Blog Gone Effective!
Using Digital Environments To Foster Collaborative Learning
In my experience, blogs are great tools for perpetuating cultures of collaboration. Digital environments seem to be extremely comfortable spaces for sharing. We see it daily as our otherwise reserved friends and family update their social media pages. In education, I’ve found that people are less inhibited and more willing to offer a peek into their thoughts, ideas, and practices when they’re given the opportunity to do so by way of a thoughtful and positive blog post as opposed to a live presentation or a classroom visit. I do know educators who thrive in classroom visit and live presentation scenarios. However, a truly collaborative culture is all-inclusive. I’ve experienced learning communities in which those who are comfortable with live sharing become the only ones to share. Conversely, in communities facing that challenge, those who are not comfortable sharing tend to sit in the back, isolate themselves in their classrooms, and avoid opportunities for collaboration.
It’s important to understand that these are not hard and fast rules, only possibilities to consider. In considering all relevant possibilities education leaders can work to break barriers that might otherwise encumber the collaborative learning cultures they strive for. It does take a village to raise a child, and two heads really are better than one. We so frequently insist on these collaboration axioms because they’re true. After much critical thought, related data collection and analysis, and ongoing reflective practice, I would assert that blogging is one viable option for bringing communities together in purposeful collaboration, and perpetuating cultures by which otherwise unlikely contributors feel comfortable enthusiastically showcasing their work to the benefit of all stakeholders. As educators, our collective goal is to enhance student achievement and attitudes toward learning so that the students we serve are prepared to meet and exceed their potential as contributing members of an increasingly complex global community. When we share, we expand our ability to meet that goal.
Conveniently, there are multiple free and cost effective hosting services like Weebly and Edublogs that are extremely easy to use, both for strategic classroom instruction and professional learning. To begin with, consider purpose. Who is your audience? What are your targeted short and long-term goals? While perpetuating collaborative learning is the overarching theme that I’m suggesting, what will your path to that end look like? Will teachers be blog managers or strictly contributors? Will you involve students as contributors? What other roles might they play? How about parents and other critical partners? My learning blog (Berg’s Eye View) is designed to showcase the incredible ideas and practices of my colleagues so that they are increasingly aware of each other’s expertise. The lens through which I attempt to reveal those ideas and practices (along with my own personal and professional experiences) is my authentic perspective. The intention is to connect individuals who would be interested in expanding on that perspective, and integrating those ideas and practices into their paradigm through collaborative reflection, planning, and implementation. Learning and connecting with learning partners is my primary purpose. The authentic expression and modeling of that purpose is key to the effectiveness of my blogging efforts. What is your purpose? How will you reveal that purpose to your audience? How will you develop it into share objectives and actions with those who would be your partners in learning and growth?
As you contemplate these questions in the development of your blog, carefully consider the structure and the procedures that you intend to put in place for its effectiveness and sustainability. One of the most important things that I’ve learned so far on my blogging adventure is that blogs need proper feeding and care. It takes a focused effort, a significant time commitment, and a passion for digital collaboration to manage a blog with any degree of success. A blog is a tool, and like any other tool its effectiveness is dependent on its user. Blogs can be used to communicate content, expectations, resources, calendar events, etc., individuals or communities of contributors can manage them, they can provide real time access to developmental artifacts for reflective processing and adaptation, they can be literary or graphic, they can be whimsical or academic, most importantly however, they can be highly effective in perpetuating learning and growth. After spending this past year using a reflective learning blog to support and encourage collaboration in the communities I serve, I can confidently assert that the time and effort I invested have been returned exponentially in the progress I’ve been a part of. I will continue to work at developing my site and my skills, and I strongly encourage other educators to get on the blogging bandwagon. If you’re already an education blogger, if you are considering it, or if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me for collaboration…I’m always looking for new learning partners!