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Educational blogging as a research tool

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August 18th, 2004
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At the University of Toledo, we used to have a system that was used to control and distribute information for each of the classes I was enrolled in. It was used to post messages, post homework and other documentation, list enrollment and finally, list the grades for each of the assignments in the class. Does any of that ring a bell in the context of this blog?

I believe that educational blogging is a very powerful vehicle to collect and aggregate research and assignment information as well as a powerful means to assimilate and search the stored information by a worldwide audience. I am sure this is already being done on some scale at the more famous (and thus more financially secure) institutions, but the concept has yet to reach the thousands of less fortunate (for the lack of a better term) Colleges and educational institutions. Let me elaborate.

I was reading through some of the directions that Six Apart is envisioning for Movable Type and I find their thoughts on corporate blogging very interesting. However, corporations are not the only group of people that benefit from the powers of blogging. Blogging in my mind is a way to promote online discourse in a very personal manner that can be compared to chatting, but in a more public setting. However, the online aspect also makes it infinitely more cachable and searchable. Let us imagine a relatively small school like the Engineering school at the University of Toledo. We offer about a hundred classes (just a number that popped into my head) and each class has an average of about twenty students. The students receive daily/weekly assignments which vary from semester to semester and they also complete research projects towards the end of each semester. Consider a single blog for each of these classes. The students would be given permission as authors for each blog and they would be allowed to add information to the blog and modify only their own records. The professor would have a more universal control of the blog. Each professor could determine the level of integrity and control that they would like to weild over the information posted on each of the blogs.

These blogs could be used to discuss assignments, to have small discussions on each of the items, to post resources for the class etc. Once the class/semester is over and done with, the blog is cached and the information is made available through some cached means for future students in the same class. Now, if Intellectual Property Rights were not encroached upon, this information would get picked up by a search engine (such as Google) and cached on their repository, thus making it available for the rest of the world. Imagine the power of a “college level aggregator” for these blogs. Any administrator or professor could look at the post aggregation and successfully put this information to a number of different uses. Imagine the power of a research institution being able to tell what the different labs are working on and what issues they are facing. Imagine that a student in advanced polymer chemistry being able to use the notes from an architectural engineering class with the same topic.

Not every class (even in top schools) is to every students’ liking. In my educational career, I have really missed having the ability of being able to understand thermal physics from the point of view of another professor or look at it from the perspective of a previous student in the same class as I was. Educational blogging would make this possible. (Google has, in recent times, gives us some of the abilities I was looking for)

If you are interested in this idea or would like to suggest/refute something, comments are open. If you are an educator and would like to further this thought, feel free to drop me a line.

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  1. Todd Campbell says:

    I am interested in blogging and the power it has in enhancing student learning. I currently teach an Instructional Technology course and have had my students participating in a blog. I was attracted to the idea, because my doctoral program made me appreciate the “voice” that comes from writing. I want my students to have a “voice” and I want other students to have access to the “voice” of their peers. I will be interested in hearing future posts and comments about this topic.

  2. Owen Wiltshire (1 comments.) says:

    Hey, its a few years old now, but very interesting article. Four years down the road and blogging is certainly picking up, and by many students too. I am studying anthropology and using my blog to share ideas, gather feedback, and self-organize. Its a bit complicated figuring out what exactly is relevant to share when one is doing research, but I find those in the blogsphere to be very supportive and helpful so far.

    Erkan Saka (erkansaka.net) also wrote a great essay on using blogs as a research tool for ethnographic fieldwork – it was discussed on the Media Anthropology Network recently. (http://www.media-anthropology.net/)

    Owen.
    nodivide.wordpress.com



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