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University of British Columbia

Blogging: An Effective Tool for the 21st century classroom

Heidi Corbett
ETEC 511
Franc Feng
December 12, 2012

Introduction
Education is always changing. With each reform, educators seek to meet the demands of the
current society while at the same time projecting into the future what the next generation will
need. Hargreaves (2009), an educator who has studied educational reform for the past three
decades, suggests that the newest reform should take into account what we have learned in
the past but also examine closely those in education who are showing successes in their
approaches and models for learning. According to his research, the countries or systems of
education that have excelled are those that provide great flexibility and innovation in
teaching and learning (Hargreaves, 2009, p.94) and have stepped away from a top-down
approach to education. Hargreaves goes on to advocate collaboration through networks such
as Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and extension beyond a school district to bring
about inclusive knowledge societies (Hargreaves, 2009, p.93). Technology has a role
within this reform as educators strive towards preparing students to engage with the global
digital community. Not only is it a part of the required skill set, but the use of technology
also lends itself to an innovative and collaborative learning environment. One new
technology being applied in the classroom setting is the blog. Within the framework of the
constructivist learning model, this essay will examine the use of blogging as an effective tool
for learning as it fosters individual and collaborative scaffolding of knowledge combined
with teacher facilitation and reflective practice.
Background
Before exploring the impact of blogging on learning, it is important to define this tool as well
as take some time to explain the theory through which it is being evaluated. The weblog, also
known as the blog, was introduced to the World Wide Web back in the 1990s. It is a website
where an author(s) shares information, reflections, comments and/or media about a particular
subject. By allowing others to comment, link or share information, the blog also has the
potential to develop into an interactive community. Originally used by programmers fluent in
HTML code, it quickly became available to the public through web platforms like Pita and
Blogger, who made it possible to add content using web based tools (Web 2.0) (Blood, 2000).
Through their innovations, anyone could write or participate in a blog community. While
Rebecca Blood (2000) shares that it was used mostly for linking websites and content in the
beginning, today there are many different purposes and uses for the blog. People use blogs to
journal and share information, view similar resources connected through links, and debate

different topics. The standard blog has a homepage with blog posts entered, a labeling
system, an archive section, and a segment about the author.
The theory through which the blog will be examined is the constructivist learning model.
Constructivism was an idea put forth by Vico at the beginning of the 18th century and later
elaborated upon by Piaget, Vygotsky and Dewey (Von Glaserfeld, 1989). Vico identified
that epistemic agents can know nothing but the cognitive structures they themselves have
put together (Von Glasersfeld, 1989, p.123), meaning that the knowledge of a learner results
from the framework that he or she has constructed and self-organized for meaning. Theorists
agreed that learning was an active process where the learner engages in experiences with his
environment and others in order to construct knowledge. This interaction leads to the
development of cognitive structures, allowing the learner to construct new knowledge and
reorganize content into existing knowledge. This approach to learning negates memorizing
facts or rote practice but rather insists that understanding results from a re-ordering of
knowledge achieved through experiential environments and times of reflection. SAGE
Glossary of the Social and Behavioral Sciences describes the Constructivist Learning Theory
as the more a student explores, questions, and experiences an idea or experience, the more
the information makes sense, is remembered, and is valued. (Sullivan, 2009, para. 2). This
happens when learners engage with teachers or other students to question or share their ideas
and collaborate to come up with an agreed concept. As Von Glasersfeld (1989) noted, when
learners are successful in verifying their conceptual models with the environment or others,
this can motivate them to construct further. In this approach, the learning is student centered
while the teacher acts as a facilitator providing a framework and encouraging the discovery.
The blog complements this learning model, and its benefits will be outlined in the subsequent
sections.
Blogging Enables Knowledge Construction
In an age of mass content delivery, it is important to be able to make meaning out of the
information being presented, to construct knowledge. In education, the blog has shown itself
capable of providing students and teachers with experiences to build and organize
knowledge. As a tool, it can also be used across a variety of subject areas to build
vocabulary, conceptual understanding, and skill sets (Glogowski, 2008; Luehman &
MacBride, 2008). Blogging requires active participation and allows one to both access and

present content online from anywhere. In this section, two different kinds of blogs will be
examined in order to show how they help students create and assimilate knowledge.
To have complete ownership of ones topic is the benefit of an individual blog
(Bartholomew, Glassman & Jones, 2012). Content is chosen, created, organized and shared
by the learner. In this way, the student becomes the subject matter expert and is allowed a
space to create. With the potential as a learning portal, the student can create his own content
or search it out online and then link it to his learning space. The student may also involve
others in his learning by inviting them to comment on his blog. This interaction provides the
learner an opportunity to reflect and make meaning out of the content shared. Additionally,
the individual blog can take on the role of an e-portfolio, documenting the learning and
growth over time.
Similar to the individual blog, a group or multi-author blog also lends to the construction of
knowledge through the use of text, images, hyperlinks and other media being shared.
However, its strength lies in its capacity to establish a community of learning through its
collaborative processes (Bartholomew, Glassman & Jones, 2012). In this type of blog,
students and teacher work together to create content. An online, asynchronous discussion
ensues, where students discuss and share information they know, have discovered, or learned
about a topic. Through ongoing posts, the learning community interacts to construct
knowledge and meaning with the support of the teacher correcting misconceptions.
Angelaina (2012) conducted a study to examine student engagement in a blog as a projectbased learning environment. Her findings supported not only the active participation of the
students but also the knowledge construction and meaning that resulted from student
interactions within the blog. Innovative and open-ended, the blog allows learners to create,
organize and represent knowledge in a variety of ways.
Blogging Allows Scaffolding
Scaffolding around a building provides a supporting framework while the construction is
taking place and is later removed upon the completion of the building. According to Bruner
and Vygotsky, a similar process can be applied in the constructivist learning environment.
Teachers provide the students with a scaffold to support their learning that over time is
removed, allowing students to make their own learning connections. Research findings
support the use of blogging as a tool, which allows for student centered learning with the

teacher acting as the facilitator or supporting framework. Moreover, the process of blogging
follows a scaffold approach with a greater teacher presence required in the beginning but
lessening over time as the students become proficient with the learning tool.
While an individual blog may allow some scaffolding of knowledge through interaction and
reflection of comments from others, the research consulted here suggests that a group blog
provides a greater opportunity for the sharing of ideas in and outside of the learning
community (Bartholomew, Glassman & Jones, 2012). Luehmann & MacBride (2008)
conducted a study on a teacher using blogging in his pre-calculus math class. Findings
reported that students were active and centralized in the learning with well-documented
postings and comments. The teacher credited blogs for helping students challenge each
other's thinking, ask questions, draw conclusions and provide a forum where students learn
content from each other. (Luehmann & MacBride, Findings from Mr. Ks Classroom Blog,
para. 9). Through his collaborative online environment, he allowed his students to connect
outside of class and more opportunities to interact with the content.
In another study led by Glogowski (2008), an eight grade language arts class participated in a
class blogging community where each student was given an individual blog that was
connected to the learning community for others to view and provide peer feedback. The
purpose of the study was to explore the impact of dialogic critique on the quality of student
writing, ownership, confidence and engagement in learning through the blog interface. In
relation to scaffolding, this study also outlined how the role of the teacher differed within the
blogging community. Findings showed that students were engaged and benefited most when
the teacher abandon[ed] the evaluative and authoritarian voice, and enter[ed] the community
as a reader and a co-contributor. (Glogowski, 2008, p.iii). Allowing the students autonomy
in their learning with the teacher acting as the facilitator to support and provide guidance
where needed is well represented in a blogging community.
In a third study involving undergraduate students, Bartholomew, Glassman & Jones (2012)
reviewed how the management of the blog is crucial in maximizing student participation and
learning. They observed two courses where professors used community blogs. The first
implemented a live blog, meaning that students had access to the blog during class and
could post comments or questions while the teacher was instructing. This format allowed
students to extend the class content by connecting it to resources on the web through

hyperlinks. The teacher also paused throughout the lecture to address issues being presented
on the blog. The learning environment was active, collaborative, and interactive. In the
second course, blogging took place outside of class as a learning community where students
could post their comments, understandings and questions (Bartholomew, Glassman & Jones,
2012). Instructors in both environments were minimal in their participation, encouraging
lateral communication and student ownership. Participation in both blog communities was
motivated by the instructors choosing student posts to highlight before a lecture. Although
good management was necessary, Bartholomew et al., acknowledged that the more open
blogging is, the more successful it will be to the learners. The blog allows students coownership, lateral communication, and the opportunity to extend learning beyond the lecture
and the classroom.
As identified by the researchers above, the structure of the blog and the way that a teacher
sets up the instructional design of the blogging activity directly impacts the participation of
the students and the potential the blog has for learning in the community (Frink & Luehmann,
2009). For the scaffolding of ideas to occur, students need to have ownership of the blog and
be active participants sharing resources and commenting on their peers posts. Ruth Reynard
(2008) summed it up nicely in stating that while the use of the blog could help students
scaffold knowledge, its success is dependent upon the instruction and implementation of the
teacher. In the learning environment, the teacher must step back into the position of a
facilitator and allow the students to take up ownership as the aspiring experts.
Blogging Incorporates Reflecting
Within the structure of the blog, reflection is possible due to the archival feature, which
allows one access to previous entries and in turn expand upon or revise ideas/opinions that
have been shared. The question to consider is how to instill the act of reflecting on earlier
thinking as a habit in the learner.
Commenting, another feature of the blog, has been proven to bring about this reflective
thinking in the learner. It can be applied to both types of blogs individual and group. In the
first case, readers leaving comments on a blog may provide positive reinforcement or cause
for reevaluation of what has been written. According to Bartholomew, Glassman & Jones
(2012), readers dialogue can also reinforce blogging behavior motivating one to continue
blogging. In the group blog, being able to see the entries as they are posted may cause a

contributor to reflect even before writing. His thought formation is directly affected by the
comments he reads about the topic, causing him to think consciously before adding his post
to the entries. Once posted, having others provide feedback addressing the post may cause
further reflection lending to new ideas or a restructuring of the previously stated ideas.
Within the community, the reflection is ongoing and shared as participants contribute to the
collaborative learning environment. In both examples, reflecting is seen as an active process
where the learners are caused to think consciously about the content.
Sharma and Xie (2011) agree that while blogging has the potential for reflecting, the process
involves more than just writing down what one has learned. In their opinion, reflective
thinking requires the student to write down reflections and identify and connect key words in
order to make meaning of the acquired knowledge. In their research, they attempted to prove
that concept mapping key words in a blog program would lead to deeper meaning and more
knowledge connections made. Unfortunately, not enough evidence was compiled to show
that it was successful, although some of the findings did reveal that students had synthesized
course content. Other researchers, Ahmad & Lutters (2011), also conducted a study to show
how reflective thinking could be achieved in a blog. Their research involved graduate
students who were required to reflect about assignments and their learning experiences in an
online journal blog. Guidelines were given to stimulate reflection such as focus questions
and required peer feedback. Based on the results, Ahmad & Lutters claimed that journaling
did lead to reflective learning when it is structured to encourage students to synthesize the
new experience of knowledge and relate [it] with previous knowledge (Ahmad & Lutters,
2011, p.4). Overall, both studies showed some measure of reflection taking place within the
blog.
Blogging Impacts Student Learning
Administrators, teachers and parents alike are continually seeking ways to support and
motivate the child in learning. Research is supportive of the use of the blog to increase
student motivation and achievement, but even more so to transform the learning environment
and its community of learners. First of all, it allows students opportunities to interact with
content, choosing areas of interest to them and exploring the community at large for answers.
Different from the traditional teacher transfer of content, students have ownership and the
opportunity to individualize their learning (Bartholomew, Glassman, & Jones, 2012;
Luehmann & MacBride, 2008). Secondly, motivated by the ownership of the learning space,

Angelainas study (2012) showed that students contributed to the learning outside the time
and space of the classroom. Student learning is no longer limited to school. Thirdly,
blogging allows the teacher to engage as a participant and gain further insight into the
students thinking. Consequently, the teacher is able to better adjust guidance and feedback,
thus improving student achievement (Luehmann & MacBride, 2008). Finally, in a study
conducted by Davis & McGrail (2011) on the use of blogging in the writing process,
participants felt empowered and prompted to write for the audience they were engaging with
in the blog. As a result, the quality of their writing or posts improved. They concluded, if
we wish students to become motivated and effective writers online and offline, now and in
the future, in the classroom and beyond it[,] a carefully planned blogging experience allows
us to re-imagine a place where such pedagogy can be practiced. (Davis & McGrail, 2011,
Discussion and Implication, para. 8). In sum, there are many advantages to the blog.
Like any learning tool, there are some possible drawbacks to blogging. Initially, its interface
takes time to learn how to use and structure it for success in the learning environment.
Adding and revising content along with monitoring and facilitating the blog are time
consuming too. The blog may also lack participation. This may be due to students not
recognizing the value of sharing in a collaborative community (a concept that must be
experienced and taught) or there being a lack of focus within the blog. With a little
scaffolding and clear guidelines given outlining participation and the focus of the blog, this
drawback may be avoided. While time management is always a concern in the learning
environment, the benefits of blogging far outweigh the setback of time spent. Overall, the
use of the blog does positively impact students and their learning environment.
Conclusion
In examining the blog as a tool through the lens of the constructivist learning theory, research
was supportive of its use in the learning environment. At the same time, studies continually
reiterated the importance of the structure or choice of blog applied combined with the
instructional method. For students to have success using this tool, it is important that
educators consider how they are going to use it and how they are going to be involved in the
process. When those two points are addressed, the blog can be used as an innovative and
creative tool to bring about educational reform. Blogging meets the needs of the 21st century
learner as it allows the opportunity for knowledge construction, scaffolding, and reflection of

learning within a collaborative, interactive and engaging environment. Providing extensions


for both the student and teacher, it is a tool that will continue to gain recognition in education.

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