Keeping a journal can help students to record their experiences, or track their progress on a project or learning journey.  There are many tools available to facilitate maintaining an online journal, and some of these can be shared – with the lecturer, the course members, or more widely – enabling the potential to receive feedback from a range of audiences.

Motivation

Journal writing has many well-documented benefits in education. As well as the obvious opportunities for developing reflective writing, critical thinking, and communication skills, journalling gives students a sense of ownership over their learning process. Reflecting on journal entries contributes to a student’s sense of achievement as the archive of their work continues to grow. 

Blogs are an excellent journalling tool as they provide a rapid and responsive way to instantly publish and edit thoughts, and to distribute and get feedback on work.

The aim in one Community Leadership course was to use blogging as a way to develop participants’ abilities in articulating and defending a coherent model of leadership, and to foster a virtual community of practice among participants, bridging the academic-workplace divide. Participants needed to engage in a reflective process in order to develop their personal leadership model, and critique and reflect on issues raised by their peers.

Implementation

As a Community Leadership course, it was decided that participants should use blogs to comment on and raise issues relevant to their selected field of practice, and because of the blog format, reach a wide audience of people with similar interests and experiences in community leadership. With the immediacy of publishing and feedback granted by blogs, participants were readily able to highlight the successes and issues impacting their community, as well as exchange and critique the beliefs of others. Access to these key insights proved to be hugely valuable to participants, as well as the broad introduction of blogs as a means of finding and navigating new information and perspectives. It was also critical that having the participants engage with online communities involved in Community Leadership would increase the reach of their work, reinforce their capacities as leaders, and benefit their work in the field.

These reflective blogs were submitted as an assessment piece so that participants would participate in the task. Additional activities were built around the blogging assessment so that participants would discuss each other’s work, and ultimately present their personal leadership model to their peers for review. The interactions had with others online, as well as the blog entries which came to constitute each participant’s learning process, all delineated the natural development of each personal leadership model. Thus participants could look back at how they got to this model, and feel as though they were in possession of something grounded and informed by their own unique learning journey.

What Next?

A simple and ‘low stakes’ way to begin using blogs in your class would be to get students to find blogs in their area of interest, and possibly to comment on them. If you ask students to write their own blogs they may feel more confident if the audience is confined to their peers to start with. If the activity is assessed, it may be best to restrict access to the lecturers.

There are a lot of good resources about blogging on the internet- see Anne Davis’ Rationale for educational blogging below.

Tools and Tips

WordPress

Blogger

Resources

S. Cottrell and N. Morris. (2012). Study skills connected: using technology to support your studies. pp 77-100 New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Blogwalker. Anne Davis’s Rationale for educational blogging [website].

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