Salla's Blog


Experiential learning and a biology project blog
June 15, 2009, 6:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Task

“Please research which other theories fit to educational (micro)blogging. Take one of them and develop a small usecase for your future pedagogical field of practice using this theory.”

I didn’t quite get the task. I didn’t know if I was supposed to search for general learning theories to fit educational (micro)blogging or all the theories existing. That’s also why it took such a long time for me to start doing this task. While trying to figure this task out I did find a few interesting web sites. They may not fit to this task, but here are the links, still, for those who may be interested.

http://expertvoices.nsdl.org/middle-school-math-science/2008/08/05/teacher-tools-that-integrate-technology-educational-blogging-middle-school-version/

http://blogging4biology.edublogs.org/

http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume39/EducationalBlogging/157920

http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2003/Nov-10-Mon-2003/news/22546246.html

In the end I decided to pick up a learning theory that I think would make a “great pair” with edu-blogging. I read a lot about different theories (for example here: http://www.learning-theories.com/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experiential_learning) and picked up experiential learning as being the most interesting to me.

Experiential Learning

“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience”

This quote is by the originator of the experiential learning –theory, David A. Kolb. So this is a theory which underlines the meaning of “hands-on” experiences and reflection. Theory consists of a cycle of four stages:

  • Concrete experience. “Do-stage”, for example a field work, class trip.
  • Reflective observation. “Observe-stage”, conscious reflecting and thinking what have been seen, experienced, learned… For example writing a report after class trip.
  • Abstract conceptualization. “Think-stage”, learner tries to come up with a theory or a concept of what he has observed. For example why he saw a rainbow on the class trip.
  • Active experimentation.  “Plan-stage”, planning how to test the theory the learner made on the last stage and of future experiences. For example a plan to try to make a rainbow inside the classroom and see if this experiment supports the theory.

–>By reflecting experiences are made into concepts. These concepts then support active experimentation and new experiences.

Experiential learning doesn’t require teacher all the time so it fits perfectly with educational blogging. Teacher’s role is more like a facilitator. We have to remember that experiencing doesn’t necessarily mean learning. That’s why this experiential learning process really needs a meaningful goal setting and all the four stages to exist. Whit a great teacher (=facilitator) this process can, though, lead to learning new skills and attitudes and even new ways of thinking. Now I will present an idea how this learning theory could been transformed into practice of educational blogging.

My Usecase

In my opinion, experiential learning suits best project working. I want to combine it with biology. This project is designated for f young kinds, 4th graders or so, but, I think, can easily be changed for other age groups, too. The goal is to research the versatility of nature and learn to do small experiments.

First I’ll take my class for a trip to the nearby forest. I’ve told my pupils to look for things that seem interesting, new, hard to understand, fascinating to them. They have to write down their thoughts and take pictures of their findings. After the trip everyone can upload their best pictures on class’s own blog and write a question or description under them to clarify the picture. After this kids can comment pictures on blog and vote for the most fascinating ones. Voting happens anonymously to prevent best friends just voting for each others.

Then we pick up the most interesting one (two or three) for further researching. I think, there’s no time within just one project to conceptualize all the pictures, that’s why we pick just a few. Now pupils continue their discussion on the blog about these decided pictures. Every once in a while the teacher can also take part to the conversation to lead it to “right” direction. The purpose is to come up with questions considering those pictures and step by step also answer possibilities for those questions. As pairs or small groups I want kids then choose the most interesting picture and the main problem/question concerning to it. Eventually all the groups come up with their own blog entry about summarizing their thoughts about the picture and finally their own answer to the “problem”; giving a name to the picture.

The final stage for the groups is to try to find a way to check their thoughts. We can for example go back to the forest to observe more, try to find info on internet or books, make experiences in classroom… All of this (web-links, pictures, reflections, questions aroused..) should be posted to class’s blog.

For example it could be a picture of a maple leaf in autumn colors. “Why isn’t it green anymore?” “Where’ve those colors came from?” “Why does the color change?” “Why in autumn?” Then the group decides that their main question is why the leaf changes it colors. “It’s prettier now”, “autumn would be too grey otherwise”…. By these thoughts kids try to build their own theory which, in the end, is tested.

Eventually this class blog would be like a project diary. 🙂

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Heey, is there a way to make adults use educational blogs!?
May 19, 2009, 6:50 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Questions about Educational Blogging

  • How can adults be “taught” to use the internet not like classical media?
  • How do have educational blogs to be changed to increase active participation – and I talk only about comments and discussions?
  • What are the fears of adults to write a blog? How can they be reduced?
  • How does a virtual learning environment look like which motivates adults to write an own blog or even participate at all?
  • What does adults motivate to share their thoughts and learning experiences?

People often go with the social pressure. We do what people around us do. I have my doubts about teaching adults to use internet in a new way, it’s more about raising awareness. We shouldn’t tell too much about all the possibilities but concentrate in a few. Too much information is never good! Adults should be made to see that others use internet in a “new” way, too. So that they could see, that it’s not hard at all and makes for example teaching easier. We need great examples and stories told from real-life to convince adults. Some of us need scientific results to get convinced.

Educational blogs should be made more simple and easier to use. If you have to think even for two seconds, how to leave comments, you won’t do it. I think that’s the fact usually. Comment boxes should be done so, that viewers can straight away (or at least easily) see, that others have commented, too. It’s more encouraging to take part to a conversation than to think “I’m the only one to comment”… It should be made clear that you can also leave comments anonymously and, I don’t know if it’s possible, leave private comments which only the writer of the blog can read.

I think the biggest fears are about sharing private thoughts, pictures, information… So  the reality should be made clear; which things you can safely publish online. You can also make a blog under a password, you can give them, you want to. We should also discuss about Facebook and other applications, that aren’t private either. If you feel comfortable about writing your thoughts and uploading your pictures there, you should remember that data there is not private at all. Could writing a blog be actually more safe than using facebook etc.?

As I’ve noticed during this course, it’s very hard to proof people why they should use educational blogging as a part of teaching. We seem to be very suspicious. In my opinion, the fact still is that teachers have to update their methods. I think that all the suspiciousness and fear of changes is, in the end, very frustrating. Kids use computers all the time, so blogs and other online education medium could be an easy way to get closer to your students. But the genius who knows how to make teachers (as well as other adults) stop fearing changes, well, really is a genius!:)



An idea I could try
May 8, 2009, 3:41 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is our task now: “The Web 2.0 in the Classroom Blog lists 33 ways on how to use blogs in education. Please select one way or describe a new one which you like best and connect it to any educational theory.” “Create a blog where students list class hypotheses before each class science experiment. When experiment is done, results can be posted and compared to initial hypotheses.” I chose this idea, because most of the ideas were pretty simple and already familiar to me. Most of them also sounded like tasks you can also do just without any blogs.

I think it’s a great idea to write down your hypotheses and read others’ suggestions, too. That’s an important part of learning process. It’s a very effective way of learning to compare the new information with your old thoughts. Well, learning does mean new ways to think! It’s also important to see that everyone has their own prejudices and bias and ways to think. It’s a big part of learning to be able to describe why you make certain hypotheses. “Consciously identify what you already know” is one metacognitive strategy for effective learning (http://coe.sdsu.edu/eet/Articles/metacognition/start.htm). I think this blogging task support pupils’ metacognitive skills, too. When you write down your hypotheses and afterwards the results and then compare them, the learning becomes visible. It’s very useful to think through why your hypotheses worked out or not. For example J. Bruner’s Constructivist theory supports this, “learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge” (http://tip.psychology.org/bruner.html).



Feeling a bit skeptical..
May 8, 2009, 2:18 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“Do you think engaging students could be enough as a reason to use twitter blogs, wikis and other stuff in school? How about students who would prefer the “traditional” way of classes?”

I think that in order to use (micro)blogs in education, teachers and pupils should know the applications throughout. They aren’t something you can use just once to motivate your pupils, then the meaning will stay too shallow. I think it’s very hard to be an expert enough about these applications in order to get all the advantages. And if the pupils don’t know how to us them, (micro)blogging can just confuse them instead of motivating.

The optimal situation would be that those who prefer using blogs etc. could use them, but the others could just stuck to the traditional ways. But I’m not yet sure if that’s even possible. At the moment my knowledge and skills concerning twitter, blogs and wikis as educational tools aren’t good enough. I couldn’t, yet, use them to help my pupils. After reading all the articles about this issue I’ve also became a bit skeptic, so I don’t think that motivational/engaging reasons alone aren’t enough to encourage me to use blogs etc. in education.



Can microblogging be used in education?
May 8, 2009, 1:51 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I searched the internet to find ways to use microblogging (like Twitter) at school. Here I introduce you some of the articles/pages I found with my own comments.

I think there’re a lot of similar advantages between blogging and microblogging as educational tools. That’s why I’m now trying to find more specific issues concerning just microblogging.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/2286799/Can-we-use-Twitter-for-educational-activities:

“Twitter can be used as a viable platform for metacognition.” If the pupils have to write their twitter-updates about school works and learning, they really have to think carefully what they’ve done or how they feel, while there’re only 140 signs to use.

“For reference or research”. I think the best parts of microblogging compared to blogging are on this area. It’s faster and easier to find new, helpful information this way. Twitter is also an easier channel to connect people than ordinary blogging, I think.

“Teachers make themselves available”. I think that’s a very important aspect. Of course teachers shouldn’t be available all the time but pupils may feel comfortable about reaching their teachers via Twitter than for example calling. And through Twitter you can send a message to each whenever you want to. Well, as the article points out, that can be a bad side, too. Pupils can intrude teacher’s private life then, too.

http://terry-freedman.org.uk/artman/publish/printer_1122.php

In this article you can find some very good points of view and criticism, too. You shouldn’t be too optimistic about microblogging. Multitasking during the lessons can be very disturbing for most of students. A teacher may have a really pretty picture about using for example Twitter as a helping tool in classroom, but in the end it may just distract pupils and they miss the point teacher is trying to tell them. As a becoming  special educator I’m happy that in this article also students with special needs have been noticed.

http://adifference.blogspot.com/2007/07/twitter-ephemeral-learning-tool.html

“For me, the pedagogical virtue of twitter (or anything like it: jaiku, pownce, IM, etc.) is how it can be used to make students’ thinking transparent; to the teacher and each other.” This is something that seems very useful and scary to me at the same time.

“While I give a lecture students tweet their thoughts about it to each other. Comments that clarify or question what I am saying. They can also tweet any confusions they have as they arise”. That seems like a very frightening picture to me. I prefer real face-to-face discussion in classroom.  And who really could be able to listen to the teacher lecturing and use microblogs at the same time? If I was meant to do those tasks together I would just get nervous and confused. Darren Kuropatwa suggests also in this article that mobile phones could be used in classroom, to help twittering. That’s something I’m strictly against! There’s no possibility the teacher could make sure that pupils aren’t, for example, just sending textmessages to their friends..



How blogs can be used in school/education?
April 21, 2009, 2:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Our task was to search for sources, how blogs can be used as an educational tool. Here underneath I’ve listed some of the sources I found followed by their best points and my own thoughts. Before I started to do this task, I never thought that there would be that much information about our subject! I’ve never heard anyone talking about this subject in Finland but, still, I found a few good sources in Finnish, too.

Quotes are from the sites referenced.

http://www.slideshare.net/villevenalainen/blogien-kytt-opetuksessa

Points out that blogs can well be used

o as a channel to share information

o as a discussion forum

o as forums for Students to reflect their own learning and learn from the others

A class can write its own blog. I think that would be a very good task for Finnish/English lessons.

http://www.edu20.org/

That’s a new virtual learning environment. Looks very interesting! I definitely recommend you to look at it a bit closer. With this program you can for example arrange virtual lessons, write your own blog (public or private), network with other people and benefit from sources the users have put there. Maybe a web site like this is the future of education?

http://www.21classes.com/

That’s a same kind of an environment for class room blogging.

http://www.education-world.com/a_tech/tech/tech217.shtml

“Blogs, because of their ease of use, and because of the context of news and editorial column writing, have become a highly effective way to help students to become better writers.”

“Educators know that students write better when they have a real audience — not just a teacher with a red pen.”

I think that is one of the most important effects of blogs to education. Publishing an own blog can be easy way to encourage and motivate the pupils to write. Let the pupils decide themselves about which topic they want to write. There shouldn’t be too many limitations but of course you, as a teacher, should remind the kids that others can read their texts, too. Well, we all know, that the only way to become a talented writer is to write as much as possible! And we have to remember the pupils with special needs, too. For someone the hardest part of writing is to try to keep the pen in hand and type the letters. Using a computer can open a new world to those kids!

http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/sharingpractice/b/blogging/whyblogineducation.asp?strReferringChannel=ictineducation

There are some great ideas for class room blogging. I especially like the idea of “Best work blog”. Pupil has to publish his week’s best work in a blog. Knowing, that his work will become public, encourages a pupil to work harder. I think it’s a good way to improve the self-evaluating skills, too. It’s not that easy to say which school work is the best and why. Using commenting boxes help kids also to learn how to give positive feedback and compare works in a positive way.

http://www.edtech.sandi.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=195&Itemid=354

There you can find very convincing reasons why to use blogging in education! It is true that the literature of our time is changing rapidly and blogs, for example, are something we read every day nowadays. Every once in a while I notice, that the way I’m thinking can be slightly old-fashioned, but the school/education system shouldn’t be! It’s schools duty to prepare the kids for the world! That’s why we have to remember this following aspect, too: “Blogs provides the opportunity to discuss responsible public writing. We can learn about the power of the published word and the responsibilities involved with public writing.”

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/articles/blogging-elt

There is an interesting part: “Keeping students interested”. It happens easily, that teacher is, at first, extremely excited about a new teaching/learning environment, but step by step the attraction decreases. Then you can’t get the most out of blogging as an educational tool. In this web entry there’re a few good tips, how to keep up the enthusiasm. As long as the teacher is excited, the kids have more fun, too 🙂.

__________

In (almost) every source I read, the safety views are highlighted. In internet occurs a lot of bullying these days. Unwanted comments, writings and photos in wrong hands, other vandalism take place often. That’s why active conversation in class room must be a part of blogging, I think. Kids must know which their rights and responsibilities are, how to know which information in internet is trustworthy, how they can protect their personal information. Teacher has to be aware of the harmful sides of using internet as an educational environment, to benefit blogging the most!



Could Twitter be used as a virtual learning environment (VLE)?
April 21, 2009, 11:09 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I read another interesting blog-post on internet, too (http://kerryturner.wordpress.com/about/twitter-as-a-vle/). There Kelly Turner writes about her thoughts about Twitter as a VLE. After the last article I was pretty skeptical, but maybe this writing could help me to be more excited about Twitter as an educational tool. Now I’ll let you know about my thoughts after reading the blog-post.

First of all, I think that VLEs are something teachers should use in their teaching every day. VLEs can be very motivating for the pupils, teach them important skills, and diversify the teaching. But which are Twitter’s possibilities as a virtual learning environment?

Twitter could really be a great support for teaching! But can we assume that all the kids have an everyday access to Twitter? Schools should provide computers to all pupils, but still they may be out of an internet access at home…

Do all the pupils know how to use Twitter? First step to use Twitter as a VLE, is to teach all the kids to use it properly.

As Kelly Turner says, too, verbal communication is the most important, still. So I prefer the idea of using Twitter as a homework space.

Twitter is great channel for pupils, too, to stay in touched. They can easily discuss with pupils from other schools. But also teachers and parents can follow what their kids are up to.

But is Twitter superior to other VLEs? What is there even better than in other environments?