Saturday, November 3, 2007


Hi and welcome to blog lift-off.

This blog is aimed at providing some underpinning knowledge, and assitance to those launching into the world of weblogs.

I have set up my blog using key headings relating to the various issues about blogs, and invite you to comment, question, and add additonal information and links.

Good luck and enjoy the journey!

1. What is a blog
2. Case Studies
3. Key Players
4. Technical Barriers
5. Blogging tools
6. Tips for Getting Started
7. Social and Educational Implications

8. Issues and risks

  • Learning and etequacies

  • Privacy

  • Codes of Conduct

  • Plagiarism

  • Policies and procedures

  • Facilitation

  • Monitoring

  • Overload

9. Predictions

  • Connections

  • Best Practice

  • Innovation


I hope this information will provide some catalyst to motivate you to visit a blog and read, comment, or add your own thoughts, information or links. Yes, you are now ready to create your own weblog.

So come on board for this exciting journey, and lift-off into the new world of social communication.


Weblogs used as an emerging technology for teaching and learning, have a positive future. They have an exploding presence on the world wide web, providing an effective means of social communication. However there is much that can still occur in the educational sector to utilise this tool. It is in this area I am particularly interested, and I predict that there will be growth in the use of blogs over the next few years in educational institutions. Blogs will have a major impact on increasing connections, and provide an incentive to achieve best practice, opportunities for innovation, and development of original ideas.

1. Connections
The internet provides everyone with the ability to connect with others of common interest, background, skills, experiences, and to provide readily accessible information on any topic. Blogs are one tool that facilitates these connections, and I beleive will continue to grow in their use and versatility. Tertiary education, particularly Registerd Training Organisations (RTO), are yet to utilize the potential that blogs offer for teaching and learning. Mobile phones is also another important technologhy that will eanble teachers and learners to connect with each other and use blogs as part of this m-learning process.

Predictions for tertiary RTO institutes:
) Increased connections within the institute using blogs as a means of communication and sharing of information.
b) The value of using blogs as a teaching tool will increase as teachers begin to understand how theses can be used, and develop their confidence and skill in using this tool.
c) The potential to connect with other institutes, within the state, country and world will open up opportunities for collaborating on issues of common interest. Blogs will assist with this communication and sharing of ideas and information.
d) Mobile learning technology will provide opportunities for easy means to communicate via blogs, and make connections more timely and relevant to the context of learning.

2. Best Practice
Blogs will provide students and teachers with an incentive to continue to build on their skills and knowledge. Rather than continuing to ‘re-invent the wheel’, teachers will learn from each other, utilise others resources, and hopefully be inspired to reach the demonstrated level of best practice. Blogs will make access to this information more readily available, and encourage teachers share and learn from each other.

Students on the other hand will become more self directed in their learning through being encouraged to access information available on the internet such as hyperlinks and RSS feeds. They will also become more reflective in their thinking through their use of blogs, and demonstrate some connections to their learning, and creative thought or new ideas of their own. Through the use of blogs, students will work more collaboratively with others, and see the role of the teacher more as a facilitator and mentor.

Predictions for tertiary RTO institutes:
a) Increased emphasis on inquiry based learning, and cognitive thinking, rather than just doing what is needed to pass assessment.
b) Blogs will provide teachers and students with a presence on the internet that will increase their reputation and visibility in the profession.
c) There will be an increase in sharing information and promoting discussion.
d) A focus on collaboration, working in teams or pairs, and learning from each other.
e) Increase in the standard of skill and knowledge of the industry sector.
f) Increase in engagement and interest in learning through the use of blogs.

3. Innovation
As the skills and knowledge increase, the potential to become more innovative in our work will increase. By learning from each other we will discover new ways to build on current practice, rather than continue to reproduce current thinking. Continuous improvement will be evident in our work as people collaborate with others outside the institute, and may potentially lead the world in producing innovative ideas and methods.

Prediction for Tertiary RTO Institutes:
a) Staff in all departments to seek out opportunities to link in with discussion forums to contribute and learn from others.
b) Easy access to RSS Feeds, current research, and best practice occurring in the public and private sector.
c) Mobile phones to be used as a means to blogging information, demonstration of skills and learning relevant to workplace.

Teachers and students will begin to move out of the classroom and back into context within the industry, work together, share ideas, think original thoughts and enjoy their learning experience.

Issues and Risks

Teachers and users alike all have a responsibility to have some understanding of issues related to privacy, plagiarism, codes of conduct and responsible public publishing. Other factors to consider include moderation, facilitation, and information or time overload.
After careful consideration of these issues such as moderation facilitation and information or time overload, the use of blogs as a learning tool should provide a positive experience.

a) Learning social eteqacies.
There are inevitably people who will use blogs inapproriately. Blogs provide a space for sharing ideas and opinions so when commenting on these one should disagree or agree with the idea not the person, generalisations should be avoided, and all information in the links should be read to ensure it is appropriate.[1] The use of written language should be appropriate to society and exclude personal attacks, swearing, racist or sexual comments. Developing guidelies for the use of blogs will provide a framework by which users can ensure they are communicating responsibly.

b) Privacy
Weblog users need to have some understanding of issues related to privacy to ensure that their site does not breach any policies or laws. Blog entries should avoid publishing personal information such as address, date of birth, and phone numbers to protect privacy. Dahna Boyd believes that “privacy is dead’ and we need to learn how to ‘negotiate this heightened state of public-ness that we have created, and how to manage invisible potential audiences’. According to Boyd many of the problems presented by blogs are not new but simply a bigger and more visible social information issues, not a technological one[2]. Teachers and users generally can become more net savy through discussion on issues of privacy and general experience in using the internet.

Using blogs with learners under 18 years of age also presents its own risks. Teachers must ensure that they maintain their duty of care in regard to privacy and child protection. By establishing semi-open community, restrictions can be placed on people who can get access to blog sites.

c) Codes of Conduct
Public access to blogs exposes everyone to the potential to be subjected to inappropriate comments or information, abuse or personal attacks. This Code of Ethics has been developed to assist teachers using blogs as an educational tool and can be summarise as [3]:
a. I will tell the truth.
b. I will write deliberately and with accuracy.
c. I will acknowledge and correct mistakes promptly.
d. I will preserve the original post, using notations to show where I have made changes so as to maintain the integrity of my publishing.
e. I will never delete a post.
f. I will not delete comments unless they are spam or off-topic.
g. I will reply to emails and comments when appropriate and do so promptly.
h. I will strive for high quality with every post – including basic spellchecking.
i. I will stay on topic
j. I will disagree with other opinions respectfully.
k. I will link to online references and original source materials directly.
l. I will disclose conflicts of interest.
m. I will keep private issues and topics private, since discussing private issues would jeopardise my personal and work relationships. [4]


Bloggers code of conduct

Protecting Australian families online:

d) Plagiarism
With so much access to information its is very easy and tempting to cut, copy and paste information from the web. However to maintain our ethical standards it is important to respect intellecutal property and avoiding plagiarism. Hyperlinks and feeds provide easier referencing to the source of information when using blog.

Blog users also need to be mindful that not all information is truthful, or can be validated to be accurate. The importance of checking all information when adding links to a blog ensures that we are forwarding on reliable and reputable information.

Oblinger, D., Becoming Net Savvy, Educase Quarterly No 3. 2007.
Issues in Plagiarism for the New Millennium:

e) Policies & Procedures
There appears no explicit policies for use of blogs to support educational delivery, however TAFE NSW Northern Sydney Instititue provide a list of documents that provide guidelines effecting the use of blogs by teachers and learners. [5]

Student Discipline Policy
Code of Conduct (for staff)
Management of Conduct and Performance (for staff)
Internet and Email Services: Acceptable Usage for Schools
Use by Staff of Employer Communication Devices
Policy for Protecting Children and Young People
Release of Student Information Policy
Anti-Bullying Plan for Schools
Anti-Racism Policy
People With Disabilities - Statement of Commitment
Web Publishing Guidelines (Intranet only)
Privacy Code of Practice (Intranet only)
Intellectual Property Policy - TAFE NSW
Copyright Amendment (Digital Act) 2000
Cybercrime Act 2001
Policy Guidelines for Mobile Communication Devices and Associated Services

e) Facilitation
Initially students ‘don’t get blogging on their own without considerable assistance from teachers.’[6] The teacher therefore has an important role in facilitating the use of blogs through posting questions, links, making suggestions or comments to further extend conversations. However there is a tendency to want to use new technology is old ways rather than rethinking our practice and adapting it accordingly. [7] Therefore teachers need to be mindful of utilising this tool in ways to facilitate collaboration, and reflective learning practice rather than teacher directed learning.

It is easy to set a blog is relatively easy, rememebering that it is waiting for the next post is easy to forget. Prompt such as adding ScribeFire as a firefox addon, to the blog helps remind bloggers to visit their blog on a regular basis. One way to keep blogs active may be to incorporate this to students assessment requirements, but this will influence the nature of the blogging that takes place.

f) Moderating
If blogs are being used as a teaching tools, teachers have a responsibility to ensure that students are using these in an appropriate way. This can be done by teachers constantly monitoring behaviour, and providing the support and feedback that will help students learn
how to moderate their own behaviour [8] Through making blogs public, students will hopefully be inclined to think more carefully about what the say or post on their blog.

g) Overload
Information overload can be a negative result of blogging when so much information suddenly becomes available. This may occur through seeking out contact with blogs or through RSS feeds which automatically provided updated information as it becomes available. Time overload is also of major concern and requires an appropriate amount of discipline and self monitoring to know when to limit time spent blogging.

Part 5: Collaboration

Weblogs provide the opportunity for collaboration through discussing issues; sharing information, links and RSS feeds; and facilitating people to connect with each other anywhere in the world . Opportunities for continuous improvement in our teaching and learning practices will also occur through the use of blogs as teachers learn from each other, and are kept up to date with current thinking and practice.

Within the TAFE sector, teachers are slow to embrace the notion of sharing information, and engaging with others outside of their direct area of education. Blogs will provide the opportunities to collaborate with others from within the institute to discuss issues of common interest. At NMIT the Teaching and Learning forum could widen its network to include all teachers to set up a discussion forum on topics such as employability skills, or teaching international students. The use of Blogs as a collaborative tool connects people to the wider educational community within the state, nation, or formalise collaborative networks worldwide.

Collaborative learning can involve students working in pairs, small or larger groups where they share their learning experience. Blogs provide a means by which students may work together even if they cannot connect together at the same time or the same place, and provides additional motivation to engage in their learning when working together with others. (1) . It is also a useful tool to place learning in context, rather than in the educational institution. This would be very useful for students working in the industry who can draw on relevant authentic experiences.

The opportunities blogs provide for collaborative learning and engaging with others, will enable all students and teachers to continually improve their knowledge and practice.

(1) Jones & Issroff Learning Technologies in Conole G., & Oliver M., Contemporary Perspectives in E-Learning Research.Routledge, 2007.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Part 4: Reflective Learning

There currently appears to be much interest in the role of reflection in learning with a focus on contextualising learning to help students make more meanigful links between theory and practive. Through reflective thinking learning becomes more meaningful, and leads to deeper learning. [1]

Research conducted at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, discovered that the students found the best feature of blogs was writing that encouraged students to review and revise their learning. Use of blogs provides an incentive to write summaries of information received during class, comment on what they view as important or relevant to them, or information they wanted to recall at a later date. It was a great way to store and organise information which was easy to locate, manage, and impossible to loose. Students like being able to watch their knowledge grow and the ability to review their learning [2]

The repeated, regular journal entries makes blogs and ideal refelctive learning process. [3] Blogs encourage them to think about what they are writing, to continue writing over an extended period of time, to engage with others in conversations that further extend thinking and writing skills. [4] It helps the student make connections between what they know and what they do and seems more relevant to experiential learning.

Part 3: Knowledge & Learning

Socialist contructivist thinking believes that ‘knowledge creation is a shared rather than individual experience’ [1] Based on Vygotsky’s educational theory (1978) “meaning making develops through the social process of language use over time”[2] Through the use of Blogs students construct their knowledge though publishing, reflection, providing feedback which all lead to the potential to scaffold their learning and ideas.

Blogs can be seen as a way for action learning to occur where written journals form part of the” interactive action research learning loop”.[3] Through documenting personal thoughts and learning, students are articulating the connection between new information and what they already know, and trying to make sense of this. Although blogs need a clear purpose they still need to remain unscontrained to be effective. Teachers need to see that blogs are “diverse as the writers themselves” therefore should not be prescribed how they must be use and need to remain unconstrained to be effective. [4]

The use of blogs enables users to obtain up to date information that is easily accessible from anwhere with a web connection. The hyperlinks that are often featured in a blog, also have an important role in helping bring new material into a learning environment extending the connection to resources available, and often assists in linking to other useful sources. More and more webpages are providing RSS feeds providing notification of current blog posts, podcasts, products, articles, just by adding RSS feeds to an aggregator. Through the use of feeds information is linked directly to the reader, rather than having to go out and look for this. Technorati and Google Bog Search provide a way to locate RSS feeds related to a topic or webpage of interest. The challenge now is not how to access this information but how to use it.

The relationship between the teacher and student is altered when using blogs. The teacher is no longer the imparter of knowledge, or in control of the learning but is being taught along with the students. Each person is encouraged to share information and learn from each other. Everyone has the potential to be the mentor who can offering suggestions, questions, or gudiance, which creates a more dynamic and equitable learning environemnt..

However it appears that blog users need time and control over when and how they use blogs. A study on the use of blogs in a learning environment conducted at Brisbane Graduate school of Business, provides an insight into the views of blog users:

  • Vistors participate by reading a blog or using links , and learn from what others have to say
  • Develop confidence and overcome fears, develop a sence of belonging and increase understanding by ‘lurking’in a blog.
  • May choose not to contribute as they are unsure if they have anything valuable to contribute.
  • Active particpants or contributors, develop skills in critical thinking and argument creation by assuming that a 'lurking audience' is present.

    Additional comments by students.
    Even though at first people were afraid to take the risk and blog, I found it a good way to discuss concepts and participate in further discussion. It also allowed the sharing of up-to-date information that would not have been possible in lecture time’.

    I spent time prior to each blog constructing and entry. To do that I did need to have a good understanding of what I wanted to blog about. I also spent time reading and considering the blogs of other students and found their comments and perspectives thought provoking’. [5]

    As Downes suggests, good conversations start with listening before contibuting to a conversation. Thus before knowledge sharing can occur the blog visitor needs to feel comfortable with the topic of conversation before sharing an opinion on a blog. [6] I have found this when 'lurking' in the discussion forums through the edna groups, and have taken many weeks or reading views and opinions before contributing myself to the discussion.

    The use of blogs as a learning tool appears to be an evolving process. Initially the amount of information accessible can be overwhelming. Learing how to cull this information and validate the blogs that are useful, reliable and relevant to the users needs takes time. Blogs can be identified as providing useful links, interesting converstaion, identified connection between the writer and reader.

    It is through the use of blogs that the learner can apply their knowledge as they interact with others thus providing a useful tool for learning. They can have a greater control of their learning as they they can seek out information, gain access to suggested links, and publish authentic artifacts containing their thoughts and understandings.

Part 2: Communication & Connection

The social networking technology of blogs, provide an exciting opportunity to keep in contact with friends, family or teachers, and make connections with people you don’t know. Blogs provide an opportunity to “shake hands digitally”[1] with people anywhere in the world, and at any time, not just in our immediate environment. It helps to reduce the distance between people physically, and create connections that were previously very difficult or impossible to achieve.[2] Blogs also have particular appeal for students and teaches as they enable them to create personal and community connections through forums like those that have been developed at the University of Leeds Elgg[3]

The nature of blogs facilitates this social interactivity and sharing. Whether it is through entering into conversations about what is written, viewing what has been posted through video photos and audio or linking to webpages or useful resources, connections are enhanced between blog users. However ‘if the words are dull, nobody will read them, and nobody will come back . If the words are wrong, people will be misled, disappointed and infuriated,. If the words aren’t there, people will shake their heads and lament your untimely demise’. [4] Thus to make connection you need to have something of interest for others to read. Walker suggests that by having an awareness that others may be reading what she had written she ‘took far greater care in my writing than I did whern scribbling notes in a notebook for my eyes only’.[5]
The standard of written communication therefore increases.

The appeal of Blogs as an asynchronous communication tool enables the user to respond any time day or night, and take as much time as needed to think and respond. They provide access to experts and other professionals beyound the boundaries of the home or classroom.

Blogs enable a user to identify that others are visiting your webpage which offers validation that people are interested in what they have to say, and increases their connection to others even if through cyberspace.

As more and more teachers begin to see the value of blogs, the e-networks will be enhanced, and resources for teachers, students and the community will expand. Blogs will provide the means to discover, extend, manage and enable communication and reach new social networks that would otherwise not be possible. Whether it is through sharing photos, comments or RSS feeds, blogs encourage a culture of sharing and connecting with each other which is most likely to increase as we become more net savey.