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EDTC 6535 – Week 2 – Reflection

October 11, 2010

At the beginning of this week, I was still on the fence about the use of blogs in the classroom. While I can see some use for them in college and higher education (for instance, this blog) I was having a hard time really getting my mind around how I could use them with my students. The readings and information that I found online during this week shed some light on this issue for me.

Initially, I thought that the use of blogs in the classroom would be designed to revolve around some sort of project – with the idea that the students would place their finalized work on the blog, and then “submit it” for approval or review. While this idea is certainly workable, it seems like the addition of a blog to the process of a project is nothing more than an extra step.  Then it dawned on me – through reading and discussion this week – that blogs could be successfully and easily integrated into a class to aid in the process of reflection.

I believe wholeheartedly that reflection is an important part of the writing and learning processes. As a  teacher, I engage in some form of reflection on a daily basis, be it written, verbal or internal. This process helps me think about my day, the success of my lessons, and reflect upon how the students did in class and what they learned. I have found that this process, whether it is formal or informal, helps me understand a lot about my teaching, what they are “getting” and what I really need to work on.

Likewise, a part of the writing process, and the general working process, that I assign to my students is an element of reflection. Sometime I have them conduct a short “quick-write” to get their thoughts down about a given subject, project or idea. Sometimes I have them complete a longer assigned reflection for homework, or as an assigned part of a project so they can do some sort of meaningful self reflection to open their eyes to their own work and thought processes. The problem that I often face with these reflections is that when it comes time for students to share them with each other, I often feel that some students are holding back the truth, or at least holding back part of the truth. This is especially true for group projects, but equally true for individual work. Many students are nervous or shy about sharing their personal feelings, especially about their work or the work of their peers, in front of those people (or in front of other people in general).

Blogs could be a great way to solve this problem. Jason Bedell lists certain positive outcomes that can come from students blogging. Two of the most enticing ones I found were: The potential to “develop habits of reflection and deep thought,” and “find validation in realizing that other students are going through similar trials.” If students could truly do this through the process of blogging, I would be amazed, and grateful for the success.

In the end, blogging is another form of communication. As David Warlick points out when writing about the difference between traditional writing skills and blogging: “The difference that students see in blogging is that it is much less about writing as a set of rules, and much more about communicating.” To this end, I am a bit of a “purist” in that I think that students need to learn to communicate in traditional ways (writing, speaking, interacting, etc.). I have to admit that this idea was holding me back a bit from accepting blogs as legitimate classroom tools. In fact, I was adamantly against the idea on the basis that it furthered this “anonymous communication” notion that rode in on the waves of text messaging, twitter and facebook. It took me a while to come to the realization that blogging has the potential to be very useful because of this anonymity: students will be more likely to share their personal feeling and insights through this filter. In the end, it is a legitimate, rapidly growing form of communication.

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