Outside of Blackboard.
Karine started by describing the learning context of her students who were using blogs ‘outside of Blackboard’. Karine uses the concept of ‘Global Simulation’ in her language teaching with Level 6 students. Global Simulation is an approach for language learning which is task based.
Next she answered the question, ‘Why blogging for learning?’ and proposed a number of answers. It encouraged the students to communicate in the target language. Without the blogs they tend not to write until the end of the semester, so now they write regularly and get feedback regularly. Also they have the time to reflect on what they have written. It is also to good platform for her students to share their ideas. It also enables them to learn about blogging and to increase their employability skills in a safe environment. It encourages them to read other blogs and listen to videos and podcasts in the target language, French. Furthermore it encourages communication between students as they start to comment on one anothers blogs.
Using the ‘global simulation’ allowed the students to meet their learning outcomes through a series of specific tasks over the duration of the semester. So they start by describing their company and their product. The blogs have a variety of business ideas, such as a suitcase that can weigh its contents and a real boutique based in the centre of Madrid. So each student has their own individual blog (using Wordpress and Blogger) and these all have links to them in Blackboard, so that all students know how to access them.
Feedback on the blogs is done orally in the classroom. So for example Karine will bring up a blog on the whiteboard and they will discuss the grammar and issues to do with the language.
Next Karine showed us some of her students blogs. During the first week Karine uses her Flipcam and records the students doing a short introduction – they can then upload this to their blog – she showed us an example of this. The blogs varied in their complexity from very simple to more complex (some interesting business ideas about JetPacks!)
Overall Karine finished by highlighting some of the main benefits of using Blogs with her students. Long term engagement of students. Improved feedback, especially giving formative feedback on their written work. Clear improvement of student writing – both quantity and quality of students written work. Improved creativity. Increased their self confidence in writing (independently). Encourages collaboration…students help one another in the target language.
She also highlighted a some of the downsides of using the blogs. Firstly, lack of IT skills in setting up the blogs. Some students have already set up and used their blogs but others need further instruction and tuition on how to do this. Secondly, Assessment is an issue – it very difficult to assess their work in the blog.
Questions from the audience:
Q Do students feel shy or inhibited when blogging? A. Because we start with very simple tasks they are happy to add posts. Also they are not being formally assessed. They get some bonus marks for their presentations. So far, no student has refused to write a blog (if this happened they student could just email their work to the lecturer).
Q. How long does it take the students to write the blogs. Studnets have to write up to 500 words per blog (they are expected to write 500 words in one hour in there formal assessments).
Inside of Blackboard.
In contrast Lorna looked at the students blogs she is using in Blackboard. Lorna is a lecturer in Marketing and uses blogs in her Principles of Marketing module. Blogs are assessed (50% of the final grade – and this is further divided into their individual blog posts 40% and comments on other blogs 10%). Lorna gives them detailed information on what is required, word limit (150 words), number of posts, information about the marking, advice about blogging and they have a detailed brief of what they write about each week.
In blackboard there is a list of students in the module. How many posts they have written and how many comments they have made on other blogs.
Feedback. In the first week Lorna comments publically on every student blog (i.e. every student can see the comments). At he end of Week 4 Lorna gives individual feedback (where only the individual student can see the comment). Again in Week 8 more individual feedback is given to the studnet.At the end of Week 10 the overall grade is given . Part of the grade is on their own blog but part of the grade is given on the comments they made on other blogs.
Periodically Lorna will also give comments on their blogs – which the student really like. Especially when she made comments on her own personal interests. eg going to Glastonbury.
The main issue for student is that they are not very good at focusing when they write the blogs i.e how the students match theory and practice – matching the theory to marketing examples. Blogs are also used for the group assignments, where they also shoot a YouTube video and Pinterest board. Essentially this is a diary of the groups contributions. (These blogs are not public).
The main reason Lorna uses the blog facility in Blackboard is that its very easy to keep track of the students blogs, to comment on their blogs and to grade them. However there are some limitations of Blackboard Blogs. Students do not have a record of the blog (unlike WordPress or Blogger). which they can take with them when the course is finished.
Question from Audience.
How much time does it take to give this feedback to students?
For 40 students it takes me about half a day (twice per semester) for the formative feedback and then at the end…so about 15 hours in total (which is less time than the old paper based assessments they used to do) and by the end of week 10 its done – no exams or further marking. I personally find it less time.