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Formative Assessment Techniques Online – Blogging/Learning Journals

In general, the learning journal is a way of documenting learning and collecting information for self-analysis and reflection. The writing style is often in the first person and informal; resembling natural speech. Students’ thoughts become visible and the student has to find ways of expressing and writing thoughts that are closely connected to their sense of themselves.

Learning journals help students reflect on how they learn best. Learning journals also help students reflect on their knowledge, skills and behaviors as they learn. Journals are used to:

  • improve writing by helping students to practice and refine writing knowledge, skills and behaviors accumulated over time
  • define personal learning goals as students can reflect and plan for future learning and progress
  • record experiences so students can reflect on experiences to develop critical thinking, a questioning attitude, and creative and emotive responses
  • provide a representation of understanding for students to connect the experience to the learning

Online, blogs provide a convenient tool for journaling.  Blogs in education can be used as reflective learning journals in a range of learning contexts. Information can be uploaded to the journal using forms and mobile devices. This electronic version is different to paper-based journals in that the student journal is immediately accessible and public. There are advantages to the public discourse, particularly from the point of view of shared learning experiences. Other students in the class, or other visitors, can read the blogs, and in this respect, the learning is a shared experience or studying is a shared experience.  Students are able to observe others’ learning through reading each other’s learning journal blogs.

While learning journals are mostly written and provide opportunities to practice writing, they do not necessarily need to be limited to text.  They could also be strengthened with the use of tables, diagrams, concept maps, etc.

Clive Shepherd, a consultant on technology-assisted learning and communication, discussed the differences between a blog and wiki (and their associated potential use as learning journals):

  • A blog is a personal space for expressing subjective opinion. It could be regarded as analogous to working memory, where you toss ideas around and, if you're lucky, test them against your peers through a process of dialogue.
  • A wiki, on the other hand, is a collective space for objectivising knowledge (or at least information). It could be analogous to long-term memory, where you store all those things that you've tested out and are happy with for now.
  • In the context of learning interventions, I am working on using blogs as a form of learning journal, where students can record their reflections and share these with their colleagues. I use wikis quite differently, as a sort of archive to which all students contribute, that can act as a source of reference to all future students. In fact, because the terms 'blog' and 'wiki' can put some people off, I sometimes substitute the terms 'learning journal' and 'learning archive' .

More on blogs and wikis is provided in the Technology Toolbox section.

Virginia Commonwealth University  |  Center for Teaching Excellence
Last updated: 09/22/2009
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