Notes: The use of blogs, wikis and RSS in education: A conversation of possibilities

Duffy, P., & Bruns, A. (2006). The use of blogs, wikis and RSS in education: A conversation of possibilities. Proceedings Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006. pp. 31-38.

In a ‘socially mobile learning environment’, it is no longer sufficient to use online learning and teaching technologies simply for the delivery of content to students. A ‘digital literacy’ exists where flexible and mobile technologies must be explored for collaborative and (co)creative purposes, as well as for the critical assessment and evaluation of information.
This paper will focus on the educational possibilities of blogs, wikis and RSS feeds. Blogs and wikis are two new content development and management technologies that enable an interactive and intercreative engagement amongst students and between students and teachers. RSS is a technology for syndicating information such as the content of websites. These technologies enable desirable practices such as collaborative content creation, peer assessment, formative evaluation of student work, individual as well as group reflection on learning experiences, and up-to-date information regarding changes in collaborative spaces, and can be used in the development of authentic learning tasks. An overview of each technology will be presented with pragmatic suggestions for their incorporation into the student learning experience.

A commonly asked question relates to the difference between blogs and discussion fora. While similar in some respects, however, there remain substantial differences in user experience in both spaces. Discussion fora are predominantly shared community spaces in which individual voices may make themselves heard but are afforded no specific space of their own. First and foremost, blogs provide a platform for individual expression and also support reader commentary, critique, and interlinkage as subsequent steps. In other words, blogs foreground the individual, while discussion fora foreground the group. The suggestion here is that this makes blogs the more useful tool, especially in cases where there is no strong sense of group belonging or loyalty, or there is a lack of group turn-taking and communication skills. An example of this could be large classes or at early stages of students’ semesters and/or degrees.

Walker (1985)1 believes that ‘creative interaction with one’s own development helps to ensure that new knowledge is incorporated in, and integrated with existing knowledge’ (p. 65). A blog offers interaction with reflective comments and also the ability to interlink to related ideas. Also, other members of the community can comment on blog entries to suggest additional considerations and explorations of the idea presented and promote further reflection and thought regarding a stated viewpoint.

Such socially based technologies sit well with the understanding of learning as socially constructed, which has been a cornerstone of recent pedagogical theory. Blogs, wikis, and RSS provide a means to encourage, live, and make visible the social construction of knowledge that such theory postulates, and it is incumbent on teachers to embrace such tools where their use is beneficial to learners and teachers alike. They provide a useful prompt for the further rethinking of teaching practices in the pursuit of supporting socially constructed learning practices.

  1. Walker, D. (1985). Writing and reflection. In D. Boud, R. Keogh, & D. Walker (Eds.), Reflection:
    Turning experience into learning. London: Kogan Page. []