Building Interaction Online: Reflective Blog Journals to link University Learning to Real World Practice

Building Interaction Online: Reflective Blog Journals to link University Learning to Real World Practice

Arianne J. Rourke (University of New South Wales, Australia) and Annabelle Lewer-Fletcher (University of New South Wales, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9582-5.ch005
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Abstract

In higher education in recent years the educational value of blog journals for facilitating student engagement, reflection and learning has been emphasized (Chu, Kwan, & Warning, 2012; Ellison & Wu, 2008; Richardson, 2005; Yang, 2009). According to Williams and Jacobs (2004), blogs are seen as a ‘transformative educational tool', which assists in the development of ‘reflective and critical thinking skills' (Joshi & Chugh, 2009). This chapter critically analyzes the reflective and collaborative value of two different systems of blog journaling used by postgraduate student to reflect on their arts industry internships. Firstly Blogger (https://www.blogger.com), used between 2008 and 2012 and secondly, journal blogging in the Learning Management System (LMS) of Moodle (2014) are critiqued in terms their ability to promote student engagement, reflection, connection and collaboration. There is particular emphasis on how recent blog journals (2014) reflect how students' confidence, awareness and understandings evolve as they develop professional expertise.
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Background

Recent literature in higher education has argued the advantages of using blogs in education for promoting active learning, stressing their usefulness as a tool for aiding critical reflection and encouraging reflective practice (Luca & McLoughlin, 2005; James, 2007; Yang, 2009; Yang, & Chang, 2012; Joyce, 2013). According to Efimova and Fiedler (2003) blogs are “personal diary-like-format websites enabled by easy to use tools and open for everyone to read” (p. 490). Stefanac (2006) taking a less personalized approach defines a blog as an “easy to update website characterized by dated entries displayed in reverse chronological order” (p. 230). Both refer to the ‘easiness’ of this online system, Efimova and Fiedler (2003) seeing blogs as ‘diary-like’ and Stefanac (2006) seeing blogs more in terms of a ‘website’ with organized entries. In education, blog journals are a popular means of engaging students in the process of reflective writing. As Crowe and Tonkin (2006) suggested blogs “enhance student learning in higher education through reflective journals for individual, collaborative learning activities, learning diaries during internships and postgraduate research and forums for debate” (p. 2).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Real Work Experience: In regards to this article ‘real world experience’ refers to the professional experiences that the students encounter during their internships. These experiences are broad and differ to the hypothetical experiences that have been discussed in the classroom. It is critical to the long-term work success for these students to encounter the broad experiences that only a professional internship can offer. Glogoff (2005) argues that in particular, blogging offers students a valuable way to share their real world experiences within an accessible online environment.

Blog: A blog is an electronic medium used for posting journal style information, that also promotes interactive electronic replies and information sharing from readers. A blog has a reverse chronology format that is usually imbedded into a website. Blogs have a broad usage and are used by individuals, organisations and specifically educational institutions as an assessment tool that encourages personal reflection and group interaction. The contents page of a blog can list information that gives opportunities to add more layers of information than what is generally offered through a traditional electronic diary.

Learning Management System (LMS): An LMS is a software programme used by educational institutions to document, track, report and deliver electronic educational technology. There are vast array of programmes designed for differing educational needs including courses that are primarily online or distance education as well as acting as accessible programmes that offer blended learning or augmented information for face-to-face courses.

Reflective Practice: Learning from professional experience by consciously analyzing decisions and actions and drawing on relevant theories and the experience of others to assist with evaluating how to improve practice. According to Lasley (1992) reflective practice relies on the teacher’s capacity to think creatively, and imaginatively as well as to think critically about their classroom practice.

Dashboard Design: A digital dashboard is the digital page you see when you open up a web page. How a dash board is designed is crucial to the useability, effectiveness and accessibility of a web page. Dashboard design is the skill set behind designing and creating effective and accessible web pages.

Reflective Writing: According to Cisero (2006) reflective writing is the process of writing about personal experiences, while either analysing or critiquing information, synthesizing information, or creating a product based on that information. Reflective writing has been argued to be critical in the process of understanding contextualising new information and meaningful interactions ( Elbow, 1993 ). Within tertiary education the process of reflective writing has been attributed to both helping students gain a deep level of understanding of their subjects and also promoting in-depth reflection outside their studies and into their broader lives.

Transformative Learning: This is when an individual becomes aware of having limitations in their views so through self-examination and critical reflection they explore alternatives and through this process they change their perspective and find new meaning. Reflective writing is a critical part of the process of transformative learning. It has been argued by Lang (2009) that ‘transformative learning’ should aim to explore different perspectives in a non-challenging and accessible manner.

eLearning: eLearning is the broad umbrella term that covers the use of electronic tools and technology in teaching and learning. ELearning incorporates many different aspects of technology in education and includes things such as information and communication technology (ICT), LMS’s, MOOCS, VLE’s, PLE’s and multimedia learning. Barclay (2001) argues that elearning technologies have changed the way that both learning and teaching is being conducted across the broad educational landscape. It is Barclay’s (2001) opinion that these changing educational paradigms are eroding the traditional dominance of instructional classroom learning and changing the way that people view educational pedagogies across the board. The origins of the term ‘eLearning’ according to Luskin (2003), is debatable. The ‘e’ in ‘eLearning’ could it is argued, stand for more than electronic. Luskin (2003) recommended that a broader perspective should be considered. The ‘e’ for example, could stand for other things such as: exciting, energetic, emotional or educational.

Community of Practice (CoP): A group of active supportive practitioners who interact regularly sharing experiences and common interests who have a passion for what they do. CoP’s can be created with the goals of gaining further knowledge and understanding about a profession in order to improve practice or to support members.

Critical Thinking: This term refers to a process that involves clear, reasoned thinking involving critique and analysis. Its details vary amongst those who define it. According to Beyer (1995), critical thinking means making clear, reasoned judgements. During the process of critical thinking, ideas should be reasoned and well thought out/judged.

Blogging: Blogging is the process of writing and creating a blog. Blogging is an efficient and inexpensive way to broadcast to a broad audience, while also offering a platform for marketing and promoting businesses.

Inter-Professional Education: This refers to the occasions when students from two or more professions learn together during their professional training with the objective of fostering collaborative practice. The term is usually applied to student interns working in the health or social care professions.

Digital Diaries: A digital diary is very much the same as a traditional hand written diary. It differs however from a blog due to the chronological order and the interactivity with viewers ( Rosen 2006 ). A digital diary is not interactive, readers are passive and do not partake in a dialogue with the author. Digital diaries are also often personal and not publically available.

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