Why do we blog? Well, to some extent, it is to validate and show off our thoughts and achievements and to communicate with like-minded others. However, while we want our students to be proud of their achievements and thinking, the main focus as educators is to shift that pride and praise towards their development as a process, rather than the outcomes. So, blogging can be used to promote a ‘look at what I did’ outlook, but is, I would argue, best applied for a ‘look at how I did it’ outcome. In this way, blogging can encourage metacognitive awareness for improved development for all stakeholders.
Broadly, metacognition is defined under two areas:
- Understanding what you know
- Understanding how you know
So, metacognition is, basically, thinking about thinking. Metacognition has two proposed benefits. Most importantly, that the learner knows how to use strategies effectively in learning. So, a metacognitively aware student might approach a science text by chunking, summarising and/or looking up unfamiliar terms because they are aware that this helps them to think and learn. In contrast, a less metacognitively aware student might just try to passively read it and get disheartened by a lack of understanding. Metacognition is therefore a very useful educational goal and process.
Blogging for metacognition is not a new concept. Learning Journals and so on have endlessly proposed that writing about a learning process can help students establish useful learning habits and self-discipline. It is an engaging and self-reflective process, especially when given some direction. Blogs work in a similar way, except that they further allow the teacher and public to engage with the learning process also, giving futher motivation (albeit extrinsic) for the learner. This equally applies to teachers with their CPD or political developments and academics with their research and attempts to integrate research and practice by extending to a wider audience. I have found that writing this blog has helped me consider what aspects of my working style are most useful, which are problematic and how to overcome the challenges I have faced so far.
An example of use of blogs in education is the newly established SPFTogether, a blog looking at promoting collaboration and sharing between three schools in the Stephen Perse Foundation. While at an embryonic stage and currently written primarily by teachers, it is hoped that soon students will be direct authors and editors and that this will evolve from an outcome showcase to include metacognitive awareness of process of learning. Elements of this are already to be seen in the Sixth Form Peliblog. These articles are written by Sixth Form students and blog posts can frequently be observed to describe, if only in passing, references to how that particular student thinks. I would love to see this metacognitive consciousness expanded and promoted by all students in all schools. I don’t think there are many professions that are quite as self-reflective (and often unwarrantedly self-critical) as teaching. It is this self-reflection, without the negative self-criticism, that we need to help our students to practice and express. I believe that blogging is one of the easiest methods, both for the student and teacher.
There are, of course, other benefits to encouraging blogging within the classroom – awareness of the potential and the pitfalls of the digital world, for one. All these teacher photos begging for reposting to show how easily a photo can get around the internet are, rather negatively, making an interesting point. Frankly, I think that most teenagers have the negatives of the scary internet world drummed into them enough (although I had a CEOPS lecture last year where the speaker talked about screen-munchies, frappe-ing and snape-chat, showing a deporable lack of understanding of of either the origins of the words or the dangers these can pose). Panic-mongering is not helpful. Rather, the positives of safe internet use should be emphasised and digital interaction should be integrated into formal education. Blogging can help with this, as argued above – students (and teachers) should be learning about new technologies, copyright issues and other issues supported by regular and thoughtful blogging or tweeting. I applaud the introduction of the year of code, but I feel that equally important is teaching students about how to use safe, positive and engaging learning tools such as blogging, educational apps and twitter beyond the add-on gimmickery some teachers and researchers fear. Learning is always the goal, but the digital world is both a tool and a necessary learning outcome of education.