THE NEW CONVERSATION: Using Weblogs for Reflective Practice in the Studio Art Classroom

Article excerpt

Why are our students' personal lives immersed in technology, but their school experiences quite the opposite? Although computers and the Internet have been used steadily even before this generation of students was born, K-12 classrooms still operate in much the same fashion as 1 00 years ago. Educators give many reasons for not using the latest technological applications available. However, unless we start incorporating these new approaches, we are creating a large disconnect between this generation of techsavvy students and the art educator's ability to stimulate meaningful learning opportunities (Lu, 2008; Taylor, 2006). As art educators say, we sometimes offer students opportunities to create using computers and digital cameras, but we often forget to integrate technology into daily studio activities, namely, reflecting about art.

To lessen the distance between my students' personal and school experiences, I started to incorporate a new way to communicate with my students, a weblog that extends the boundaries of the classroom and uses technology my students are comfortable with. Through this pilot weblog, I have found that teachers need to rethink our approaches to learning and student achievement.

Weblog s

Weblogs or blogs are a fairly new form of electronic communication. A blog is a website with content, usually an author's views on certain topics, organized chronologically that includes features like calendars, archives, and links to other websites (Freedman, 2006). Blogs are easy to create. A person can create a blog page without knowledge of programming languages for creating web-based documents or having to learn a web page design software program. By using a blog hosting site, such as Blogger or WordPress, an author can create a blog site in minutes. Many hosting sites are free, which offers opportunity to create a blog for anyone who has Internet access. Often used as personal journals, the power of a blog is its ability to carry out a conversation and to provide external links for extensions of information (Utecht, 2007). There can be multiple authors of a blog site and readers can respond to their posts; thus, interested parties can converse.

Campbell (2003) defines blogs for educational purposes in three categories: (a) the tutor blog, (b) the learner blog, and (c) the class blog. Tutor blogs are run by the teacher and offer reviews of content, links to additional sources, and class management information. They also provide a place for students and teachers to pose questions. Learner blogs are created by students, ranging from a place to post reflections to electronic-learning portfolios. Finally, class blogs are collaborative sites that provide a forum for students and teachers to converse and post links relating to the topic of discussion.

Searching on the web for "art class blogs" brings up several examples of sites, most of them showing records of finished projects and activities. These sites act as vehicles for parents to see what their child is learning and also as electronic-portfolios for the teacher or students. During my own web search, I came across a dozen interesting blog sites from photography classes that were created by both teachers and students. While these blogs provide excellent visual records of student artwork, these types of sites can also function as a means of engaging the students in reflecting on their artistic growth.

The Web's ability to allow for social interaction, relay information, and create virtual collaborative problem-solving environments is explored still (Buffington, 2008). Networking sites such as Facebook or virtual environments such as SecondLife offer opportunities for groups of people to converse and interact. Even the art world is immersed in this new way of conversing; artists, curators, art educators, and critics participate in online dialogues (Plagens, 2007). While critics of online forums focus on privacy issues and the need for a conduct code of behavior in these new communication spaces (November, 2006; Sturgeon, 2008; Utecht, 2007), art educators can find value in blogging as a classroom tool. …