Microblogging in education

If I had to summarize the aspects that I consider most defining of twitter, these are inmediacy and feedback. In consequennce, I also think these would be the traits that can be more unique at the time of aplying microblogging in education.

Even there are many articles suggesting ideas about how to use twitter in class, I prefer to skip the array of beneffits numerous professionals mention and concentrate in the few ideas and doubts I have about the use of microblogging for educational purposes. (Anyway, a good article where to find some interesting ideas could be in the Steve Wheeler’s post in his blog).

Briefly, my doubts about this tool deal about the specific contributions of twitter, among many others, to education.

Personally, the argument that something is exciting and motivating isn’t enough for me to decide use it at the class. To use someone’s else words, I quote the following extract from Tom Barrett’s blog
In my classroom and with the children I teach it has been an exciting tool to utilise and support learning. However it is one of many tools that we have at our disposal. I do not see it replacing any of the others we use nor do I see the positive impact upon learning being exclusive to Twitter.

So it’s possible to achieve same goals by other means, what’s exactly exclusive of twitter, or any other microblogging similar tool, that would justify the use of it? Shall teachers use new technologic tools in education just because they are motivating?

It has also been pointed out the possibilities of using twitter in order to get support at answering questions that may arise during the class time.

Peer support and exchange: during the lesson
While perusing the Tweets of other educators, I came across the idea of using Twitter as a back channel and realised this would be perfect for students like the one who wanted to ask a question without calling attention to herself. I also thought that the keeners would enjoy using this as a means of sharing or displaying their knowledge or moving ahead of the lesson with links and insights they might want to share with others.

Even it can be a good idea to use twitter to put questions, it can be trickier to use it at the same time the teacher is interacting with students. Are students and teachers prepared enough to face the multitasking skills that this kind of practices imply?

Use of blogs in education

The idea that introducing technology inside the class can be motivating for students, is not new. Time ago, the use of video for educational purposes was a great challenge whereas now it seems that blogs, among other resources web 2.0, are on the spot. The results of such initiatives are difficult to evaluate. Here and there is easy to find articles claiming the advantages of the use of new technologies in education.

In Pembina Trails School Division website, there are some ideas extracted from different online sources about the use of blogs in education. Briefly, we could say that using blogs can be a good way of promoting equally participation, visualizing the learning process, stimulating debate outside the class walls as well as providing resources related with the course contents, among many other aspects.
However, is it essential the use of blogs to reach that goals? Or, in other words, does the use of blogs in class guarantee some of the mentioned objectives such as the equally participation of students in debates? Personally, I feel that, even the use of a certain technology has some implicit meaning, it isn’t enough to guarantee success. Related to this, it is interesting to have a look at Julie Sturgeon’s article Five Don’ts of Classroom Blogging. Despite my differences with some of her suggestions, I consider it’s interesting to think about how you, as a teacher, are going to encourage your students to use blogs in a way that helps achieving the objectives you have previously set up. Another interesting aspect of this article has to due with limits. From my point of view, school has to help students to understand and face the world in where they live, not to protect them against it, that’s why I consider some of her advices can be too protectionist. However, it is also true that, as far as you are dealing with minors, special attention has to be paid to certain aspects. Anyway, I wouldn’t support the use, and need, of special applications for the educational context. If the school has enough resources to pay for them it is ok, but if not, I don’t see anything bad in using free online tools.

Coming back to the question “why using blogs in education?”, I would consider that despite praises, we should be more skeptical. From my point of view, many of the benefits attributed to blogs aren’t so exclusively and could be achived by other means (more traditional and therefore, not so fashionable as blogs). However, something I consider quite interesting about the use of blogs in education is their contribution to knowledge construction. Related to this, I would strongly reccomend to read Richard E. Ferdig and Kaye D. Trammell article Content Delivery in the “Blogosphere”. Among many other ideas, they highlight the importance of publishing students’ work and content productions. As they underline, special attenntion has to be paid to hyperlinks and feeback.
And because blogs can be commented on, they provide opportunities for feedback and potential scaffolding of new ideas. Blogs also feature hyperlinks, which help students begin to understand the relational and contextual basis of knowledge, knowledge construction and meaning making.

According to the authors, the use of blogs in education can be a powerful way of applying a constructivist pedagogy. At this point, is where I stop questioning and I copy paste the following question which names Stephen Downes’ article Should All Learning Professionals Be Blogging?

Welcome

For me, the most difficult is always how to start. Fortunately, this time I found an image that has  helped me a little.

Welcome!

It suggest me there are always hidden resources that can be helpful. So, feel comfortable and enjoy the travel!