I’ve grown up with social media. Blogs, wikis, message boards and so on are not new to me. I have spent my whole adult life plus my adolescence with these tools being largely present. I have also been involved in developing these tools as I was a web developer during my undergrad years. With this background, one might assume I would be enthusiastic about blogging and social media. I am not.
Sure, this technology has a role. It is useful for collaborating and for disseminating certain types of information. It also has an undeniable entertainment role. The use of social media within education has become routine in my educational and professional experience. Throughout my entire medical training blogs and podcasts, often produced by near celebrity medical educators, have been present and personally occasionally used. My exposure to this tool in an education context is frequent. My medical specialty leads in the use of such tools towards educational purposes within medicine (Nickson et al., 2014).
Despite all this I think social media and blogging is terribly overrated when it comes to education. I highly suspect that within the next 10 to 15 years this current period will stand as one overly enthusiastic about social media in general.
Sure, I have read a multitude of papers supporting the use of this technology. I don’t deny that it has a purpose. I just think it is overused, and too enthusiastically adopted. Yes, blogs are wonderful for applying constructivist principles. They allow learners to construct knowledge and form new understandings within specific context (Xie et al., 2008). Yes, blogs can help shape knowledge being learned, and provides scaffolding for transfer of knowledge. I’ll even admit that blogs can enhance metacognition, promoting reflection and critical thinking (Shepard et al., 2000; Xie et al., 2008).
My point isn’t that blogs are bad, it is that they are overly used when other options may be better suited. When blogs, or similar equivalents, are used as a means to promote content creation and application of readings I have my doubts that the connectavist goals behind adoption of this technology are being fulfilled. Yes, a blog does allow for construction of knowledge around readings, for self-directed learning, discovery learning and adult learning principles (Turner, 1980; Xie, et al., 2008). Where the issue lies is in the very features which makes blogs attractive. A blog is a blank canvas. If the collaborative process is not an enriching one, then the social aspect of the blog completely breaks down. This is obviously context and situation dependent. However, in the education context, discussion around blog articles is often mandated. Due to this fact there is often minimal effort to acquire intrinsic motivation behind student blog discussion. In this environment the collaboration quickly becomes very artificial (Xie et al., 2008). The moment “discussion requirements' are met conversation abruptly ends. This isn’t always the case, but unless there is a particularly inspired or motivated group, my personal experience is that this often is the case.
I appreciate the self-directed nature of creating a blog, and how this speaks well to adult learning principles (Turner, 1980). Nevertheless, some instructional structure behind blogs has been shown to be beneficial, particularly when used as an adjunct supplementing a larger curriculum. This in itself is not failsafe, readings and other directed activities inspiring blog pursuits still must speak and be relatable to the student to be educational (Xie et al, 2008). If these factors are not achieved the whole concept of connectavist and adult learning through a blog breaks down. There won’t be any motivation for an activity that is non-contextual.
I did not embrace this blog assignment. This is my failing.
I should have taken greater responsibility for my own learning within this course. My participation in this blog assignment reflects the perceived value versus time relationship behind the assignment. Nevertheless, once I had this perception I should have sought guidance. Instead, I just continued with my other independent work, and my own readings on this topic. Maybe I missed a potential learning opportunity from an augmented assignment would have possibly been afforded?
I have this perception because I’ve been involved in academic medical education for several years. My background in online technologies, prior to my current career, has led me to read a fair amount around the medical peer-reviewed literature pertaining to the course modules. I’ve been doing this before this course started, during it, and will continue afterward. Therefore, the blog did not play a role in motivating me to construct knowledge and make connections between concepts. I’ve already been doing this, plus attending relevant face-to-face journal clubs to discuss this literature. The social aspect of the blog was largely removed for me due to the lack of intrinsic motivation behind the comments. Blog dialogue was frankly limited. Again, I should have continued with my comments, in hindsight it would have helped create a more fruitful overall environment and combated the very issue that turned me off from the assignment.
Will I continue with the blog? Probably not. But I do think that I will participate in a voluntary online medical education Journal club. This is somewhat like a blog. I believe this format, although using the same underlying technology as a blog, will overcome some of the precieved issues. Recent evidence supports such a notion (Sortedahl, 2012). The Journal club being voluntary will mean conversations will be generated out of genuine interest, and there will be a loose structure governing the readings and topics generating dialogue. I’m excited to see if this online learning activity augments my regular readings with the connectavist and social learning principles discussed in this course.
Nickson, C. P., & Cadogan, M. D. (2014). Free Open Access Medical education (FOAM) for the emergency physician. Emergency Medicine Australasia, 26(1), 76-83. doi:10.1111/1742-6723.12191
Shepard, L. A. (2000). The Role of Assessment in a Learning Culture.Teaching and Learning, 29(7), 229-253. doi:10.1002/9780470690048.ch10
Sortedahl, C. (2012). Effect of Online Journal Club on Evidence-Based Practice Knowledge, Intent, and Utilization in School Nurses.Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing, 9(2), 117-125. doi:10.1111/j.1741-6787.2012.00249.x
Turner, J. D. (1980). The meaning of adult education. Manchester: University Library of Manchester.
Xie, Y., Ke, F., & Sharma, P. (2008). The effect of peer feedback for blogging on college students' reflective learning processes. The Internet and Higher Education, 11(1), 18-25. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2007.11.001