Promise of Reflective Journals
As part of our new eLearning initiative, many faculty are keen to integrate blogging into their coursework.
There are so many great examples out there, starting with the venerable UMW Blogs, DS106, Cathy Davidson’s crowd-sourced grading model (Duke), Mark Sample‘s pedagogy and the class blog (George Mason University) and a lot more.
A lot of the resources brought me closer to home and reminded me of our own Tim O’Connell, Associate Professor & Chair of Brock University Recreation & Leisure Department, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences and his list of publications.
I have had the pleasure of attending a couple of his sessions which are very interactive and thoughtful. While his most recent publication, The Intersection of Web 2.0 Technologies and Reflective Journals: An Investigation of Possibilities, Potential and Pitfalls unfortunately sits behind a paywall, I think his work with reflective journaling (regardless of modality) can be very applicable to blogging in general.
Prospective Journalling: reflecting IN the moment.
Retrospective Journalling: reflecting in hindsight.
There’s certainly something to be said for blogging regularly, as Dr. O’Connell asserts that writing daily will move you from habitual to critical … (*ahem* this is something I know I can get better at!)
Revisiting Reflective Journals cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe
Key take aways: Describe, Explain, Articulate Learning.
It is important to clarify expectations regarding purpose, audience and criteria. Audience certainly changes in an open blog versus a hand-written notebook.
The key to good journalling is to describe what makes a good journal (or blog post), for example, is it:
- Deep, Meaningful?
- Enhancing Learning?
- Integrating ideas, experience and data?
What new questions are generated?
Some faculty who teach courses that deal with highly personal and sensitive content are leery to have students blog openly for fear that they will be exploring ideas they are afraid to make public.
We’ve looked at LMS options where online journalling can be kept private between instructor and student. This changes the audience aspect back to just the instructor and inevitably changes the voice and purpose of the journalling. A few faculty are overwhelmed with this option as it requires a lot of supervision for each of the students. Ideally we are shifting the feedback to student to student interactions also. Oh, hey, connectivism!
It’s interesting to be in the space where this stuff is not new by any means but new to many faculty here. I think there’s a lot to be learned from others’ experiences and thankfully they are sharing openly on the web for all to benefit.
Which brings me to my final thought that I’ve been mulling over for a couple weeks now. I highly respect Lisa M Lane for the work she does and her thoughtful approaches to sharing. When she wrote about the Unhelpful Dichotomy, I kind of shrugged my shoulders, nodded my head and sighed. I do agree this dichotomy exists.
Or do I?
Can a dichotomy exist with a healthy middle? Because I also think there are many people along spectrum but perhaps those folks in the middle aren’t vocal enough.
Well, in the spirit of nurturing my own reflective journalling process, as the quiet middle, I will attempt to add a median voice to the mix.
As Jason Greene says, “when you’re travelling against the curent, you have to paddle much harder”; these tech-utopians need to have so much more enthusiasm to overcome the fact that they are a minority. I’m thankful for the proselytizers, they give me the supportive push to go forward and share that enthusiasm with our faculty.
Though, I must admit, I am not always enthusiastic; even in cases where I am certain a technology will help, I often back down when I know that a faculty member cannot be swayed. Ultimately I am not the one teaching that course, at the front of the room, grading the papers, commenting on blogs or moderating the forums.
Lisa’s program for online teaching
was once is called Pedagogy First, which is my Centre‘s mantra. I never suggest a technology without first thinking of the implications for the pedagogy, even for our eLearning initiative.
If something is beyond their comfort level, then we discuss ways of scaffolding their learning. I spend a lot of time reassuring faculty that they do not need to be an expert in technology to use it. That they are capable of learning while teaching and as long as they are sincere and honest with students then it should work out fine.
This is a big risk and many faculty are hesitant to put themselves out of a position of control and power. In academia power comes from knowledge ownership. To knowingly admit lack of knowledge in an area is scary and no amount of enthusiasm will reduce that fear. This might be where there is a difference between students and faculty. Students are used to relegated to the position of not-knowing. Faculty are at a point where they feel they are expected to know everything. Someone commented recently about the difference between students and learners. We can graduate out of student status, but we should be learners always.
Stephen Brookfield, at his talk at Guelph University last May, often admitted that just when he thought he had figured something out, he needed to readjust, recalculate, relearn.
My favourite thing he said, as captured by Natasha Kenny is that his “How we study our own autobiographies as learners is essential to our development as teachers.”
So this brings it all back to being critically reflective on an ongoing basis (with or without technology).
Update: The book is out! Unlocking the Power and the Potential of Reflective Journals. Timothy S. O’Connell and Janet E. Dyment.