Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Blogs help students think for themselves?

Here's an article about blogging and critical thinking/writing based on Anne Bartlett-Brag at UTS. Not much detail, but that's to be expected.

The interesting thing about the article is that it's been picked up by a number of people and has highlighted the odd way some people are thinking about blogs, student achievement and writing. For example, Will at Weblogg-ed in writing his blogging book has stuggled with what he calls 'the dearth of statistical research surrounding the use of blogs in educational settings'. He also quotes from a study by Kimberly Rynearson where she says,
The primary research question guiding the study is: Are weblogs a viable technology for improving students’ reading/writing achievement? The study addresses this question directly by measuring students’ performance on end-of-year measures of reading/writing achievement.
Perhaps it's just me, but I always shiver when I read about 'measuring students performance on end of year measures of reading/writing achievement' as if this might give a picture of how students are really 'engaging' or 'performing' with blogs (or anything).

Is blogging a performance? Is schooling a performance? Sadly, I guess that it is (at least Lyotard would suggest that most modern day activities, and especially regulated or institutionalised ones, are increasingly performances). Of course statistical research 'talks' more persuasively to policy makers and economists and those sorts, but it can't give you nuanced and sensitive accounts of social and cultural practices.

Instead of calling for more 'statistical research' into how blogs help students perform, we need more fine grained, qualitative and interpretive accounts of the ways blogging and the practices that surround online writing and community mediate learning and relationships.

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