Blogging to support collaborative inquiry
In this study, the authors researched a small and dispersed group of teachers as they used a new system, which included a blogging tool, to support a collaborative inquiry project. They wanted to know if blogging can be used for collaborative learning. In doing so, they looked at how learners’ perceptions about blogging affected their levels of participation.
- Theoretical framework and literature review
- Learning by collaborative inquiry
- Blogging and collaborative inquiry
- Individual-level factors affecting the use of blogging for teacher professional learning
- Professional learning program design
- Research design
- School sites and participants
- Data sources
- Data analysis
- Teachers’ blog participation patterns
- Blogging as a means of facilitating collaborative inquiry and reflective practice: perceptions and attitudes
- Summary of the findings
This study involved twelve 8th- and 9th-grade literacy teachers who participated in a seven-month collaborative inquiry project to co-plan a class unit. The collaborative inquiry model they used has a cycle of four stages:
- Planning: Identifying students’ literacy needs and deciding how to meet those needs
- Acting: Implementing their planned activities
- Observing, recording, and sharing: Observing the effects of the implemented plan and sharing those observations with the other teachers
- Reflecting, sharing, and evaluating: Coming together to share ideas and discuss perspectives about the activity
The authors used a Technology Acceptance Model to guide their understanding of why the teachers may or may not use the blogging tool to support their collaborative inquiry project. This model states that acceptance depends on attitudes about the technology’s perceived ease of use and usefulness.
- See also: A similar model was used in Yueh, H., Huang, J., and Chang, C. (2015) ‘Exploring factors affecting students’ continued Wiki use for individual and collaborative learning: An extended UTAUT perspective’.
The blogs were used to:
- Answer specific questions provided by a facilitator
- Pursue dialogue
- Document and reflect on their collaborative inquiry tasks
The researchers analyzed the blogs and portal activity, and also interviewed the teachers at the end of the study.
The teachers wrote blog posts more than they left comments on the blog posts of others.
The researchers categorized the types of blog content and found three themes:
- Cognitive topics: 42 blog entries (69%)
This includes information sharing, problem solving, knowledge construction, and sharing professional-personal learning goals
- Social-collaborative topics: 13 blog entries (21%)
This includes posing questions and providing feedback
- Reflective topics: 6 blog entries (10%)
These are self-reflection posts.
When categorized by the four stages of the collaborative inquiry model:
- Planning: 33 blog entries
- Acting: 30 blog entries
- Observing: 3 blog entries
- Reflecting: 18 blog entries
(I’m not adding percentages here because the researchers indicated that many blog posts fell into more than one of the stages, making percentages unknown to me.)
One of the summary notes was that blogging proved to be not as useful for interactions that have some immediacy. ‘[T]he asynchronous nature of blogs also lacked the immediacy of conversation and synchronous interactivity which caused the blogging experience to have a weak sense of social presence’ (Ciampa et al., 2015, p. 908).
Perceptions and attitudes
One possible constraint to blogging is a lack of time to do so. To remove that barrier, the teachers were given dedicated time to do the blogging tasks (15 minutes before and after each of the learning sessions). The teachers indicated that they appreciated this, but the question remains: Do they see enough value in blogging to do it on their own time?
Some teachers did not engage in the blogging activities because they didn’t want to, but they blamed the technology for their lack of participation. One participant is quoted as saying: ‘They would give an excuse and say, “Oh, it doesn’t work,” because they get busy or it’s just not an interest of theirs’ (Ciampa et al., 2015, p. 903). This study found that ‘”perceived ease of use” was less influential compared to “perceived usefulness of the blog,” which was the primary driver of usage intentions’ (Ciampa et al., 2015, p. 904).
The researchers noted that the teachers may not continue with their blogging because their exposure to blogging did not occur spontaneously and authentically. ‘[O]ne of the main barriers to blog use in this project was forced compliance to use the blog, contrived, and consequently, inauthentic online collaboration…. [which] may not have produced lasting sustainable change, but rather, short, temporary transformative change’ (Ciampa et al., 2015, p. 904).
- See also: I think there’s a parallel to be found with the Yueh et al. article mentioned above. That article found that the students intended to continue using wikis to support learning only based on social influence (more or less, if their peers expect it of them) — not based on performance expectancy!
The study finds that blogging can support collaborative inquiry. They make two suggestions:
- Because teachers didn’t perceive blogging to be useful, provide more training about its usefulness.
- Establish a peer-mentor program to improve ease-of-use issues as well as issues of perceived usefulness. ‘Peer-mentors can serve as technology lead teachers who legitimize the active participation of less-experienced peers by engaging them collaboratively in blog use in order to establish their “buy-in” and enhance their professional learning’ (Ciampa et al., 2015, p. 909). Excellent idea!
- See also: This type of idea seems to me to be part of what Wenger recommends in his discussion of issues of participation and non-participation, Wenger, E. (1998) ‘Ch. 7, Participation and non-participation’.
Hargreaves, A. (2007). Sustainable professional learning communities. In L. Stoll and K. L. Louis (Eds.), Professional learning communities: Divergence, depth and dilemmas. Maidenhead: McGraw Hill-Open University Press.
Venkatesh, V., Morris, M. G., Davis, G. B., & Davis, F. D. (2003). User acceptance of information technology: Toward a unified view. MIS Quarterly, 27(3), 425–478.