Using Blogs to Traverse Physical and Virtual Spaces

Using Blogs to Traverse Physical and Virtual Spaces

Kerryn Newbegin (Monash University, Australia) and Leonard Webster (Monash University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-114-0.ch010
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Abstract

The development of physical and virtual learning spaces is prominent in the current higher education context, however a preoccupation with the design of these environments must not be at the cost of the learner. This chapter proposes that new ways of thinking need to be adopted and new strategies for collaborating need to be developed to enable students and teachers to traverse the physical and virtual environments. In traversing these spaces, learners must use them to best advantage, both within the higher education context, and then later in the professional arena in which they will be operating. Specifically this chapter will examine the use of one collaboration tool—blogs— to bridge the gap between the physical and the virtual, the formal and the informal learning spaces. Strategies for using blogs will be presented as a tool for students and educators to enable and promote knowledge creation, and to develop a habit of reflective practice both during and after formal study.
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Introduction

A recent trend in Australian higher education has been the creation of physical learning spaces that are claimed to be flexible, engaging and efficient, and which will attract students and teachers to them. Concurrently personal and social technologies are prominent within society and it is inevitable that these physical spaces will incorporate these social collaboration technologies based on assumptions of improving the learning experience for students.

It can be argued that these environments are not being designed with the view of supporting students in the variety of learning environments in which they find themselves from day to day (Wilson et al, 2007; Attwell, 2007; Mazzoni & Gafurri, 2009). For some students, the learning space will be these physical spaces provided by, and at, the University campus. For others, the physical spaces will be of their own choosing—the lounge room, the train, the tea-room, the café, the office or the playground. For many it will be a combination of spaces and learning strategies, and the supportive technologies provided will need to traverse these spaces.

The consistent element in the traversing of spaces is the student. In order to negotiate the challenges inherent in this variety of learning spaces, both the educator and the student will benefit from a shared space which transverses the physical and virtual and is arguably most easily facilitated in the virtual space.

The virtual learning space is today commonly conceptualised by reference to Web 2.0, so named as it is said to represent the second generation of web software. Web 2.0 refers to social software such as blogs, wikis, podcasts, Real Simple Syndication (RSS), social bookmarking (e.g. Delicious.com), and media sharing software (e.g. Flickr). In the educational context McLoughlin and Lee (2007) suggest that the essence of Web 2.0 is “about linking minds, communities and ideas, while promoting personalisation, collaboration and creativity leading to joint knowledge creation” (p. 668). Mazzoni and Gafurri (2009) suggest that Web 2.0 technologies are less restricted by and to formal learning than were the Web 1.0 technologies. It is generally accepted that Web 2.0 technologies provide enhanced opportunities for online collaboration, peer assessment, individual and group reflection, and development of e-portfolios (for examples see Table 1).

Table 1.
Selection of research concerning blog use in education
StudyField of practiceOwnershipReported Blog Usage
Hernández-Ramos, 2004 Pre-service teacher trainingIndividual student blogReflective tasks
Williams & Jacobs, 2004 MBAGroup student blogReflective tasks; peer interaction
Chong & Soo, 2005a (as cited in Chong, 2008)Music educationIndividual student blogIndividual research reports; peer review and interaction; reflective tasks
Chong & Soo, 2005b (as cited in Chong, 2008)Music educationGroup student blogCollaborative research; peer interaction
Chong, 2008 Music educationIndividual student blogAnalytical discussion; peer review and interaction; reflective tasks
Farmer et al, 2008 Cultural studiesIndividual student blog; Teacher blogReflective tasks; peer review and interaction
Ladyshewsky & Gardner, 2008 PhysiotherapyGroup student blogs with teacher moderationReflective journal
Tekinarslan, 2008 ComputingIndividual student blogs; Teacher blogOnline research reports
Sun, 2009 English language educationGroup student blogVoice posts; Voice based peer comments
Richardson, 2009 JournalismIndividual student blogReflective journal; assessment submission; peer and expert review and interaction
Richardson, 2009 American LiteratureGroup student blogAnalytical discussion; peer and expert interaction; online community
Dickey, 2004 Pre-service teacher trainingGroup student blogPeer interaction; online community
Young & Delves, 2009 Social workGroup student blogsOnline community

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