Blogs as a Social Networking Tool to Build Community

Blogs as a Social Networking Tool to Build Community

Lisa Kervin (University of Wollongong, Australia), Jessica Mantei (University of Wollongong, Australia) and Anthony Herrington (University of Wollongong, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-208-4.ch017
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This chapter examines blogging as a social networking tool to engage final year preservice teachers in reflective processes. Using a developed Web site, the students post their own blogs and comment upon those of others. The authors argue that opportunity to engage with this networking experience provides avenue for the students to consider their emerging professional identity as teachers. The blogging mechanism brought together the physical university context and virtual online environment as students identified, examined and reflected upon the intricacies of what it means to be a teacher. The authors hope that examining the findings that emerged from this research will inform other educators as to the affordances of blogging as a social networking tool.
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A recent US survey conducted by Pew Internet and American Life Project found that eight percent of internet users, or about 12 million American adults, keep a blog while thirty-nine percent of internet users, or about 57 million American adults, read blogs (Lenhart & Fox, 2006). This social networking phenomenon is not confined to the pursuit of leisure but is also seen as a strategy for professional learning through shared reflection on theory and practice. The professional identities of teachers and preservice teachers can potentially benefit from this experience.

This chapter explores the use of blogging within the context of a final year university subject for teachers in the Faculty of Education at the University of Wollongong, Australia. Using authentic learning (Herrington & Oliver, 2000) as a theoretical framework, the ‘Beginning and Establishing Successful Teachers’ (BEST) Website was created. Blogging opportunities were incorporated within the Website design to foster and support social networking amongst site users.

The chapter describes how providing students with opportunities to interact within both the physical university and the virtual Website communities led to reflection, networking and identification of professional goals, all of which contributed to their identity as teachers. In particular we examine how blogging as a tool facilitated reflection for shared understandings as individuals moved between two spaces. The virtual community afforded students opportunities for articulation of their own understandings and engagement with the experiences of others. Supporting and enriching this was the physical context, where ‘theory’ and professional relationships were explored through the more structured environment of tutorial workshops. The interaction between the virtual and real contexts, captured through blogging activity, contributed to each individual’s professional identity. This is represented in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Blogging for professional identity15115


Teacher As Reflective Practitioner

In describing teaching as a ‘profession of conscience’, where teachers are accountable to themselves, the students and their parents, Maarof (2007) identifies the practice of reflecting on one’s teaching as important in allowing teachers to better understand their philosophy of learning and to identify strengths and limitations of the decisions they make. Teachers who are reflective in their approach to teaching can make meaningful change within their classrooms, schools and broader communities because they use a critical approach to questioning what it is they do in their classrooms, why they have made such decisions and how their practice might be improved (Bintz & Dillard, 2007).

Rather than a simple tool for thinking about teaching, reflection is defined as a complex and rigorous process that takes the practitioner in a ‘forward moving spiral’ linking theory with practice and practice with theory (Rodgers, 2002, p. 863). For teachers to be able to engage with such a cycle, they require sustained opportunities to explore both theory and practice within socially supported communities that deepen not only their professional identity, but also their understanding of the skills required for reflection (McCormack, Gore & Thomas, 2004).

For preservice and early career teachers in particular, opportunities for reflection on their own learning and the ways that they achieve new understanding are valuable in fostering active learners whose interest resides in pursuing ongoing professional growth (Bransford, Derry, Berliner & Hammerness, 2005; McCormack, 2004). The period of transition from preservice to inservice teacher is identified in the literature as a time where support in developing the skills of reflection is crucial for the construction of professional knowledge (Griffin, 2003; Peters & LeCornu, 2006). It is through opportunities to ‘practice and reflect on teaching while enrolled in their preparation programs’ that teachers can develop the necessary reflective tools for interpreting their observations and experiences in the early years of teaching (Hammerness, Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005, p. 375) and to build their professional identities.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Networking: The interaction of participants for shared knowledge and understandings.

Professional Identity: One’s conception and perception of themselves as a member of their selected profession.

Reflection: Reflection is complex and rigorous, taking the practitioner through the process of linking theory with practice and practice with theory.

Authentic Learning: Learning that is connected to knowledge that is required within a particular cultural setting.

Virtual Community: Online interactions between participants, in this research this occurred through engagement with the BEST site.

Blog: An online text that captures reflections. It may also contain pictures, hyperlinks and sound.

Physical Community: Actual interactions between participants, in this research this occurred through workshop sessions on the University campus.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Jennifer Preece
Stylianos Hatzipanagos, Steven Warburton
Chapter 1
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Chapter 2
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Although social networking has been enthusiastically embraced by large numbers of children and young people, their schools and colleges have been... Sample PDF
Social Networking and Schools: Early Responses and Implications for Practice
Chapter 3
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Cyber-Identities and Social Life in Cyberspace
Chapter 4
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Weblogs are a popular form of Social Software, supporting personal Web authoring as well as innovative forms of social interaction via internet. The... Sample PDF
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Social Navigation and Local Folksonomies: Technical and Design Considerations for a Mobile Information System
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Social Cognitive Ontology and User Driven Healthcare
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Jillianne R. Code, Nicholas E. Zaparyniuk
Central to research in social psychology is the means in which communities form, attract new members, and develop over time. Research has found that... Sample PDF
Social Identities, Group Formation, and the Analysis of Online Communities
Chapter 8
Jillianne R. Code, Nicholas E. Zaparyniuk
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The Emergence of Agency in Online Social Networks
Chapter 9
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Chapter 17
Lisa Kervin, Jessica Mantei, Anthony Herrington
This chapter examines blogging as a social networking tool to engage final year preservice teachers in reflective processes. Using a developed Web... Sample PDF
Blogs as a Social Networking Tool to Build Community
Chapter 18
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Petros Lameras, Iraklis Paraskakis, Philipa Levy
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The Potential of Enterprise Social Software in Integrating Exploitative and Explorative Knowledge Strategies
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M. C. Pettenati, M. E. Cigognini, E. M.C. Guerin, G. R. Mangione
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Sharon Markless, David Streatfield
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Bridging the Gap Between Web 2.0 and Higher Education
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