Online discussions vs. Blogging

Blogging vs Threaded Discussions in Online Courses

I found this article very interesting, especially as I’m presenting to my secondary school faculty in a couple of days about the difference between these two methods of engaging students in conversation. Though the article was directed towards online courses, it was evident that many of the same arguments about a face-to-face environment.

“Learners process information based upon their shared experiences with others, entering into a phase of learning that includes: attention; retention; reproduction; and ultimately the motivation to alter behavior.”

This is a valid argument for online discussions and blogging in a walled classroom, just as much as it is for the online classroom.

What is interesting is that a 2012 study by Clarke and Kinne indicated that there was definitely a bias in online classes towards blogs over discussion threads.

“According to their research, students who blogged about coursework and posted responses to classmates, developed a strong sense of community amongst each other.”

This is fascinating! To see that they discovered a stronger sense of community through one means over another is significant to educators to understand. When making decisions about how to engage students, it is important to realize that the students feel more valued and are more likely to be more candid and personal when blogging than when using discussion forums.

This matches my own experience, though I’ve struggled to have students incorporate thorough comments in other students’ blogs. Nevertheless, I feel that the autonomy that comes with creating blogs is much more a powerful means of tapping into my students’ interests and capabilities as writers than when I use discussion forums. As the article indicated, a discussion forum tends to give more of a sense of being within the walled structure of the classroom, versus the creative venu of the blog.

I would love to see further research into these modalities of engaging students in online conversation. As mentioned in this study, “this is how learning becomes social and truly motivating”, and since our goals as teachers is to be all about student learning, we should find deeper and more meaningful ways to engage our students in these ways.



Powerful Powtoon!

For my final projects in the class, I set up a Netvibes feed page for my students to use in Technology and Culture, as well as a training video for teachers on how to use our Haiku Learning Management System.

The Netvibes project provided a great process for researching blogs that I’d like my students to guide them in the creation of their own blogs. Though I wonder what the future of RSS feeds will be in the future, after doing this project, I hope they will continue to be around. They’re so useful!


Working with Jing is quite easy and though the 5-minute limit is somewhat of a hindrance, in other ways it makes sure that you use your time well. It has inspired me to use online videos for more aspects of teaching training in the future.


I’d like to showcase my final project tools here using a web-based tool which was mentioned by one of my peers in the course, called Powtoon. It was a lot of fun to create and so easy too! There are quite a few template options (including a blank one, of course).

These are wonderful tools to work with and I’m glad I had the opportunity to try them out!



Article Review: Creativity on the Run

Apps for Creativity

This article caught my attention in relation to creativity in education and learning, and the author of this blog, Diane Darrow, claims that “we need to demystify the creative thinking process and model how to tune into its power”.

Throughout the examples given in this beautifully-laid out post, the author shares tools which support various aspects of the creative process:

1. Idea Catchers: These are tools which “encourage observation and reflection”.

2. Tricking the Muse: Brainstorming: This is based on the idea that “creativity thrives when criticism is absent”.

3. Visual Tools: The concept here is that “doodling is also a powerful format for generating ideas” and she shares ways to do so collaboratively.

4. Inquiry questions: The quote from Paul Torrance is a powerful one. He defined creativity as “the process of sensing problems or gaps in information, forming ideas or hypotheses, testing, modifying these hypotheses and communicating the results.”

In all of the examples of ways to engage students into the creative process and the types of apps shared, the shares that the most important aspect is that “our working environment” must be psychologically safe or grounded on unconditional acceptance and empathy”,based on Carl Rogers’ work. I couldn’t agree more and wish that we could bring that into not just the classroom, but the faculty lounge and the administrative offices of our schools.

Creativity needs to have the opportunity to breathe in all its glory. This article clearly articulates that this doesn’t happen from the apps and technological tools we use, but from the “guidance of a caring community”. None truer words were ever said!



Article Review: Being an Innovative Educator

I read this Edutopia article by accident. It actually happened because I was reading about the power of debate in the classroom:

But the concept of the innovative educator caught my attention. In the midst of the greatest number of web-based – and most often free – tools available to teachers, why do we find that many times, teachers will prefer to use the more ‘tried and true’ methods of teaching and learning?

We have endless tools for any kind of collaboration, presentation, development and creativity. Yet, what prevents teachers from engaging their students in using these tools during the school day?

In this article, Terry Heick summarizes what is necessary to be an innovative educator. He claims that the ingredients are:

1. Sense of Priority

2. Selflessness

3. Time and Energy

4. Willingness to take risks

5. Trust

I particularly liked his point about willingness to take risks. I think that for anything to work with technology, an educator has to be willing to fail and try again – and again. I loved his statement that “you SHOULD be prepared to fail. Which is fine, because education’s been failing long before you got here.”

This message needs to be proclaimed loud and clear before we can see real change and willingness on the part of educators to fully engage in the use of newer technologies and social media. Let’s challenge teachers to be willing to do at least as much as we ask of our students every day — to be brave and face the new day.

Mindmap of Communication using Web 2.0

There has been a great deal of discussion about what students need to learn for their futures. I recently learned of a quote from John Dewey (1859-1952), the education reformer, that summarizes it well: “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”

I put the above mindmap together (see link) in a manner as to understand the variety of ways in which we continue to do the good work of ‘reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic’, just as we did during Dewey’s time, just as we do now, and just as we will always need to do. What I tried to express in this mindmap, however, is the variety of options in which we can now communicate, and therefore, demonstrate understanding. Today’s students have many more modes of sharing information and demonstrating knowledge and today’s teachers have the opportunity, challenge, and responsibility to use these various modes in order to prepare our students for their future.

Many of the tools mentioned ways in which I’ve had students research and share their ideas. I often use blogging and tools like Prezi or Voicethread to have students share and demonstrate their learning. For example, I’ve used polling to gather group information, but then had students share ideas through online discussions. Backchanneling can allow students to get involved in the group discussion or comment on a movie so everyone gets involved. I recently had students use infographics to present information about the technology company which they have been researching.

There are such a variety of ways to use Web 2.0 tools to help students communicate. The power of these tools is that they provide students with audience and relevance, as well as inclusion. Those students who would normally sit back in a class discussion are now not only given the opportunity but the impetus to get involved. This is powerful and changes the dynamics of the classroom. Who wouldn’t want to get onboard?


Mindmap of Web 2.0 Tools

Web 2.0 Tools

I’ve published my mindmap of the vision of Web 2.0 Tools which I have for students today. The landscape of the world has changed radically and it would only be inevitable to change the classroom. The access to Web 2.0 tools means that today’s student can be more than consumers of information, but also the architects of the Web 2 World. There are opportunities to create media in the form of text, image, video, and infographics. There are ways to share with others and collaborate on projects. There are opportunities to publish work and be recognized.

With these come great challenges. Students need the guidance to understand the barrage of data in order to be discriminating of the sources of information and the bias around the information they receive. They need to know how to give credit to others just as they would wish to receive credit for their work. They need to learn how to organize the great amounts of information they receive and manage and aggregate data.

Everything technological is a double-edged sword. With great access to fascinating information come new challenges in managing and wisely dealing with resources. Ah, what interesting times we live in!