Blogging University

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I’ve found that in the realm of student centered learning, a lot of people are concerned about learner a missing out on important concepts.This is something that would need to be overcome, especially in applied topics such as nursing.

Considering that with respect to the social media tools and their use within education, I’ve been looking at how we could get more out of blogging as a pedagogical tool. I think the use of blogs and Wiki’s are great, but because they are the unmeasured autonomous component they are often swept away, even though they make the best learning experience.

What if the teachers could integrate blogging in a way conceptually similar to googles 20% time? What if a fifth of your grade could be pass/fail marked over blogging assignments. When you need to know about models of memory consolidation, why not expect a student to spend three hours researching and producing a simple blog post explaining it?

You could have students publishing to their blogs or wikis daily, and some blog topics might be specified while others are free choice. The teacher can then guide students through important concepts, have a good measure of real understanding and the students can benefit from autonomous, empowered, intrinsically motivated learning habits.

It would connect learners for networked learning, and it would add both variety and rigor, which are both essential for beneficial, lasting learning. Realistically, what are the reasons that we aren’t trying this?

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Research Methods Blogs

icon-36401_640Two years ago at the start of my degree, a portion of our research methods grade was based on writing a bi-weekly blog (and comments) on research methods in psychology. There was some pretty common traps that students starting out on their academic writing fell in to.

Firstly, we had about a thousand blogs on ethics, validity and whether outliers should be removed or not. Because of this it did make me wonder what there was to write about beyond this. Two years on I think I have the answer, and it has been a light bulb moment for me as I contemplate gearing up for a higher academic work load.

Imagine you are a PhD student, and the first phase of your study is to read a whole pile of journal articles which you will then need to understand and use to plan your own research.

If you take your highlighter to it in depth you’ll be reading for far longer than three years. If you read merely to say you did it your recollection will be similar to that of attending lectures. If you want an idea of what results were found, then the abstract and elements of the conclusion often do the job for you. My question here is: what are you actually reading for?

As we blogged for our science of education blog this semester I eventually worked out that there was good marks to be earned by critiquing the evidence already cited by other students. Looking out for things like conflicts of interest or invalid measures. In short, marks came from evaluating the research methods.

I’m seeing the same pattern as I’m starting to write my dissertation. Prior to my academic blogging experiences I was stalling for what to write, anxious about the task ahead of writing a good literature review. But when you see a 2000 word literature review as no more than 10x 200 word critiques (blog comments) the job seems a lot more manageable.

This perspective of examining the research methods gives purpose to the review I am conducting, as it really does set the stage for my own research. It shows the challenges to overcome and the cause/effect relations between different variables and study techniques. And in doing so, your work then carries the general results and findings thus far.

Now I don’t claim for one second that my undergraduate work compares like for like with the work of a PhD student. However undergraduate learning is a taster, modelled around high level academic study, so these ideas seem to take me a step closer to developing professional skills. Academics aren’t there to memorise literature. They definitely aren’t there to copy it either. You’re trying to seek and sense so that you can add new value later on. Considering, evaluating and comparing the research methods looks like a really balanced way to objectively evaluate research to expound on its potential.