Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

An Investigation of Students' Perceptions of Learning Benefits of Weblogs in an East Asian Context: A Rasch Analysis

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

An Investigation of Students' Perceptions of Learning Benefits of Weblogs in an East Asian Context: A Rasch Analysis

Article excerpt

Introduction

Since the dawn of the Information Age, information technology (IT) has presented organizations in many industries in the world with boundless possibilities of applying new technologies to enhance efficiency and effectiveness. This is because as technology advances rapidly through intense communication, standardization and similar decision technology, world markets and cultures are drawn closer together (Levitt, 1983). Today, we continue to live in an era of rapid social change where capital, technology, people, ideas, and information move inexorably across political borders and cultural boundaries (Holton, 2000). One industry which has thrived in the application of IT is education. Although early use of IT in schools was very much restricted to simple software applications to present course materials in an electronic medium, IT is today an integral part of classroom teaching (Yelland, 2001). Gone were the days where the focus was only on exploiting the ability of IT in making lessons more visually engaging or making the materials more entertaining. IT is now seen as an essential tool in bringing about new elements of teaching and learning as well as communication between users.

In view of the increased dependence on the internet, the use of information and communication technology (ICT) has also grown manifold in education. Increasingly, there is a growing perception amongst teachers that ICT is an effective way to connect with and engage their students in learning. It is important to acknowledge the fact that students have become more sophisticated in terms of the IT and internet 'consumption' and as such can process learning differently through constant exchange of information and discussion. Students are growing up immersed in digital media which they use for entertainment, communication, learning, and even shopping. Increasingly, these internet generation learners will demand that schools are technologically relevant and provide technology-rich learning environments. Evidently, technology is a tool that can help teachers exemplify best practices to create enriched and collaborative learning environments by addressing different learning needs, supporting transfer of learning, encouraging higher-order thinking, incorporating real world problems and authentic assessments, and preparing students for lifelong learning (Fullan, 1998). These views are consistent with current learning theories in that they emphasize "interactivity, activation of prior knowledge, connecting the theoretical to the experiential, and using relevance and efficacy to assess information" (Coutinho 2007, p.2028). Learning in today's context is essentially more than assimilating knowledge transmitted by textbooks and teachers. It requires the individual to take personal responsibility to build and communicate the knowledge with others (Harada, 2003).

The Emergence of Web 2.0 Applications in Education

From the preceding discussion, the internet is clearly more than just a massive network of computers linked together to enable people to exchange information. With the introduction of Web 2.0, the internet has now become a global platform for social interaction (Alexander, 2006). Current popular communication applications on the internet include Facebook, Instant Messaging, Wikipaedia and Weblogs. These internet communication tools allow users to create their own persona or image on the World Wide Web (Thompson, 2007). Acknowledging these emerging Web 2.0 applications, educators have come to accept the need to explore the effectiveness of such tools in their classroom teaching.

Weblogs (or blogs) are perhaps the most popular of the Web 2.0 applications, mainly because their collaborationsupporting features where users (or bloggers) are allowed to share their opinions, experiences and even media-rich files with others in the virtual world (Kuzu, 2007). Despite the popularity of the use of blogging in education, empirical studies on its effectiveness in students' learning are limited (Borja, 2005; Instone, 2005). …

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