Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Digital Performance Learning: Utilizing a Course Weblog for Mediating Communication

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Digital Performance Learning: Utilizing a Course Weblog for Mediating Communication

Article excerpt

Introduction

There's an old folk saying that goes something like this: No man knows the truth about himself, only his neighbors do. Having students publish their work on blogs is one way for them to find out the truth about their writing from their peers. Online publishing provides a motivating factor for students to improve performance as quickly and efficiently as possible, increasing their level of engagement and enhancing attention to collaboration, self- regulation, and performance. This study will compare the process and outcome of writing published on blogs to computer-generated paper drafts to determine if a web 2.0 social learning space in the form of a course blog affects learning outcomes.

Much ado has been made of the introduction of digital publishing and social networks into the writing classroom; in fact, a number of exploratory studies indicate that blogs enhance a sense of community, improve writing, increase self-reflection, and build professionalism (Lee, 2010; Frye, Trathen & Koppenhaver, 2010; Camp & Bolstad, 2011; Chretien, Goldman & Faselis, 2008; Fessakis, Tatsis, & Dimitracopoulou, 2008; Quible, 2005; Byington, 2011; Miyazoe, & Anderson, 2010; Gallagher, 2010). No experimental studies have established the effectiveness of writing instruction, which employs web-mediated writing tools and publishing. Thus, this research study was designed as a quasi-experimental study involving two nonrandomized sections of university-level technical writing classes that were given a project to write an article for publication. One group worked in a traditional classroom with paper drafts while the other worked in a computer lab and generated their work on a course blog, allowing for a direct comparison of learning outcomes and a challenge: paper versus digital media, which group would publish the most articles and generate higher grades?

Scientists and engineers, who are responsible for the bulk of technical writing, are often prepared to write academically for scholarly publications; however, many scientists and engineers end up working for public and private companies and find themselves in need of skills that will help them communicate with audiences that lack specialized training. A project to write an article for the Pennsylvania Center for the Book was ideal to train this group of junior- and senior-level university students to write for the general public. In order to publish an article, each student had to meet standards of excellence as set forth by the editor in terms of meeting goals of engagement, readability, diligent research, and an effective visual argument.

Literature overview

Building on social constructivist theory, Slavin (1996) argued that collaborative learning ties motivational factors directly to levels of social cohesion and its impact on cognitive processes. Writing instruction combines the cognitive process of knowledge construction when creating content, scaffolding, through the generation of multiple drafts, and social interaction in the form of peer review. One way to further enhance social interaction is through the introduction of a social learning space and technologies that expand the boundaries of the traditional writing classroom to a larger, more visible online community, which ultimately enhances social cohesion and peer interactions through a web-mediated writing environment.

Furthermore, Lave and Wenger's (1991) social theory of learning argues that social participation is at the center of the learning process. In this sense, community, according to Lave and Wenger (1991), is the social configuration defined by action, which occurs through discourse. They identify this learning environment where individuals are joined by relationships that share common practices and activities as "Communities of Practice" or (CoP), or individuals joined by relationships that share common practices and activities. CoP have been integrated into the learning theory of situated cognition, which claims that all human thought or knowledge is situated or adapted to the environment. …

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