Social media is going to have permanent fixture within our developing education system. It is important to address to what extent social media should be placed in education and which social media platforms should be focused on to support the changing needs of a younger generation of learners.
One of the most talked about social media platforms in education is blogs. A blog is a web page that serves as a frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and web links (marketingterms, 2013). Blogs can provide platforms for students to create classroom environments at home, connect to other students in their classroom, school or even other countries. Blogs enable students and teachers to share information and create online documentation of their learning.
How teachers use blogging in the classroom is clear, the point that needs defining is does blogging have a positive educational impact on students?
Lehmann (2013) raises the question ‘blogging for the sake of blogging is fine, but what is the value added? Promoters of educational blogging have researched into the positive influence that comes from blogging. David Mitchell a deputy head teacher used blogging to engage his student writers, his strategy became the well-known QuadBlogging (Boss, 2012), this was Mitchell’s strategy to help connect writers with readers from all around the world. QuadBlogging involves four different classrooms communicating together by commenting on each other’s work, each class takes in turn to place comments on someone else’s writing. The comments provided have to be quality and helpful (Secomb, 2012). Students get to know each other and learn about different places, cultures and customs.
QuadBlogging showed dramatic results regarding pupils writing and desire to write and achieve. The quality of students writing showed a major increase, the first class to be involved in QuadBlogging showed an increase from 9 to 60 percent of their pupils earning top writing scores on SATS tests (Boss, 2012). The blogging allowed students to share their work with more than just their teachers and parents. The comments the students were receiving spurred on their writing, it felt good to them to have a willing audience to their work, who would take the time to read it and write constructive comments. Reluctant writers wanted to write for a purpose, students wanted to put more care and time into their writing, so long as someone was listening (Morris, 2013). David Secomb (2012) said of his students “by having a contextual purpose for their writing, they not only thought carefully about what they were writing, but they also showed great enthusiasm to write”.
The benefit of this social form of learning can link into Vygotsky’s (1978) Social Learning Theory. Vygotsky suggested that much of a child’s important learning came from social interaction; human tools such as speech and writing are initially developed to serve solely as social functions, social interaction plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development (Vygotsky, 1978). The social interaction that blogging provides can therefore be argued to play an important role in a child’s learning.
The benefits found from QuadBlogging also extended beyond improved writing skills. Teachers found that students ‘global empathy’ also improved. Gwaltney, a teacher in Oregon said his students were gaining a new perspective on the world; this comes from talking to people from different cultures and walks of life (Boss, 2012). Technology skills were also showing signs of improvement. Students were learning how computers could be used in more extensive ways, students became more proficient at keyboarding, formatting, conducting internet searches, toggling between several open programmes and cutting and pasting contents from their blogs to presentations (Ramaswami, 2008). Improving these skills is important as technology may be involved in teaching more frequently in the future.
Barry Bachenheimer’s study also helped show the benefits of educational blogging. One of the questions put forward was ‘Could blogs helps students in the construction of a research paper’. The blogs were used as journals for students to write about their ideas and flesh out ideas for point/counterpoint arguments (Ramaswami, 2008). Before the study was undertaken 84 percent of students said the hardest part of writing a research paper was starting it, 74 percent believed the blog posts helped them to better articulate their ideas. It was also said that the blogs helped them organize their thoughts and synthesize their research. As with Mitchells QuadBlogging the students also said they benefited from the comments on their blogs, they provided extra insight into their work and spurred them on, providing an extra mean of motivation (Ramaswami, 2008).
It is clear the educational blogging can bring important positives into learning. How much further in the future will it be until blogging has a permanent fixture in our curriculum or do the negatives still outweigh the positives?
Boss, S. (2012, September 25). QuadBloggin Connects Student Writers with Global Audiences. Retrieved December 07, 2013, from Edutopia: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/quad-blogging-technology-classroom-suzie-boss
marketingterms. (2013). Blog. Retrieved December 04, 2013, from Marketing Terms: http://www.marketingterms.com/dictionary/blog/
Morris, K. (2013, May 27). The Benefits of Educational Blogging. Retrieved December 2013, 2013, from Splash: http://splash.abc.net.au/teachers/blog?id=138409
Ramaswami, R. (2008). The Prose (and a few cons, too) of Blogging. THE Journal, 21-25.
Secomb, D. (2012, March 28). QuadBlogging Action Research. Retrieved December 07, 2013, from Global Initiation: http://www.davesecomb.com/2012/03/quad-blogging-action-research.html
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind and Society: The Development of Higher Mental Processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.