Ed Bilodeau

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This weblog had moved: http://www.coolweblog.com/bilodeau/

# Notice (Oct 19/05): So ends my stay here on Blogger. This morning Google implemented an anti-spam 'feature' that forces me to answer a challenge phrase when I want to post to my own blog. No notice of the change, nothing. Worse is that it doesn't even work! I type the phrase, submit, "An error occured", post deleted. Damn you, Google. Chances are I will revive my blog somewhere else, sometime soon. I'll post the new coordinates here as soon as they become available. (BTW, I'm unable to post anything to my RSS stream, so I'd appreciate it if readers could spread the word and ask people to take a look at this notice)

Update (Oct 19/05, ~noon): After a frustrating few hours (and not just trying out alternatives to Blogger), I've decided that this is a good time to take a break from all this. A day? A week? Who knows. But I need to step away from it before I pass a heavy magnet over the whole mess.

Update 2: According to this post, the reason I'm seeing the CAPTCHA (challenge phrase) is that Blogger has classified my blog as spam. Thanks. User for five years and now I'm spam. I searched the Blogger site, but there is no mention of how to get the spam flag turned off. There is also no way of contacting anyone at Blogger. Wow. Spam they say I am, so spam I must be. Maybe it is time to take a break.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Choosing a technology for student learning journals : I'm in the process of planning for the Winter semester, and have come to the point where I need to make a choice about how I want to handle student learning journals in my course.

Learning journals are something new that I'm trying. Students will be asked to keep a journal throughout the semester where they will record their reflections on the readings, lectures, discussion, etc. Currently, I ask students to hand in a hard-copy of their reflection every week or so. I want to move to a 'journal' approach because I would like student's to take responsibility for reflecting on their learning, and not just do it when I tell them to (although I'm sure a certain amount of ongoing motivation will be required).

I also want to move the learning journals online not only to ease the administrative aspects of maintenance and marking, but to make it easier for me to provide useful feedback to the students in an efficient and timely manner.

There are three options that I have been considering:
  1. e-mail: Student email me their entries (either to my main mail account or a WebCT account) and I reply with comments, etc).
  2. WebCT discussion forums: I set up a private discussion topics for each student in WebCT where they can post entries to their journal, and I can review and comment on them.
  3. weblogs: I ask each student to set up a weblog for their learning journal. Blogs could be reviewed using bloglines (set up an account for class blogs), comments left using comments.
My choice at this point is to go with option #2: private discussion topics in WebCT. This would be easiest to set up and manage, both for myself and for the student. Email would be a bit harder to manage, and there wouldn't be a central archive of the journal. Weblogs would require more effort for the students to set up, and we would be at the mercy of external servers (Blogger, Bloglines). All these blogs would also be public, which I think could be a problem.

In thinking about this, the issue came down to whether or learning journals needed to be public. Or rather, did the benefits of having the learning journals publicly available (even to other students in the class) outweigh the drawbacks?

In my opinion, there is no need for my student's learning journals to be public. I see the learning journal as a private place (with the exception of the instructor) where students can record their thier thoughts, the questions they have, the difficulties they are facing, etc. Having this writing space open to the other students, not to mention the general public, would make students hesitate, would work to limit or dampen the effectiveness of the journal.

It is worth noting that a portion of each class is devoted to group discussions, where students will discuss topics that they have already written about in their learning journals. In other words, I acknowledge the value of having students learn from each other, but I think that process is much more powerful when the interaction happens face-to-face. There is no need to relegate such interaction to a disconnected set of blog posts and comments.