Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Reflecting on Weblogs as learning: First pass at the post

 I'm a University Lecturer, with a role that includes overall responsibility for teaching in my Department. I'm taking part in a large amount of reorganisation & redevelopment of teaching - includine new courses and new structures - over the next few weeks & years. I became aware of  13ThingsCambridge, which aims to introduce and evaluate interactive, cloud-based web technology for the purposes of curriculum design specifically (and, I suppose, learning support more generally).

I read about 13Things and could not see any way that the proposed 'tools' could possibly be useful to me. On reflection, I think that tells me that I need to play with them to work out how they might be. I'm confident that, at the very least, thinking about how they aren't useful is likely to be a useful exercise in working out the best way forward in the development of teaching and learning support

The first thing to evaluate is blogging. As part of said evaluation we are requested to make one, and to reflect on whether it can help as a learning support tool.

First thoughts:

A weblog? I know what they are, and they are not teaching things. At least, not teaching the stuff you want your students to be learning in an HE course in a time-efficient manner.

Usually, my feeling reading them is somewhere between pointing at the afflicted and a slow blunting of my remaining faculties. But, a few seem to me to be worth reading: sensible, responsible collaborative journalism that really is worth the proportion of my procrastination time that I spend on them. But none of these, really, are personal weblogs - they are the output of groups of individuals, in my experience.

Whatever else, the idea of writing one does not appeal. I don't even like writing that I have to do: this looks, smells and feels like procrastination. And not as much fun as proper procrastination.


Can it be useful as a curriculum development tool?

Well, no, obviously. Blogs are for dissemination, and unrestricted dissemination. They seem to be OK at that, if you don't have anyone in particular in mind to disseminate to beyond the generality of public that are out there (here) in the blogosphere.

If you are trying to develop a Higher Education degree course, you want to collaborate, not disseminate. Perhaps you want others' comments on material - but specific collaboration/document sharing/wiki style tools do that. CamTools works well enough to be actually helpful. I cannot see anything related to course development that would be better as something cast broadly into the blogosphere.

Can it be good for anything teaching-related?

Getting students or colleagues to read this would be a waste of their time, and I have better, more focussed ways of communicating with them.

I already know that, if I want to think about stuff properly, I need to write it down. The only advantage of a blog is not losing the paper/text file; but it doesn't pay back the time spent.

Why am I doing it?

1) Because I guess I don't have a good track record of spotting what might actually be useful. I could have been wrong. Had a go. Don't think I was.

2) The nice folks at CARET are trying to get academics to play with, and evaluate the 13Things, and they want blogs as a way of recording their views while/from doing it. That seems fair enough.

But the requirement for "reflecting on blogging as a curriculum development / learning tools" is not a sensible enterprise, and was almost enough to stop me looking at the rest of the things before I start. It's probably made it less likely I'll look at the rest.