Thursday, October 9, 2008

Blogging, Learning and Desire to Learn

Tēnā koutou katoa - Greetings to you all
Michele Martin has raised the issue of The Power of Blogging isn't Just in Reading Them, in a few of her posts. She has stuck to the idea that the power of blogging is in writing comments, rather than in lurking.
I admire her. She is committed to what she believes.

Learning through questions, and discussing in a classroom or social community, has gone on for hundreds of years. People have also learnt a great deal from books during that same time.

Writing comments:

So what’s wrong with just reading a post and learning from it?
What is so special to learning about writing a comment on a blog post?

If learners want to learn, they will learn. The same desire may well tempt learners to put comments on blog posts. They may even ask questions there.

So the difference between those who lurk and want to learn, and those who comment, may not be so great. Learning takes place when the learner wants to learn.

Learning can happen if the learner sits quietly during class, for instance. Certainly, asking questions will help. But if learners do not ask questions in class, they may still go home and read about what they’ve learnt in a book. Many do. They may also lurk on a few blog posts on the Net.

Early research:

I have a lot of respect for the research done by Lev Vygotsky. He was a child psychologist who lived in the early 1900s. In recent years, Vygotsky’s findings have made people think about the importance of social interaction in learning. This led to a belief that learning may be better when learners study in communities.

Some educators have come up with the idea that interactive online communities could be good learning environments for young people. This is not far removed from Michele’s idea that learning is more effective for the commenter than for the lurker.

Most of Vygotsky’s studies were on mother and child. I doubt the notion is sound that Vygotsky’s findings can be extended to learners in online communities.

A better approach to this might be to study the use of online learning communities. That way they could be compared fairly with other ways of learning.

Learning methods:

So far, not much has been done to compare the use of interactive online learning in a fair way with other learning methods. There’s been little evidence that shows learners do any better when they study online than learning by other means, for instance.

So I sit on the fence about the idea of getting people to write comments on blog posts as a better means to learn. I'm not at all sure that writing comments would be needed in every case. But for those who do need it, could a better ploy be to work on their desire to learn?

Once they have that desire, they might even venture to ask questions - in comments on blog posts.

Ka kite anō - Catch ya later


Anonymous said...

Hi Ken--I will never argue that you can learn a lot by reading. It's one of my primary methods for learning new things and I certainly don't comment on or write about everything I read.

I think what I'm really trying to articulate is that simply reading, with no further interaction with material, will not deepen your learning. If you look at Bloom's taxonomy, for example, reading is great for the lowest level of learning (developing knowledge and comprehension), but the higher up the taxonomy you go, the more you need to have some kind of interaction with the material. It's through blog posts and commenting that you can begin to analyze, synthesize, etc. Yes, I suppose that technically this could happen to some extent simply by remaining a lurker and processing everything inside your own head. But honestly, I have yet to meet someone who didn't need to do some form of writing, talking, drawing--some kind of external processing--to really get at these levels.

So I'm not saying that NO learning takes place just through reading. I'm just saying that I believe it's higher order thinking that occurs when you begin commenting and writing your own blog posts.

Of course, we may have to just agree to disagree on this. :-)

Anonymous said...

Sorry--I would never argue that you CANNOT learn a lot by reading.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken-
I'm a big fan of Lev Vygotsky's work too. Not sure if you've had a chance to read a meta analysis by Sitzmann, and others, The comparative effectiveness of Web-based and classroom instruction, but Sitzmann, Kraiger, Stewart, and Wisher (2006)looked at 96 studies and found:

1. Web-Based Instruction was 6% more effective than Classroom Instruction in teaching knowledge across all studies.

2. CI was 10% more effective than WBI in teaching knowledge in true experiments (when learners were randomly assigned to the two approaches).

3. WBI was 11% more effective than CI in teaching knowledge when their instructional methods were different.

4. There was no difference between WBI and CI in teaching knowledge when their instructional methods were the same.

5. There was no difference between WBI and CI in teaching skills.

6. There was no difference between WBI and CI in learner satisfaction.

7. CI-supplemented-with-WBI (i.e., Blended) was 13% more effective than CI in teaching knowledge and 20% more effective than CI in teaching skills.

8. Learners were 6% more favorable toward CI than to CI-supplemented-with-WBI.

So the study says there's no difference between WBI and CI in teaching skills, but supplementing CI with WBI is 20% better than CI alone in teaching skills.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā kōrua Michele and Janet!

This area of study is fraught with problems over terminology and interpretation of that.

Kia ora Michele!
I am a convert to the benefits to the learner of interaction. With me, there is no argument that a deeper understanding can be obtained through interaction.

It's the route by which means we achieve this in a learner that I wonder about. The adage "You can take a horse to water . . ." applies here.

Unfortunately for educators/teachers/trainers like you and me, it's the last part of the proverb that causes the problems :-)

Thanks for taking the time to drop by!

Haere mai Janet!
Thanks for this information. Yes I am familiar with the studies of Sitzmann et al. This work was done collaboratively in conjunction with Colorado State University, University of Tulsa and the Department of Defense.

Web Based Instruction is a field I know well. You are right. It is effective. I found this in 2001 - 2002 when I did extensive research into the use of WBI through what were then called learning objects (or RLOs). My students did very well during those years!

But studying in online communities is a bit different than this. The leaner has to participate interactively, not just with a learning object, but verbally with a community.

The environment is not unlike that of a blog post, where people can enter comments and contribute to the post through this means.

Supplementing the classroom environment with WBI is different again of course, and incurs other factors that have the potential to lead to greater learning effectiveness.

Hey, It's good to have you on my blog! I appreciate you providing this information here. It's great! Kia ora!

Ka kite anō

V Yonkers said...

Your post brings up the question reading and writing specialists have been grappling with for years. How do you get readers to "interact" with the piece they are reading.

As a communication instructor, I spend at least 1/4 of my classes on audience analysis, so that students will learn to write with the reader in mind. Even then, however, we can only "lead the reader" to the piece.

Last year, I had a nightmare of a course (a course I had taught both face to face and at a distance 3 times before) as we changed LMS. The students were used to using a template with a certain structure, but were thrown off with the new structure. What was most frustrating was that the students WOULD NOT READ WHAT I SET OUT FOR THEM TO READ! I was constantly writing, "it's in the instructions, read the background material, did you read the questions?"

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

I so identify with what you're saying here, and you're right - it is pertinent.

Many years ago I took some writing that I'd done on junior Science resources to the Māori editor, Wirimu, who was also a teacher and translator. I was seeking advice about translation from English to Māori that I thought was needed in some of the learning material.

He listened sternly to what I asked for. Then in his typically kindly, but assertive way gave me a 10 minute diatribe on who my audience was.

His concluding question was (and I still remember the way he asked it), "Who are you writing for?"

His lesson was salutary. It taught me that, no matter what the language, the writer had to keep the audience in mind.

As the years passed, I became more interested in writing. I read a lot of novels and other books simply to improve my writing style. I found the writers that really gripped me were those who seemed to be talking right at me.

It was as if they wanted to involve me in their conversation. I can name some who stuck out quite distinctly.

Bill Bryson is such a writer. He writes gripping factual literature that makes me want to pitch in. Yann Martel is a novelist who, likewise, seems to want to involve me as the reader.

Roald Dahl is another, and partly because of the historical origin of her writing, Diana Gabaldon.

These experiences were significant to me, for I've never been a great reader of books. Yet there were writers who could definitely get me so engrossed in their wares that I didn't want to put their books down.

How do they do it? Do let me know!

I have read a lot about the 'passive voice', and how the 'active voice' is more apt to engage readers. I have been aware of this for a long time in my writing for distance learning. Obviously there's more to the skill than just understanding this as an important aspect.

Ka kite

Anonymous said...

I believe getting children to blog within a secure school online environment is the perfect opportunity to learn literacy with the guidance of a teacher.
It also can encourage both self-esteem and social skills which will allow more children be confident participants and collaborators in their future online environments.
I think perhaps it is how we engage the learners online, we need to lure them in.
Creating learning environments that engage, interact and scaffold, yet challenge thinking, that is my goal.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Haere mai Shaun!

It seems that you've got a strategy in mind, and that's great. There's been some research in this area.

You may be interested in the studies done by Caleb Clark who published a few years ago and also Marcy Bauman, who's work was earlier than that. Caleb gives a few guidelines that I think are very good for 'luring'. Bauman has a few ideas in that regard too.

I'd be interested to learn how you get on with your own study with communities - it certainly is the way to go!

But, hey, it's really great to have you drop by my blog!

Ka kite anō