Momenta Learning

A blog on topics related to Elearning, online education, and instructional design.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sensemaking artifact Week 0

Blogging as an educational tool is a new concept that has circulated the internet for some time. It is being used by colleges, universities, and educational organizations as another tool that aids and supports learning. It is true that blogging started as a communication medium for the masses. Now everybody can put forth their thoughts at any time and place, and millions of people will have access to that content. Unlike live interaction over the internet (webinars, chat, etc.) this can be used as an asynchronous interactive tools, since communication does not happen immediately, the receiver of the message will not read it until later on. There is also a period of time while the message is being elaborated. This is a very important and crucial step in the whole process. This is the part where the blogger lays out the ideas that will be sent, reworks the structure of the message and finally makes sure that the message is clear and free of typos and errors. One can tell when a blog message was made on the fly, with no final review whatsoever. While the blogger thinks about on how to structure the message, critical thinking and analysis is happening, and learning is happening. The blogger will consult other resources and do research before or while elaborating the blog content. All these activities are done by students in a classroom setting when they are asked to work on a project. Blogging can also be conducted individually or in groups, just like classroom projects.
So, nowadays the question is not if you can blog, it is why are you not? The technology is here to do it for free (although it was not the case some time ago), the second question is how can I make my blog visible to others? Social media is an answer but word of mouth still works, networking is the most effective way of growing your audience these days. It is no secret that a successful blog is not the one with more content, but the one with meaningful and valuable content. Building a reputable blog still takes time and effort, blogging is a work of its own. The most important part of building a blog still involves some cosmetics; I also believe that making the navigation in a blog easier is as valuable as the content it contains. I cannot tell you how many times I have left a blog because the internal navigation is so confusing, I get frustrated and quit.
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But blogs started as a way to communicate your own ideas. How about we use it to prod ideas out of people who would not use blogs regularly? I am guessing somebody actually had that idea at some college or university when pondering what tools to use to make student interaction easier. A blog requires analysis and critical thinking, if done properly. If you ask the right questions to students, or suggest the best way to express an idea, then blogging becomes a powerful learning experience. Many students on their own will not be able to come up with the ideas themselves, they are not used to employing the tool. That is why the involvement of the instructor is very important in this setting. In a MOOC that can be a nightmare because the enrollments in these types of online courses are in the thousands. But in many cases the use of supporting staff ameliorates the problem, but even in this setting instructor involvement is very important.
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Most interesting of all is when blogging is utilized as an educational device in hard sciences and mathematics. I am currently actively involved in utilizing blogging for learning activities in engineering, physics, mathematics, and chemistry online classes. I believe that learning can be facilitated if the student is allowed to express concepts in these subjects through the use of blogging tools. By expressing their ideas on a particular subject, critical thinking is allowed to happen, and the instructor can assess what the students actually understand from the subject. The hardest part though, is creating the right questions and subjects to discuss in a blog. Yes and no questions do not help the process; you need to create prompts that can be expanded in a blog after some analysis from the student.
I believe the future of blogging lies ahead in educational settings, but there is still room to amplify its use for communication of ideas over the internet. Blogging is not a tool that everybody can use with no previous knowledge or practice. Students enrolled in online classes will learn how to use this tool and will gain a skill that can use in their future workplace. More instructors will start using this tool to communicate with students and gage their understanding of the subject being taught. They need to be more involved in the process to fully take advantage of this device that supports learning in the online environment.


  1. Hi Julio,

    Thank you for your detailed explanation of blogs. I have found many teachers and learners who don't have a clue about blogging. In fact learning to use a blog could be a course in itself. And if that's the case many faculty may run from blogs since it requires more work.

    What suggestions do you have for faculty and students to learn how to blog? Would you include it as part of the course? IF so how? If not why not?


    1. Hi Greg,

      I work for a university setting, so a whole lot of resources are available in the faculty development program here, there are resources for students too, and others have created tips and suggestions on blogging, but I see your point when you don't have those resources, what to do?

      In many cases, the LMS in use contains a tool very similar to a blog, this can be used as a starting point.

      I have faced this situation with faculty who have never used a blog, with students not so. What has worked for us is building the blog for them and then showing them how to create posts, delete posts, manage comments, and so on (we usually resort to Blogger). After the course is released there is a period of time when they do contact us with questions, although they ended up managing the blog on their own.

      So, I think the best way to go with novel bloggers is to give them a bare bones blog tool they can explore, DO NOT ask them to build the blog from scratch, many do not know how to face the technological challenges of web programming or blog set up. I am an engineer, the best analogy I can give you is that when you learn how to drive, you usually do not know how the car works internally, you just learn to drive, when you have mastered the use, then maybe you are open to understanding the technology.

      Having the technology out of the way, the next step is to help the instructor developing blog posts, one way of doing this is to provide examples on how to post relevant questions for students to analyze and then answer on the blog. This can be accomplished by having (many) meetings with the faculty to discuss possible blog posts that will help the student accomplish the learning objectives, we also helped them figure out how to align those blog activities to the overall course objectives. In some cases, we plan all the posts for the semester, then the faculty can either modify them or post them as they are, later on they get the point of these posting and won't need our help anymore.

      Since I am designing an online course for teachers, I think one of the things I will be making is providing optional resources on how to blog and plenty of examples of different posts that will serve as assignments or activities in their courses. I might be able to provide feedback once they start doing it on their own, but I don't think it is something I should devote space in the content of the course. I have to set the scope to the course, and even though blogging is a useful tool, so is development tools such as screen recordings, audio recordings, podcasts, but that doesn't mean I have to teach them all that. But I will definitely provide plenty of resources so that they can explore on their own.

      I hope this answers your questions.

  2. Indeed blogs are great learning tools and helps with reflection and assessment. What I also found useful is in being able to embed other multimedia, widgets, etc. so that learning can be expressed in other forms like in videos or images and still be included in the blog. Then the blog becomes a hub for one's learning.

    1. Hi Rachael,

      You are right, spot on! In fact, that is one of the things that excites me more about blogs: the different applications around the whole thing. I add media and other resources when I think it helps convey my message in that particular post. What I would like to try is to use a blog kind of like that app called Whatsapp, now you can send voice messages, maybe audio threads will accelerate the posting process, plus the added human touch of somebody's voice.

      Thank you for your comment.


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