Organizing and writing ideas and building presentations can be a taxing and complicated process for students. Writing requires multitasking. When some of these tasks are challenging, they can become overwhelming and can often disrupt the creative flow of ideas. One way to help students focus is to have them blog each writing task. Blogs can be described as “simple content management tools enabling nonexperts to build easily updatable Web diaries or online journals” that are “networked between several users who post thoughts that often focus upon a common theme” (Olofsson, 2011).
Blogs provide a number of benefits to student learning. Blogs help students develop and improve fluency and thinking. They allow students to discover new ideas and relationships between concepts and help them generate and organize their thought processes and information. They can also help students track the progress of a project. By having students post daily progress reports and resources to specific tasks, students are able to keep up with the progress of particular project elements that are relevant to them. Students are encouraged to dialog with one another and provide peer evaluation throughout the progress of a project. The challenge is figuring out how to establish the direction for students.
Setting guidelines and expectations
An important part of using an online tool with your students is educating them on appropriate online behavior. In many cases, it is ideal to develop these guidelines and expectations together with your students. A blog provides an excellent opportunity to educate students on proper online behavior such as the types of personal information that is appropriate to share and what makes a good post or comment. It is best to lead students in discussions about these important concepts and have them submit, propose, or recommend the guidelines themselves. Mapping out potential questions for a blog can provide a framework or guide for students in the development of an online presentation.
Here are some suggestions on how to implement blogs for mapping out an online presentation.
Provide students with a series of blog questions. Typically, I provide students with five questions. The first blog addresses the topic of interest related to the course content, and students collaborate and write a paragraph on the topic. This essentially becomes the abstract of the project or presentation. Students are encouraged to provide peer feedback on the abstract. The peer feedback is another way to proof prior to the final submission of the abstract. The second blog has the student locate professional resources pertaining to the topic. Each student in the group provides one professional resource and writes one paragraph pertaining to the resource. The third blog requires students to look up statistics pertinent to the topic. I ensure that students provide the proper academic reference (i.e., APA style). The fourth blog addresses the use of library databases providing peer-reviewed journal articles. The fifth blog (which can be optional) requires students to locate three relevant and current videos pertaining to the topic.
Whether you want students to dialog or collect information for a project, a blog is one way to measure what students are completing and what they are learning. After I implemented this method, students indicated that it was helpful and allowed for greater organization, collaboration, and dialog with one another. Students also indicated that using blogs to organize a group presentation helped them allocate the work equally.
Finally, if you are not using a learning management system, here are some other tools to explore:
Popplet (popplet.com): this online tool features a mindmapping tool and allows students to share and collaborate. Students and instructors can create up to five Popplets.
Wordpress (https://wordpress.org): this tool is a popular blogging service used both in and beyond education.
Blogger (Google's service, www.blogger.com): This tool is worth introducing to students who are likely to spend their lives working with Google's products.
Edmodo (www.edmodo.com): a social media platform often described as Facebook for education.
Curriculum Corner - Using Blogs With Students. (2014, January 1). Edublogs. Retrieved June 5, 2014, from http://edublogs.org/curriculum-corner-using-a-blog-with-students/.
Olofsson, A. D., Lindberg, O. J., & Hauge, T. E. (2011). Blogs and the design of reflective peer-to-peer technology-enhanced learning and formative assessment. Campus-Wide Information Systems, 28(3), 183-194. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/docview/881451912?accountid=39473.
West, D. M. (2012). How blogs, social media, and video games improve education. Brookings Institution. 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/docview/1018478734?accountid=39473.
Julia VanderMolen is an assistant professor of allied health sciences at Grand Valley State University.