Coursework plays an important part in most examination courses. Traditionally pupils have worked on coursework and have either recorded their progress in a ‘write-up’ or else have required teacher observation to acknowledge examples where objectives have been achieved. Therefore there are occasions, particularly in large classes, when a teacher may not see a pupil achieve an objective and the pupil may not mention their actions in their ‘write-up’. So, a group of RMS ICT students were encouraged to use Blogging tools to keep an online diary of their progress during the 12-week production of a piece of ICT coursework. The facility also existed for them to carry out self-evaluation.
Godwin-Jones says: “Blogs are well suited to serve as on-line personal journals for students, particularly since they normally enable uploading and linking of files. Language learners could use a personal blog, linked to a course, as an electronic portfolio, showing development over time. By publishing the blog on the Internet, the student has the possibility of writing for readers beyond classmates, not usually possible in discussion forums.”
Free blogging tools, such as www.blogger.com, are affordable and easy ways for schools to provide their students with online journals. A feature of all blogs is that entries can be made ‘on the hoof’ as and when the blogger decides to do so. Add to this the fact that all blog entries are date and time stamped and you have evidence that can be used to show that a pupil has completed or attempted a particular task that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Further enhancements such as the ability for others to leave comments, or to include screenshots or other digital images, means that Blogs become a very powerful evaluation tool.
Coursework in ICT requires students to write account of their progress. In one case, the student has to state if they have had a problem and how the problem was ‘handled’.
Here is a case where a student was not observed to have had a problem, nor did she write about it in her coursework documentation. But by including it here in her Blog, she was able to obtain the marks because she had shown that she had handled a problem.
“Last week I came across a huge problem, my write up had saved itself under a temp document. This had caused me quite a few problems before hand as it kept making me loose my work, which meant that I had to keep re-writing it, which wasted time. Last week it deleted it's self and I had to go and retrieve it. I have now managed to save it as a word document and hopefully everything will be ok now. I am now working on the section called ‘Implement’, this is where I analyse my presentation.”
This is a common occurrence in coursework tasks – pupils do not get credit for work they have done because they were not seen to do it by their teacher. In this case the URL of this student’s Blog was sent to the Moderator who could see the date and time that the student encountered a problem and how they dealt with it.
Harry Chapin wrote a song called ‘Flowers are red’ explaining how students can be penalised for not presenting information the way the teacher wants. It seems like there is a prescribed and acceptable format, that, for example, coursework has to be written in a formal style. Yet this rigidity may not suit divergent thinkers who may want to express themselves in a more creative way.
The use of Blogging tools has ensured that pupils can write about the work they are doing, but in their own way. So whilst this student is indulging in social discourse in a form that is not acceptable within a GCSE coursework, she is able to show the progress she has made in a style that is totally individual.
Blogs are being used by women more and more and this has empowered them to be able to express their opinions in ways that have never been possible before. Kahn and Kellner describe the success of Blogs as a “revolution of everyday life”. Wiley states “why would we put learners in front of the most advanced communications system of all time and not have them communicating?” – this goes some way to addressing the potential of Blogs as educational tools. Merriam-Webster chose ‘blog’ as word of the year for 2004 as “the word that people have asked to be defined or explained most often over the last 12 months.”.
This is more than a passing fad.