Notes: Blogs@ anywhere: High fidelity online communication

Farmer, J. & Bartlett-Bragg, A. (2005). Blogs@ anywhere: High fidelity online communication. ascilite 2005: Balance, Fidelity, Mobility: maintaining the momentum? pp. 197-203

This article has some really great citations. Be sure to mine them.

Since early 2001 several institutions and many individual teachers have incorporated blogging into their online pedagogical strategies. During this time, weblog (blog) publishing technologies have evolved towards accessibility and ease of use and the technological barriers preventing adoption have, to a degree, dissolved. Blogs and their associated technologies are arguably heralding the most significant technological development in online teaching and learning since the introduction of enterprise level Learning Management Systems (LMS) (Downes 2004).
This development is all the more significant as a result of the communication dynamics inherent within blog technologies. Whereas an LMS stores and presents all information on a centralised and hierarchical basis, bound within the subject and the organisation, blogs are distributed, aggregated, open and independent. Through the use of blogs, it is suggested that teachers and learners are becoming empowered, motivated, reflective and connected practitioners in new knowledge environments. The balance between individualised and centralised technologies is restored.
The application of weblogs in an education setting will, at best, have a limited impact if due consideration of these developing communication dynamics are ignored. This paper includes a brief review of some of the institutional and individual blog projects that are taking place in higher education. In doing so it examines the different types of blog environments that are being used in terms of their communication dynamics and subsequent impact upon teachers, learners and pedagogy. Further, a more detailed examination is made of the use of blogs in teaching and learning in courses at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). In light of these studies and examination, possible approaches to implementing blogs in institutional settings are outlined in the form of an alternative Online Learning Environment. In addition, a study to be undertaken in 2006 examining the impact of blogs on teaching and learning at Deakin University will be described.

…arguably the most important developments in this area have had little to do with visual representation and form, and much more to do with the facility for the development of individual digital identity and an XML language known as RSS.

RSS… differs from email and discussion boards in that users are able to select from where to receive communication and, in most cases, how much of that information that will eventually arrive (summaries, titles, or full entries). Publication of a users own material through RSS allows for the user to communicate only with those that are have selected to aggregate the RSS feed hence giving both parties control over the process. Further, as most RSS aggregators are either integrated with or stand-alone desktop/web applications, no requirement is placed on the reader except to check the aggregator for new items.

Indeed, for MacColl et al.1 the individualisation of the blogging experience was significant in that it allowed for the students to express themselves through “heavily customising their blogs and requesting more advanced functionality”. This control over information is, they surmise, critical to “fostering appropriation of the technology for unintended uses” and plays heavily in their future plans to “explore extensions that approximate the fluency of a shared paper-based journal, as a basis for the serendipitous backtalk that reveals unanticipated problems or surprise opportunities”. Invariably, it would seem, aggregation and individualisation would play a key role in this.

In a traditional learning management system communication, content and participants are generally segmented into specific areas such as discussion boards, ’learning modules’ and synchronous chat environments. Participants are able to communicate in specified areas through bulletin boards and interact with content as separate instances. In essence the participants are focused on the (bulletin-board) communication environments and the presented content.
However, in a blog based Online Learning Environment while content may be accessed from a particular location it is seen to be an integral part of each blogs production through links, commentary and more. Further, communication between participants is centred upon the each individual and facilitated through individual and group aggregation, comments on individual blogs and the use of hyperlinks by the participants.
Rather than segmented areas, courses become clusters of individuals. The capacity for participants to post to multiple categories through particular blogging tools allow then to actively belong to multiple communities and the use of comments, email, voip, instant messaging and other communication tools (frequently integrated into blog structure as alternative means of contact) allow for interaction extended beyond the discussion board area.

Web publishing technologies are providing educators with radical new opportunities, but simply mixing them within existing institutional paradigms will not be sufficient. Strategies for embracing technologies must not be constrained by currently available or popular options; consideration must be given to future and possible applications of newly emergent technologies as well. A clear commitment to implementing pedagogical strategies that are underpinned by the application of theoretical frameworks and research is to be encouraged if we, as practitioners and researchers, are to fully and responsibly enhance the opportunities presented by the dynamics of personalised, collaborative learning environments.

  1. MacColl, I., Morrison, A., Muhlberger, R., Simpson, M., & Viller, S. (2005). Reflections on reflection: Blogging in undergraduate design studios. Blogtalk downunder conference 2005. Retrieved June 22, 2005, from ↩︎

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