To Vlog, or Not to Vlog: A critical exploration of research based around blogging/vlogging as a form of literacy

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During the process of developing my learning of 21st century technology and education, the use of blogs came first, being attached to the creation of an e-portfolio, this blog in fact. Initially, I found this task daunting, complicated in the setting up, navigation, learning of its linear text, coupled with the thought of exposure, terrifying. Now, however, although my anxieties are not completely diminished, I am a lot more at ease. Soon after, we were introduced to the concept of vlogs, taking blogging to another level, and indeed another level of exposure. The one positive that I viewed about vlogging, is the ability to rehearse until you are satisfied, albeit, a time consuming activity. Here, I will identify and critically explore research based around blogging/vlogging as a form of literacy. Please note, some citations are rather dated, as the use of technology in education, in particular within HE, has been slow moving, coupled with the minimal research which has yet been developed, I feel, they are still very relevant for this purpose.

Shao-Ting Hung’s (2011), Pedagogical applications of Vlogs: An investigation into ESP learners’ Perceptions, explores the use of a vlog project in an English for Specific Purposes course. This research article explores a vast array of findings of other researchers which have been drawn upon to create a wider perspective before outlining the findings from the survey conducted to identify the student perception. It was identified that blogging enhances student’s academic writing practices, raises awareness of the nature of academic writing, and assists the development of writing strategies, Bloch (2007) and Liou (2007).

Blog based pedagogy, is supported by Vygotsky’s (1978) socio-constructivism; “learning takes place when learners socially interact with people and internalise the knowledge obtained from the interactions”, they are accessible, and students take better care in the material which they present, (Richardson, 2006). Furthermore, vlogging, is shown to effectively enhance language teaching and learning and facilitate digital communication, allowing for inquiry based instruction and supports cooperative  learning environment where student control over their learning is enhanced, (Chuang and Rosenbusch, 2005 and Wagener’s, 2006). Hung (2011) opines, it could document both verbal development and non-verbal cues which are crucial for language communication. Of 127 students surveyed, 88% students identified that vlogs provided a multidimensional perspective about learning, 82% that believed the use of vlogs evidences their learning process and 71% agreed their experience of learning through vlogs had been successful.

Furthermore, Lisa Beckhelhimer (2013); in an article, Revealing Research through Blogs and Vlogs, stipulates that having incorporated the use of blogs/vlogs, over a five stage process, allowed for transparency in the learning process and allowed students to value the hard work involved in legitimate research, “showcased students clicking with a purpose, rather than just randomly”, that it improved weaker writer’s ability and also identified, the stronger students’ pitfalls, such as; finding it difficult to correlate research findings because they were not fitting of a preconceived idea.

According to Beckhelhimer (2013), the use of blogs/vlogs assists the teacher to identify gaps in students’ knowledge and understanding/areas, they were fun and interesting to grade and the integration of writing with technology engaged 21st century student.

Little in the way of downfalls in the use of blogging/vlogging as a form of literacy, have been noted and or illustrated throughout this research findings, however, Chang et all (2005) as cited by Hung (2011) identified that it is time consuming and grading procedures are subjective, (Chang et al, 2005). Furthermore, it is better to “motivate students with diverse pedagogies”, (Hsu et al, 2008).

With minimal illustration of drawbacks within relevant research, coupled with the limited samples of students having been surveyed, it is difficult to adequately weigh up whether or not blogging/vlogging is a favourable alternative as a form of literacy. As the use of technologies in education grows, it would be useful to see the boarder perspective, being illustrated from the researchers, for example; grade inflation, pass rates and progression, further still, the student perception survey could have been conducted further to invoke feedback which also illustrates what they perceives as downfalls. With this lack of consideration to draw upon, we have little option but to take from this positives which are emanated here.

I would agree with Beckhelimer, (2013), that the use of vlogs may assist to identify the gaps in students’ knowledge and understanding, and they may be more engaging than a desk/portal full of written assignments to work through and grade. However, going back to Hung’s (2011) research, citing, Chang et al, (2005) indicates, grading may be subjective, this is concerning, and I question, whether or not, the moderation process’ would curtail this. I have two pertinent questions to mind; 1) Blogging: How do you know whether or not the individual set the task is actually producing the work? 2) Vlogging: how do you monitor academic offences? In any event, as Beckhelimer, (2013) who identified how integration of blogs/vlogs impacted upon the different level learners, I feel, is an imperative observation to have been made. Could this then be identified as a fairer means of assessment?

From these findings, it could be viewed that blogging/vlogging as a form of literacy provides positive results and thus, blogging/vlogging can serve as a pedagogical device to increase interaction between teacher and students. Furthermore, having considered the many benefits to the use of blogging/vlogging, I have come around to the idea of using blogging/vlogging as a form of literacy in my practice. I have identified areas to ingrate this into the scheme of work for a module of which I lead. For example, to demonstrate the learning process and for evidencing the development of court room etiquette. This notion would be supported by Hung’s (2011) opinion that it could document both verbal development and non-verbal cues, which are paramount in a court room scenario, and for the development of practical legal skills. Furthermore, it could be a great tool to which student’s document the development of their research for their moots, making the learning process transparent, (Beckhelhimer, 2013), and additionally, students could use this for their reflective practice. Scope for integration is vast, however, where do you find that right balance? Over use by a power-point presentation equates to death by power-point, what would the over use of blogging/vlogging produce?

Bibliography

Beckhelhimer, L. (2013). Revealing Research through Blogs and Vlogs [Online] Ohio Journal of English Language Arts Vol 54 Number 1 Winter/Spring 2013 Pp 40-43 http://www.octela.org/_resources/OJELA/issues/ojela53v1.pdf  Accessed 24/02/2015

Shao-Ting Hung. (2011). Pedagogical applications of Vlogs: An investigation into ESP learners’ perceptions British Journal of Educational Technology. Vol 42. No 5. 2011. Pp 736-746 Available through University of Plymouth Library. Accessed 23/02/2015

For further reading, See;

A pertinent article which I would recommend, see;

House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills, Report session (2014-2015). Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future, [Online] Parliament publication. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201415/ldselect/lddigital/111/111.pdf

Accessed 22/02/2015

Line, H. January (2015). Twitter’s not literature, but it can be a novel teaching tool, [Online] The Times Higher Education, http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/twitters-not-literature-but-it-can-be-a-novel-teaching-tool/2018184.article    Accessed 16.02.2015

Parr, C. February (2015). 6 key trends accelerating technology adoption in higher education in 2015 [online] The Times Higher Education,

 http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/6-key-trends-accelerating-technology-adoption-in-higher-education-in-2015/2018706.article

Accessed 24/02/2015

Trier, James. (2007). Media Literacy, “Cool” Engagements with YouTube: Part 1. International Reading Association; Journal of adolescent and adult literacy. Vol 50(5) pp408-412 Available through University of Plymouth Library. Accessed 23/02/2015

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Caught in the Web of Technology Yet? The use of social media as a tool in education: Twitter

The social media tool which I have chosen to critically evaluate of its use in education is Twitter.

Twitter is a social media tool, a Web 2.0 technology and can be described as a social networking website, a microblogging platform which connects people and organisations to one another through the use of short (140 characters) messages (tweets). Others may be tagged in tweets and hashtags to promote key concepts may be used. Using Twitter in Higher Education, an article published by Ecology of Education, (2014),  states; “…there are over 271 active users worldwide sending 500 million tweets per day” and suggests, the use of Twitter in education can be evidence from as early as 2008.

Twitter 2

Ecology of Education (2014) cites; (Velestianos, 2012) who analysed tweets of 45 scholars who use social networking professionally. The following uses were found to be a common theme, sharing information and resources; expanding learning beyond the classroom; requesting assistance; sharing life activities; managing digital identities; connecting and networking; and highlighting social presence on other networks. These findings are also supported by Gabriela Grosseck and Carmen Holotescu (2008), as outlined in; Can We Use Twitter for educational Activities.

Additionally, Junco, Elavsky and Heiberger (2013) and Ebner et al (2010), found that when faculty members engaged with students on Twitter, and where Twitter is a required part of the course, student engagement increased. This is said to be particularly evident at the time assignments were due. Furthermore, in (2014), Juan M. Lopez-Zafra and Sonia de Paz-Cobo published an article; Twitter as a Learning Tool in Higher Education, for Colegio Universitario de Estudios Financieros, Madrid, which states, a survey of 127 students found; “Twitter is very powerful in motivating students”, it “increased interest in the subject”.

From these studies the student perception identified the following advantages of using mobile devices (generally) as; access to quick information, constant connectivity, multiple learning paths and situated learning, “was easier than logging back into the course discussion board”, providing opportunities of informal interaction with their professors and other researchers, (Ecology of Education, 2014). Furthermore, Lopez-Zafra and Paz-Cobo, (2014 ) identified that, 58% of students thought twitter is an interesting media for university teaching and therefore, believe it is beneficial, stating, “It promotes knowledge sharing, facilitating informal learning within the community”. 22% of students were doubtful about the success of the experience and 23% did not seem to have a clear opinion.

As primary focus of these research pieces are on the benefits of using Twitter as a tool in education, there are very minimal drawbacks being identified. However, Junco et al (2011-2013), states that, no significant impact on student engagement or grades were identified where students were given the option and concluded; outcomes, would likely be a result of how the instructor chooses to embed its use into the programme off study. Whereas, Grosseck and Holotescu (2008) identify that, it can be a time consuming task, could hinder student socialising, only useful to those in the network, response rate will be limited, sometimes no educational value added, teacher ‘on-call’ 24/7, blurring the line of professional/private life, 140 characters may lead to bad grammar skills and so on. Furthermore, Gikas and Grant, 2013), state that students identified drawbacks as; anti-technology instructors, device challenges and device-as-distraction.

twitter

Findings do suggest that the Twitter can be a useful and effective tool in education. However, I am still not convinced. Whilst information sharing can be quick and it may be rich, it can also be superficial, and from non-authority sources, and as announcements can be made instantly, it is also a place where rumours etc… can run and fast. Thus, evermore vigilance would be necessary by the tutor who is overseeing the tool as a provision, would it require a 24/7 presence from the tutor/instructor to ensure that the tool is not being mis-used? Would it be possible to establish a clear boundary between professional and private life?

Furthermore, I notice, most studies which I came across in my research, focus their inquiry on the ‘students’ perception. Whilst this is an important perspective to have, what added value was identified as being provided, did this increased interest have an impact on the student outcomes? Facts and figures of successful achievement; pass rates, increase of grade projection and so on, would be far beneficial, to consider how useful a tool Twitter may be in education.

Bibliography:

Ecology of Education, (2014) Using Twitter in Higher education; [Online] http://ecologyofeducation.net/wsite/using-twitter-higher-education/ Accessed 16/02/2015

Grosseck, G. and Holotescu, C. (2008). Can we use Twitter for educational Activities? [Online] Paper to be presented at The 4th International Scientific Conference eLSE “eLearning and Software for Education”; file:///C:/Users/Tina/Downloads/0fcfd50aa46c8394e6000000%20(2).pdf Accessed 16/02/2015

López-Zafra, M, J. and Paz-Cobo, S. (2014). Twitter As A Learning Tool in Higher Education, [Online] Colegio Universitario de Estudios Financieros (CUNEF), Madrid, Spain Facultad de CCEE, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, Spain; http://iase-web.org/icots/9/proceedings/pdfs/ICOTS9_C277_PAZCOBO.pdf Accessed 16/02/2015

See also:

Bharti, P. (2014). Great Higher Education Technology Expert Accounts to Follow on Twitter: Twitter Accounts for Higher Education Professionals, [Online] EdTechReview; http://edtechreview.in/news/1283-great-higher-education-technology-expert-accounts-to-follow-on-twitter Accessed 16/02/2015

Bharti, P. (2014). List of Twitter Hashtags for Higher Education Professionals: Twitter Hashtags for Higher Education Professionals, [Online] EdTechreview; http://edtechreview.in/e-learning/1256-list-of-twitter-hashtags-for-higher-education-professionals Accessed 16/02/2015

Line, H. (2015). Twitter’s not literature, but it can be a novel teaching tool, [Online] The Times Higher Education,     http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/twitters-not-literature-but-it-can-be-a-novel-teaching-tool/2018184.article  Accessed 16/02/2015

Week 3: Reflective account

We have been asked to reflect and consider; ‘how has my thinking changed as a result of this module, thus far?’

I believe that my thinking is much broader than it ever was before. Knowing now, how blending learning is much more than I initially thought and understanding how the level of blend I currently incorporate in my practice, may be developed a lot further.

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As a module leader for a support module on the LLB programme, I am frequently considering how the module might be improved, in terms of content, assessment and delivery. A component part of the assessment requires students to submit a 1500 word reflective report drawing upon their experience on the module and the development of their practical skills. I am currently considering whether or not a reflective blog would be a suitable alternative; this would further blend student learning and potentially make the assessment task more engaging.

However, in the first instance, how might account be taken for students who are predominately new to use of technology? Would this require a work shop on ‘how to develop a web blog’ and accordingly, be incorporated into the scheme of work? Secondly, I am new to blogging and it has taken some time to get my head around. How effective may one expect this to be implemented with such infancy of knowledge and understanding? Would this actually cause a hindrance to the student learning experience?

No ‘One’ Fits All – A Critical Review

A critical review of Sheila MacNeill’s (2014); Living with the VLE dictator and Peter Reed’s (2014); The VLE vs ‘Whatever’ blog posts and how I relate these to my own experiences.

Having read MacNeill’s (2014) post, I did not feel that there was much depth and or analysis of the use of VLE’s in education.  It is somewhat amiss of any reference to academic literature, or of any exploration of own experience. Thus, there was little to draw upon to critically evaluate. However, I did identify a few areas of thought that I would like to deliberate.

According to MacNeill (2014), “VLE’s are all about management, administration and not about the learner”, and queries, whether or not, the general consensus is, “blackboard sucks”. During the early years of working in education, I would have agreed with this statement. However, with what I have learned along my journey, I would now, only agree in part; of course there are huge aspects of management and administration conjoined to the use of VLE’s in education, how else would they or could they be utilised? Having materials prepared in an electronic format, how much of a hindrance does this actually bring about, to log on, and upload? However, for an effective use of such a VLE, a consistency of use from all departmental members is essential. If a module leader fails to add a team tutor in the BB area, the tutor will not have any access to materials and neither be able to provide materials for the module on the VLE. Ultimate focus should be the quality of the learning experience provided to students and therefore, to achieve this, it is important to establish effective communication amongst your teaching teams.

Moreover, Reed (2014), argues that, although it is common of higher education institutions not to be open at all, this does not encourage silos. When I first started to use a VLE, silos is what it felt like, but having developed my understanding, knowledge and use of such technology, I do now, hold the contrary view. I advocate; for a VLE to be used to its maximum effect, would not be using the system as a place of storage. I do wonder; until such aims have been achieved, is then, silos what it is to be? However, if the use of a VLE is reaching the necessary audience, how open does it need to be?

MacNeill (2014), believes; “to stop using blackboard would cause chaos for students and staff”, and in any event, transition needs to matter. Currently, it is difficult for me to know whether or not, to stop using BB would cause disruption. This is because my place of work is currently going through the transition from one VLE, namely blackboard to another, Moodle. Therefore, I do not have the relative experience to know what disruption one individual system may cause. Nevertheless, I do agree that the transition needs to matter, added value needs to be offered, otherwise, why change?

VLE Image

Conversely, however, Reed (2014), states that, higher education is not a tech industry and believes disruption to education is caused by “the whole web…not one individual system”. I can relate to this. The majority of students own electronic devices whereby the internet is readily available. Regardless of classroom rules which are established from the outset, students’ attention are often diverted by these devices. However, I have found, what works well is to allow the student’s to utilise these for research to assist them in completing tutorial tasks with the requirement of identifying their sources upon delivering their findings.

How far does the use of technology have a place in higher education is at the forefront of my mind, and this is under constant review in my practice. However, having read Reed’s (2014), view that higher education ‘is not a tech industry’ and therefore, would not provide a significant disruption, makes me question; are we where we need to be? How far should we (in HE) be trying to implement the use of technologies into teaching and learning? And how far is ‘too far’ that may cause a disruption to education? This question is especially prevalent when you consider Reed’s (2014), work ‘Surveying students to attend to VLE minimum standards/ baseline’ which identifies, students only wish for the basics, and states; “just because students are using Facebook or various other community platforms, it does not mean we need to invade this”.

I do not belief that a VLE could or should be used as a replacement for the classroom because students can gain so much from taking part in discussions, teaching and learning activities, peer and tutor support in the development of their knowledge and understanding, regardless of the topic. Nevertheless, I do advocate for the integration and development of technologies in education. Technology is a dominate feature in modern society therefore, it is important we embrace technological uses, in education. The final product, in this instance – the use of a VLE in education, is a reflection of your efforts put into your use of it. However, a balance in use should remain, because respect for real education, needs not to be lost. Thus, I do not believe the use of a VLE sucks. No ‘one’ fits all. 

Bibliography

MacNeill, S. (2014). Living with the VLE dictator [Online] WordPress; HowsheilaseesIT https://howsheilaseesit.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/living-with-the-vle-dictator/ Accessed 03/02/2015

Reed, P. (2014). The VLE vs ‘Whatever’ [Online] Blogger http://thereeddiaries.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/the-vle-vs-whatever.html Accessed 03/02/2015

For further reading, consider also;

Conole, G. and Culver, J. (2009). Cloudworks: Social networking for learning design [Online] The Open University: http://ascilite.org.au/ajet/submission/index.php/AJET/article/viewFile/1120/374 Accessed 03/02/2015

HEFCE (2009). Enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology: A revised approach to HEFCE’s strategy for e-learning, [Online] HEFCE  publication: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/media/hefce1/pubs/hefce/2009/0912/09_12.pdf Accessed 03/02/2015

Sharpe, R. and Benfield, G. (2005). The Student Experience of E-Learning in Higher Education: A review of the Literature [Online] Oxford Brooks University http://bejlt.brookes.ac.uk/paper/the-student-experience-of-e-learning-in-higher-education-a-review-of-the-literature/# Accessed 03/02/2015

Sharpe, R. and Benfield, G. (2014). Reflections on ‘The student experience of e-learning in higher education: a review of the literature’ [Online] Oxford Brooks University http://bejlt.brookes.ac.uk/paper/reflections-on-the-student-experience-of-e-learning-in-higher-education-a-review-of-the-literature/ Accessed 03/02/2015

Shaken, not stirred: Blended Learning – A reflective account and summary of an article on blended learning

Having just commenced an MA in Education at Greenwich University, here I provide a personal reflective account of our first tutorial for 21st Century Technologies and Education: Blended Learning. Furthermore, I will summarise a relevant article which illustrates what blended learning is and how the use of this may be integrated into practice to maximise learning.

implementing-ideas

I thought that I knew what blended learning was and had effectively been utilising this through making all course materials available on a VLE. However, through reflection, I learned there is a whole other dimension to blended learning, some of which I already practice but did not realise was blended learning, for example, encouraging students to research in preparation for the next session. This particular instruction is known as ‘flipping the classroom’ which is also a term that is new to me. As I have progressed my research, I have learned that the term ‘flipped classroom’ should not be confused with ‘flipped learning’. This is because in contrast to the flipped classroom whereby you are encouraging students to prepare outside of sessions, the term flipped learning is focused on how the sessions are orchestrated. This new found knowledge has a positive impact on my practice because I realise that how I plan for and deliver is being crafted in such a manner that blends to maximise learning but also, how this may be enhanced further.

The article which I have chosen to summarise is: Using Blended Learning to Accommodate Different Learning Styles written by Eddie Gulc (2006), Senior Adviser, Higher Education Academy. Please note, while I recognise that this article is rather dated, as the use of technology in education, in particular within HE, has been slow moving, coupled with the minimal research which has yet been developed, I feel, that it is still very relevant. Furthermore, this article illustrates the development of blended learning as it was, and from experience and my research, I feel, education in HE, has not developed much further.

The first point that this article identifies is the rapid nature in which the use of learning technologies are being embedded in to teaching and learning and how this has ‘benefited students who, for example, are remote from a traditional centre of learning, disabled or have some learning difficulty who are supported with assisted technology and those who are non-traditional learners’.

Various definitions to illustrate what blended learning means have been drawn upon, including those from Sharpe et al (2006), the University of Hertfordshire and the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency. Gulc (2006) established it is the presence of different variants, such as, people, institutions and or organisations which determine what the term means and will  “combine the ‘any time/pace/place’ advantages of on-line facilities and materials…” different strategies and techniques should be utilised to maximise knowledge and skill development and this, collectively, will pave the way for effective learning. Ultimately, blended learning is centrally balanced, encompassing the whole educational environments, drawing upon both classroom and online based learning, not one or the other.

In addition to the above, Gulc (2006), states that for blended learning to work, the use of learning technologies need to be designed sufficiently through, evaluating your teaching and learning materials, your current practice and how you use blended learning. In order to consider how these can be improved, it is also important to ‘assess the level of the learner autonomy which you seek to build the programme’ around and to have regard for the different types of learners. Only through this practice, and finding your balance of teaching styles and methods can the value of blended learning and what works best be identified.

In the future, “our focus will be drawn to how we can add the use of social (Web2.0) tools and technologies into our blend”, (Gulc, 2006).

social-network- 1

Bibliography

Gulc, E. (2006). Using Blended Learning to Accommodate Different Learning Styles [Online] HEA https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2917.pdf  Accessed 26/01/2015

For further reading see;

Grosseck, G. and Holotescu, C. (2008). Can We Use Twitter For Educational Activities? [Online] http://www.cblt.soton.ac.uk/multimedia/PDFsMM09/Can%20we%20use%20twitter%20for%20educational%20activities.pdf Accessed 27/01/2015