Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Going Wide or Going Deep? Blogs or Discussions as Pedagogical Tools

Michael Feldstein tripped across Cole Complese's blog for his class, and mused on the possibilities of the blog for class discussion.

From Michael's e-Literate blog: "I’d like to see a unified tool that enables the professor to choose display and permissions settings based on pedagogical goals. For example, if you kept the blog display (i.e., showing the full text of all starter posts in chronological order) but reversed the permissions, so that any student could post to the main blog level but only the professor could post replies, then you’d have something like a Q&A or FAQ interface."

I really, really like the idea of either discussion tools or blog tools that give the instructor some ability to manipulate display based on pedagogy. I'll have to do some thinking about what this might look like if the instructor wanted, say, problem-based learning to be happening. Could the instructor have the display organize posts by steps in a problem-solving process?

And I know that the goal isn't always discussion. Some instructors have a tough time imagining how "discussion" can be used effectively to have students work through their content. I'm pretty confident that discussion can be used for just about any topic, but sometimes the goal is not discussion. And it doesn't have to be discussion to be social meaning-making, either, in my view. Those of us reading each other's blogs are engaged in social meaning-making without necessarily being engaged in discussion.

But here's my thought about Cole's class blog: it doesn't seem to be about discussion for me--students only seem to post one comment per blog entry, and it's hard for it to be about discussion if everyone's just saying one thing. But the other thing that I notice is that it doesn't seem to be about depth to me--there's a lot of territory covered in these comment posts, but is it going deep? is it possible to go deeper and not just "wallow in the shallows" if you're not really facilitating a discussion?

Or maybe depth isn't the goal, either.

Thanks, Michael, for giving me lots more to chew on with regard to discussions versus blogs as pedagogical tools.


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