from the past. Thus, instead of clicking on items in a table of contents, the evaluation of an online portfolio will be like reading a hyperlinked narrative, written with the full knowledge that the very nature of the WWW means that the reader of an online portfolio will be reading the same way he or she reads any online text — looking for bold keywords, bulleted lists, subject headings, and links, and slowing down to read in more detail only when the text is particularly interesting.

Link found via KiarosNews.