Using Weblogs to Enhance Teaching and Learning

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					       Using Weblogs to Enhance Teaching and Learning




                      Final Project for
                LT785 – Educational Research




Submitted by Linda McEntee, Paula Pecenka, and Janel Simonsen
                     December 8, 2006
I - Statement of the Research Question/Problem:

How can weblogs be used to enhance teaching and learning?



II - Summary of the Literature:

       Weblogs or blogs are becoming evermore popular in our technological society.

According to the Pew Internet Study, an estimated 50 million Internet users, roughly 11%

of the American online community are regular blog readers, (Horwedel, 2006, p. 28).

They are the new, creative genre that helps bloggers to express an understanding and

share ideas on the Internet. “A blog is a frequently updated website consisting of dated

entries called posts…arranged in reverse chronological order so the most recent entry

appears first.” (Brownstein & Klein, 2006, p. 18). People are using blogs as journals or

diaries, as bulletin boards for others to comment on, as electronic portfolios, and for

business purposes. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department utilizes a blog

(http://dcsosd.blogspot.com/) for local news updates, memos, and community news.

       Technology can be very motivating in and of itself. Children have a strong

positive view of technology and that technology is a key part of how they define

themselves. (Druin, 2005, p. 20). Websites such as weblogs allow for immediate

publication by its designer and instant responses by its viewers. “Once an item is posted

to the blog, it can be read immediately, and feedback can be rapid if a facility is provided

for comments.” (Clyde, 2005, p. 3). They also allow the designer total control over the

creative process and design elements. Providing ways for students to be involved in the

construction of weblogs allows them to see the building of information along with
applying it to situations in which they can become more analytical and further their

critical thinking skills. When students are a part of the building of weblogs it empowers

them to more personal expression and interaction. The unique aspect of weblogs is that

hyperlinks are embedded within the weblogs that allow the reader to get immediate

access to the material rather than relying on a search engine. The reader of the weblog

than can instantly responds with reflective, insightful anecdotes. (Oravec, 2002, p. 617-

618). Weblogs are capable of utilizing text, images, sounds, and hyperlinks. Many blogs

can be linked together. Blogs may also be linked to other websites or references.

According to Greg Weiler (2003, p.74), blogs have a few common strengths. He states

that they “allow for sharing or collaboration among a number of students…in a format

that is much less restrictive than the traditional classroom.” He adds that they can

become an extension of the classroom allowing contact between peers outside of the

actual class time. This makes cooperation amongst students at different sites possible.

“Bloggers receive feedback from the class, or the school community, or even from

around the world, depending on whether the blog is publicly available.” (Clyde, 2005. p.

3). A research study on the “Benefits of Cooperative Learning in Weblog Networks”

found that 60% of the students “described that using blogs working within their group

members did increase their confidence in learning.” 65% of the students felt that it

helped to develop their social skills. (Wang & Fang, 2005).

       Weblogs are quite simple to create. There are many places via the Internet that

are available free of charge to set up a blog. Stiler and Philleo’s study of weblogging

used two undergraduate courses as their sample. The students used Blogger, an online

blogging site that has no cost to setup but requests a $5 donation. “Students in both
classes reported that they generally found the format of Blogger easy to set up and easy to

use.” (Stiller & Philleo, 2003, p. 792). The designer may also decide who will be given

permission to view the site or make comments on the postings. When designing a

weblog, there are many things to consider. According to Brownstein and Klein (2006, p.

21), there are certain rules for an effective blog. They are as follows: be specific about

the purpose of the blog, decide who will be the main author or authors of the blog, be

sure that the blog has structure, determine guidelines for its use, decide if it will public or

by invitation only, teach blog etiquette, adapt it as needed, and have fun.

       Through their study, Wang and Fang (2005) stressed the benefits of cooperation

through the use of blogs. They used weblogs for assignments in a college level class in

Rhetoric and Writing. They found that 83.3% of the students felt that they achieved their

goal, and 64.5% of the students learned to work with diversity. 63.7% of the students felt

that they were able to manage their time using the Internet. One aspect that is the key is

that is allows students’ to have their own unique voice. “Students can define their

position in the context of others’ writings as well as outline their own perspective on

particular issues.” (Oravec, 2002). In the Druin (2005) study, researchers used selected

students to help design a new digital library for children. The researches worked closely

with the children using weblogs, surveys and lab user studies to develop their ideas.

Using weblogs can “Force children to negotiate interfaces that require complex content

knowledge, sophisticated search syntax, abstract concepts, and adult vocabulary, as well

as necessitate a high level of reading skills that are beyond children’s cognitive

developmental abilities.” (Druin, 2005, p. 24).
       “As with any technology, they should be used to facilitate something you would

do or like to do anyway.” (Weiler, 2003, p. 74). Blogs may be used in many ways. Greg

Weiler (2003, p. 74) used them to publish creative writing and have peers give feedback

through the comment option. Teachers can use weblogs to stimulate classroom

discussion for students who are not as confident to speak out in class. “These 10th, 11th,

and 12th graders – even the sullen or quiet ones who never raised their hands or took part

in class discussions- were spilling out their thoughts on an assignment” to the instructor

and fellow classmates at Willard Alternative High School in Montana. (Borea, 2005, p.

1).



III - Summary of Findings and Conclusions:

       In reading our articles and discussing their contents, we all agreed that weblogs

could greatly benefit any classroom. We felt that the results of the studies alone proved

their value. We also felt that the other authors had wonderful points and ideas.

       Horwedel (2006) indicated that weblogs are being used by all types of people and

that they use them to express their opinions. Weblogs were shown to benefit college

students through cooperative learning in the Wang and Fang survey study (2005). We

felt that they could also be used with younger students – even those in elementary,

middle, and high schools.

       Most importantly, we agreed that weblogs should not be used for the sake of

using technology. They should only be utilized when it will benefit the students in

understanding content or learning valuable skills. They should be used for a specific

purpose.
IV - Application of the Research in a Typical School:

       The use of technology in educational classrooms continues to grow each year.

Teachers have many tools they can utilize to incorporate technology into their lessons.

One such tool that is becoming increasingly popular is the weblog. Using a weblog as a

classroom tool can be beneficial to both teacher and student.

       A weblog can be used as a communication tool for both the teacher and student.

Teachers have the ability to post assignments, discussion questions, or simply post

reminders or a list of supplies needed for class. Students can use a weblog as a

question/answer area to address questions of their peers or teacher. Students who aren’t

comfortable speaking out in class may be more at ease expressing their thoughts and

ideas in written work on a weblog. Additionally, communication between parents and

teachers can also occur within a classroom weblog. Laurel Clyde tells about a classroom

teacher and her students who “report on class activities and what they have learned, and

parents are asked to support their children's learning through small activities in the

home.” (Clyde, p. 45) This type of activity could increase student learning with

reinforcement projects at home.

       A weblog can also aid students working on group projects. Since a weblog is easy

to access, requiring only a computer and internet connection, group partners can post

information and collaborate on a project from home in the evening or on a weekend.

Weblog postings are organized chronologically so a teacher with access to the group’s

weblog can track the collaboration among the members.
       Before a weblog is used in a classroom setting, the teacher must explore the

Internet policies of the school and district. Security and privacy could be issues with

parents if their child is posting personal information. After all the privacy and security

issues are explored, a weblog in a traditional classroom setting could be a positive

experience for all involved.
V – List of References

Borea, Rhea R. (2005). 'Blogs' catching on as tool for instruction. Education Week,
       25(15), 1-2. Retrieved November 28, 2006, from ProQuest database.

Brownstein, E., & Klein, R. (2006). Blogs: Applications in science education. Journal
      Of College Science Technology, 35(6), 18-22. Retrieved November 25, 2006
      from ProQuest Education Journals database. (Document ID: 1033834821).

Clyde, Laurel A. (2005). Educational Blogging. Teacher Librarian, 32(3), 43-45.
       Retrieved December 03, 2006, from ProQuest database.

Druin, A. (2005). What children can teach us: developing digital libraries for children
       with children. The Liberty Quarterly, 75(1), 20-43. Retrieved November, 20,
       2006 from ProQuest Educational Journals database. (Document ID: 846333031).

Horwedel, D. (2006). Blogging rights. Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 23(2), 28-
      31. Retrieved November 20, 2006, from ProQuest Education Journals database.
      (Document ID: 1006460581).

Oravec, J. (2002). Bookmarking the world: weblog application in education. Journal of
      Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 45 (7), 616-621. Retrieved November 20, 2006,
      from ProQuest Education Journals database. (Document ID: 112560641).

Stiler, Gary M., & Philleo, Thomas. (Summer 2003)Blogging and blogspots: an
        alternative format for encouraging reflective practice among preservice
        teachers.(Blogger, an online weblog service for student
        teachers). In Education, 123, p789(9). Retrieved November 28,
        2006, from Professional Collection via Thomson Gale:
        http://find.galegroup.com/ips/infomark.do?&contentSet=IAC-
        Documents&type=retrieve&tabID=T002&prodId=IPS&docId=A105043958&sou
        rce=gale&userGroupName=sdln_dsu&version=1.0

Wang, J., & Fang, Y. (2005). Benefits of cooperative learning in weblog networks.
      Online submission. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED490815).

Weiler, G. (2003). Using weblogs in the classroom. English Journal, 92(5), 73-75.
       Retrieved November 25, 2006 from ProQuest Education Journals database.
       (Document ID: 344953601).
                           Appendix A - Analysis of Research


Article #1 – Linda McEntee

Bibliographic Citation (APA Style) -

Stiler, Gary M., & Philleo, Thomas. (Summer 2003)Blogging and blogspots: an
        alternative format for encouraging reflective practice among preservice
        teachers.(Blogger, an online weblog service for student
        teachers). In Education, 123, p789(9). Retrieved November 28,
        2006, from Professional Collection via Thomson Gale:
        http://find.galegroup.com/ips/infomark.do?&contentSet=IAC-
        Documents&type=retrieve&tabID=T002&prodId=IPS&docId=A105043958&sou
        rce=gale&userGroupName=sdln_dsu&version=1.0


Type of Research:      ___ Descriptive                 ___ Correlation
                       ___ Experimental                ___ Causal-Comparative
                       ___ Historical                  ___ Quasi-Experimental
                       ___ Meta-Analysis               _X_ Survey

Evidence from article you used to determine Type of Research

The abstract identifies this research as a survey, “A preservice student-user survey was
applied to determine efficacy and user orientation requirements.”

Purpose of the Research

Stiler and Philleo set out to find the effectiveness and the training required for the use of
Blogger, an online weblogging site. They asked the participants to assess the value and
ease of use of Blogger to determine if it would enhance student writings. They also
analyzed the writings posted on Blogger and compared them to journal entries from a
previous year to determine if the technology would enhance student writings.

Instruments Used

Two different surveys were administered to participants at the completion of the
preservice training. For students in EDUC 302, the survey included a checklist of
reactions to their use of Blogger (or alternative journaling methods for those students
who decided to opt-out of the online journaling tasks).

In the survey for students in the EDUC 214 course, the questions were more in-depth due
to the assumption that these students, enrolled in a educational technology course, would
analyze the technology as a classroom tool.
Validity and reliability of Instruments Used

The surveys were returned at a high rate (98%) and were straight-forward questionnaires,
so the instrument would be reliable. Validity could be questioned, however, as 12 of 15
teachers stated they would not or were unsure if they would use blogging in their
teaching. Even though most of the responses were positive in the usage of Blogger, and
the writings were found to be longer and written with more thought, the applicability of
this journaling method to the subjects’ future classrooms didn’t look as positive.

Subjects

The site, Blogger, was added to the syllabi as course requirements of two undergraduate
preservice courses. This included two sections of EDUC 302 – Multicultural Education
(48 students) and EDUC 214 – Technology in Education (15 students).

Results and Conclusions

71% of participants rated Blogger as easy to use. The percentage of responders that
indicated the learning curve of this site was less than one hour of training was 72%.

58% of the participants were either very or somewhat satisfied with the site, and the same
percentage (58%) would recommend this site for future use.

Even with these fairly high numbers, 12 of 15 students indicated they would not or they
were unsure if they would use Blogger in their own classroom teaching.

The quality of journaling was also investigated. The writings from this training were
compared to those of a previous semester with traditional journaling techniques. The
researchers found the journal entries to be “more analytic and evaluative” than a previous
semester. Entries were also longer than in the past. Based on these findings, Stiler and
Philleo believed that “the depth and breadth of student reflectivity appeared to be
positively affected by their use of Blogger.”


Possible Influence of Extraneous Variables

One variable that likely influenced this study was the option for students to not
participate in the online weblogging. Four students in the EDUC 302 course decided to
use alternate methods for their journaling. Two students chose this option due to the
possibility of lack of privacy with online journals and two students opted out because
they were not confident in their computer skills.

Internet speed and availability of the site could also influence the students’ perception of
the Blogger site. When asked of any problems in the use of Blogger, some participants in
the EDUC 302 course indicated “difficulties posting journal entries, lost entries, lack of
time to make entries, lack of motivation to write journal entries, and privacy issues.”
Other variables could be attitude of subjects and the amount of technology background of
subjects.

Possible Threats to Internal and External Validity

Students could drop out of the course during the semester so therefore an internal threat
to validity would be loss of subjects. Attitude of subjects would be another threat to
internal validity. If a student is against online blogging, he/she may come in with a bad
attitude and not get the most out of the study.

A threat to external validity may be in the sampling. The one course, Technology in
Education, would more than likely have students interested in technology, or they would
more likely be technologically competent. One wouldn’t be able to generalize to the
entire population based on these findings.

Generalizability of Results to Local Issues

The findings in this study could be generalized to other undergraduate courses.
Weblogging is new and experience is minimal. As time goes by, more and more schools
may use these methods to enhance student writing.

If this method would be used in classrooms for journaling, students should be well
trained in the use of the Blogger site. Stiler and Philleo also write that “immediate
instructor-student feedback is important in order to eliminate student problems and
circumvent frustrations.” The topic of privacy and anonymity when posting online
should also be addressed if this is to be used more often in classrooms.
Article #2 – Paula Pecenka

Bibliographic Citation (APA Style) -

Horwedel, D. (2006). Blogging rights. Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 23(2), 28-
      31. Retrieved November 20, 2006, from ProQuest Education Journals database.
      (Document ID: 1006460581).

Type of Research:     ___ Descriptive               ___ Correlation
                      ___ Experimental              ___ Causal-Comparative
                      ___ Historical                ___ Quasi-Experimental
                      ___ Meta-Analysis             __X_ Survey

Evidence from article you used to determine Type of Research

      Convenience
      Casual-Comparative

Purpose of the Research

Horwedel used a Pew Internet Study to support her article on blogging rights to show
demographic make-up of those using blogs and how they feel blogging allows them to
express their opinion.


Instruments Used

The survey was broken into three parts. The first, asking them to indicate if they have
ever heard of a blog, regularly read or visited a blog, interested in making a blog, and
whether they had their own personal blog. The second part, was the profile or make-up
of blog users from gender, average age, broadband access, and average household
income. The last part was strictly an opinion statement about leadership and blogging
and whether or not if they agreed with this statement.


Validity and reliability of Instruments Used

An on-line survey was presented to large population of Internet users. The same
questions were asked to all participants. Participants were subsequently divided into two
categories based on whether they were bloggers or on-blog users and further questions
were asked.

Subjects
A convenience sampling survey by Technorati, a blog tracking search engine, was used
to obtain an overall demographic population of blog users. Various questions were asked
starting with how blogs apply to them.


Results and Conclusions

At the time of this survey 49% of those surveyed had never heard of blogs. 5% regularly
visited or read others’ blogs. 3% were interested in creating a blog, and 2% already had
their own personal blog. The profile for male participants showed that 57% were blog
users while 48% were non-blog users. The males that were bloggers average age were
37.7 years, with an average 5.6 years online tenure, and average income of $57,900.
When asked to respond to the statement: “I am a natural leader-people always listen to
my opinion,” those that were regular blog readers, 50% agreed with this statement.
Those that had their own personal blog, 49% agreed with this statement. Only 35% of all
online users agreed with this statement. The results of this survey reveal that more than
half of the online community knows what a blog is and that 5% regularly read and visit
others’ blogs. Males in their thirties, making an average salary of $57,000 are frequent
users of blogs. Lastly, those that use or read blogs feel overwhelmingly that their
opinions are important and matter.


Possible Influence of Extraneous Variables

Possible extraneous variables that could influence this survey would include the size of
the survey group along with the fairness of the demographic make-up of those
participating in the survey. Online surveys often come to us at work or at home.
Depending on how hectic our schedule or life is at the time, would play apart in whether
or not participants would be willing to fill out the survey.


Possible Threats to Internal and External Validity

The survey was presented online, thus only those participants that see online surveys as
being meaningful, valid, or important will probably take part in the survey. Another
aspect that might have influenced the results is using the term weblogs. Those that are
unfamiliar or have an attitude toward the subject of blogging will subsequently not bother
participating in the survey.


Generalizability of Results to Local Issues

The technology world continues to grow and change daily. This can easily be seen by the
growth of Internet users and the increase in people reading and using blogs. The results
of this survey demographically could easily be applied to local issues in how blogs are
becoming a new form of genre for people to express their opinions and interact. More
people are using blogs in school, for business purposes, and personally. The number of
bloggers will continue to grow as people see how they can effectively be used and have a
reason.
Article #3 – Janel Simonsen

Bibliographic Citation (APA Style) –

Wang, J., & Fang, Y. (2005). Benefits of cooperative learning in weblog networks.
      Online submission. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED490815).


Type of Research:     ___ Descriptive               ___ Correlation
                      ___ Experimental              ___ Causal-Comparative
                      ___ Historical                ___ Quasi-Experimental
                      ___ Meta-Analysis             _X Survey

Evidence from article you used to determine Type of Research

        Wang and Fang utilized a survey in their study on cooperative learning in weblog
networks. This survey was done in the form of a questionnaire. “A questionnaire,
comprising of 20 questions, was developed regarding to the students’ experiences of
online responses or comments of the online posts.”


Purpose of the Research

       This study considered the use of cooperative learning in weblog networks. “The
purpose of this is to explore the benefits of cooperative learning in weblog networks,
focusing particularly on learning outcomes in college writing curriculum integrated with
computer-mediated learning tool – weblog.”


Instruments Used

        Wang and Fang developed a questionnaire for their survey study. “For all itmes
on the instrument, participants were asked to respond on a five-point Likert type scales
which ranged from “definitely agree” to “definitely disagree”.”


Validity and reliability of Instruments Used

        The article did not specifically discuss the validity or reliability of the
questionnaire. All of the participants/students completed the same questionnaire after
completing the same course with the same instructor. The response rate was 77.6%. On
most questions, the results were that between 57.8% and 93.3% of the students
“definitely agree”. This shows that there is some reliability to the questionnaire. Its
validity – which is yet to be determined – would lie within college students in Rhetoric
and Writing courses in Taiwan.
Subjects

        The study involved 55 participants that were enrolled in a Rhetoric and Writing
class. This class was a one-semester class that met three times for 50 minutes each time.
The class was held at the National Formosa University in Taiwan. The students were
introduced to the course content and the online environment (blogs). They were required
to meet face-to-face as well as utilize the weblog network to share ideas and complete a
project. “At the end of the semester, each group was required to submit their final
research paper by linking to their blogs. Besides, the participants were also required to
read resources discussing online including posting their initial responses to the reading
and reading each other’s postings.”


Results and Conclusions

        The overall results/findings were organized into three categories. Leraner
autonomy was the first. Wang and Fang stated, “most of them (93.3%) expressed their
gratitude for this chance of learning a new online communication technology, weblogs,
and more that half (71.1%) of the participants indicated that this communication tool
helped them to get ideas of how to learn outside classroom.” The second category was
cooperative learning which was divided into five elements. 79% of the respondents
reflected that their efforts benefited the group – positive interdependence. 73% of the
respondents reflected that they assessed themselves and each other; while 80% said that
they received support from their group – individual accountability. 83.3% of the students
responded that they felt they were meeting their goals, and 79% said that they could see
how to improve group cohesiveness – group processing. 64.5% of the respondents
learned how to work with diversity through communication and trust, and 66.7% gained
conflict management skills – social skills. 91.1% of the respondents still felt that they
needed the face-to-face meetings – face-to-face interaction. Finally, the third category
was time management. 63.7% of the respondents stated that they could manage their
time online. According to Wang and Fang, “Students learned to manage their own time,
process the information, and evaluate their own learning. The results of this study
indicated that blogs could be an effective tool for educational use particularly when
students are separated by time and place between them.”


Possible Influence of Extraneous Variables

         There are two extraneous variables that could affect the results of this survey.
First of all, the quality of each individual’s interaction of online communications could
determine what that student gains form using weblogs. Secondly, the teacher’s role could
differ from semester to semester. This in turn could determine if one group of students
gains more or less than another.
Possible Threats to Internal and External Validity

         The first threat to validity is mortality. In many college courses, students will
sign up for the class and then drop out due to unforeseen circumstances. Also, as seen in
this study, not all students will complete the questionnaire for the study. The second
threat is maturation. Many college students undergo changes over time. Some become
familiar with technology that is new to them more quickly than others. Finally, location
could be a possible threat. The face-to-face meetings were all at the same location;
however, the weblog portion of the class was not. The study does not concern itself with
whether the students had access to a computer lab or if they utilized home computers.


Generalizability of Results to Local Issues

        This study can generalize its finding to local issues in that “The results were
consistent with previous studies (Usuki, 2001; Wnden, 1991)…” The findings can be
generalized to college level students taking Rhetoric and Writing courses in Taiwan. To
be able to generalize the findings outside of this group of participants, one would have to
recreate the study in other courses and at other sites outside of Taiwan. Wang and Fang
stated, “Further research might begin to assess the interactivity of use of online
communication….Further research might also look at ways in which the teacher’s role in
this learning process can be improved in order to promote the benefits of cooperative
learning in a computer-mediated learning environment.”
           Appendix B – Shared Participation in Writing the Final Paper


Linda McEntee:

Read three articles:
Borea, Rhea R. (2005). 'Blogs' catching on as tool for instruction. Education Week,
        25(15), 1-2. Retrieved November 28, 2006, from ProQuest database.
Clyde, Laurel A. (2005). Educational Blogging. Teacher Librarian, 32(3), 43-45.
        Retrieved December 03, 2006, from ProQuest database.
Stiler, Gary M., & Philleo, Thomas. (Summer 2003)Blogging and blogspots: an
        alternative format for encouraging reflective practice among preservice
        teachers.(Blogger, an online weblog service for student
        teachers). In Education, 123, p789(9). Retrieved November 28,
        2006, from Professional Collection via Thomson Gale:
        http://find.galegroup.com/ips/infomark.do?&contentSet=IAC-
        Documents&type=retrieve&tabID=T002&prodId=IPS&docId=A105043958&sou
        rce=gale&userGroupName=sdln_dsu&version=1.0
Contributed findings and reflections
Participated in discussions and e-mails
Revised for others in group
Typed III – Summary of Finding and Conclusions
Appendix A: Article #1


Paula Pecenka:

Read three articles:
Druin, A. (2005). What children can teach us: developing digital libraries for children
       with children. The Liberty Quarterly, 75(1), 20-43. Retrieved November, 20,
       2006 from ProQuest Educational Journals database. (Document ID: 846333031).
Horwedel, D. (2006). Blogging rights. Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 23(2), 28-
       31. Retrieved November 20, 2006, from ProQuest Education Journals database.
       (Document ID: 1006460581).
Oravec, J. (2002). Bookmarking the world: weblog application in education. Journal of
       Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 45 (7), 616-621. Retrieved November 20, 2006,
       from ProQuest Education Journals database. (Document ID: 112560641).
Contributed findings and reflections
Participated in discussions and e-mails
Revised for others in group
Appendix A: Article #2


Janel Simonsen:

Read three articles:
Brownstein, E., & Klein, R. (2006). Blogs: Applications in science education. Journal
       Of College Science Technology, 35(6), 18-22. Retrieved November 25, 2006
       from ProQuest Education Journals database. (Document ID: 1033834821).
Wang, J., & Fang, Y. (2005). Benefits of cooperative learning in weblog networks.
       Online submission. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED490815).
Weiler, G. (2003). Using weblogs in the classroom. English Journal, 92(5), 73-75.
       Retrieved November 25, 2006 from ProQuest Education Journals database.
       (Document ID: 344953601).
Contributed findings and reflections
Participated in discussions and e-mails
Revised for others in group
Typed/Compiled final paper
Appendix A: Article #3