O’Donnell (2006). Blogging as pedagogic practice: Artefact and ecology

O’Donnell, M. (2006). Blogging as pedagogic practice: Artefact and ecology. Asia Pacific Media Educator.

A really interesting paper based on a conference presentation. Talks about some of the promise of blogging as an agent of pedagogical change, but actually goes into some of the reasons why the change might happen (as opposed to other articles that leave it up to BECAUSE… MAGIC! BLOGS!)

Basically – blogging changes the nature of discourse, making it idiosyncratic and reflective. It also changes the ownership of the discourse to being student-centric.

On blogging as just one part of a student’s “cybercultural practices”:

…we need to look at blogging, not as an isolated phenomenon, but as part of a broad palette of cybercultural practices, which provide us with both new ways of doing and new ways of thinking.

on what is different in blogging, compared to LMS-y stuff:

blogging is a form of personal publishing that shapes authorship through its structured yet flexible forms and its immersion in a hypertextual ecology of the link. It is conversational, setting up and supporting conversations with both self and others.

but… isn’t that all possible within a discussion board? what’s really different in blogging? Perhaps, this:

A blog is personal publishing not just in the sense of its expressive or emotional or idiosyncratic tone but also in the sense that it operates at the core of a personal network or set of personal relationships.


Weblogs combine two oppositional principles: monologue and dialogue.

Personal publishing enabling the monologue? Monologues are technically possible in a traditional discussion board – simply as orphaned threads – but do they happen? Is monologuing a unique thing here? Interesting…

More on the monological aspect of blogging:

The personal conversation or the monologic aspect of blogging can be simply left to grow spontaneously or the author can learn to work with a blog as an evolving hypertext essay by thoughtfully linking backwards and forwards to their own as well as others’ posts. In fact new software plug-ins encourage this type of practice by allowing authors to display a series of related-post-links with each entry.

Interesting. On a side note, I use the related-posts stuff to mine my own blog by following loosely associated threads of topics throughout. Is that even possible in a discussion board?

On the flexibility of blogging:

Part of the freedom of blogging is its immediacy and its flexibility: it is a space where anything from brief notes, first thoughts and links, to more worked-up essay style postings can live together.

Is that kind of flexibility seen in discussion board postings, or do participants more closely follow ordained criteria for posting, as it’s not their own space?

On the integrative use of blowguns:

where blogging truly comes into its own is when it is able to integrate all three modes into a coherent whole.

(the three modes are Personal, Knowledge Management and Community/Social)

But, isn’t that all the same as what’s done in traditional online course websites? Perhaps not:

Blogging broadly developed is not merely a writing exercise, it is not just journal keeping, it is not an online discussion group, it is not a class intranet even though

it can include elements of all of these. If we are to take educational advantage of blogging it is vital that we assist our students to come to their own view of blogging and that we help them situate this within a wider view of cyberdiscursivity.

Cyberdiscursivity. Interesting. Sounds a lot like Brian Lamb’s course at UBC. Or DS106. (Everything sounds like DS106. Dammit.)

On blogging and pedagogical change:

The initial enthusiasm about blogging in higher education arose because it seemed to easily fall within a progressive view of educational practice. It offers a socially situated, student centred, contemporary, technical solution. However blogging cannot easily be modelled on other forms of teaching and learning technology. Threaded discussion boards for example, are essentially an asynchronous version of synchronous face-to-face tutorial groups and call for a similar set of parameters such as discussion prompts and norms that encourage vigorous yet civil interaction. Blogging requires students and teachers to explore a different set of strategies. Many of these strategies are not unfamiliar but they need to be brought together in new and different ways.

on the networked and ecological model used to describe blogging:

In a linked or networked approach to learning the sense of agency and individuality is powerful but it is not isolating or egocentric. Each node in a dynamic network has the ability to both send and receive therefore this metaphor better accounts for both the given (or contextual) and the constructed aspects of the learning process.

On the limitation of blogging within a single course:

While blogs can be useful in individual subjects I am becoming increasingly convinced that blogs used across classes over the duration of a degree course, rather than blogs focused on specific assignment tasks or blogs developed for single semester units are a more congruent use of this technology.

As I have argued blogging is both the construction of a personal knowledge artefact and an ecological practice, which reveals emergent knowledges as a series of dynamically linked spaces, this immediately focuses any pedagogy of blogging on questions of connectivity and the evolution of ideas over time.

Which makes it painfully obvious, of course, that my use of a single course to gather data is somewhat… limited. (but I knew that going in). How to balance logistics (how in hell do you attempt to gather data from cross-course, cross-discipline, multi-year blogging by individuals? oy.)

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