Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

CONNECTING DISTANCE LEARNERS AND THEIR MENTORS USING BLOGS: The MentorBlog Project

Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

CONNECTING DISTANCE LEARNERS AND THEIR MENTORS USING BLOGS: The MentorBlog Project

Article excerpt

In this article we describe the MentorBlog project, which facilitated the mentoring of trainee teachers in the postcompulsory education sector through the use of blogs. In an experimental design, the study compared their experiences with students who received traditional mentoring. Blogs were used by the trainees to communicate with their mentors over the course of a complete academic term. The article highlights the importance of mentoring in the teacher education process, and argues that blogging can be a useful and viable alternative when students are not able to meet face-to-face with their mentors on a regular basis. A number of key blogging affordances are identified, including reflexivity, permanency, and immediacy, which can either encourage or undermine successful memorial dialogue. We also identify dissonance as a barrier to full dialogue in mentoring and show how it can be a problem due to the archiving features on most blogs. The article concludes with some recommendations for the future wider deployment of blogs as memorial tools for distance learners, and proposes an extension of the project to include the use of mobile phones as a route to providing "any time, any place" mentor support for nomadic students.

INTRODUCTION

The evolution of new web tools and services has created a number of previously unavailable possibilities for teachers and learners alike. The social web has rapidly developed and has delivered a vast array of media rich open content services such as social networking and blogging tools. The new web tools have opened up an entirely new online environment in which readers can also become writers, and where collaborative learning becomes more readily achievable. One of the most successful social web tools - the "blog" - is the focus of this study.

BLOGS

The blog has already enjoyed a short but successful history in education. It has been heralded as a transformational tool for teaching and learning (Anderson & Kanuka; Williams & Jacobs, 2004) and as a disruptive technology (Kop, 2007). Blogs have been used for a variety of purposes in teacher education, as a means of generating elements of work-based electronic portfolios (Chuang, 2008), and as a way of promoting peer support and peer learning (Hall & Davison, 2007). Their use has been evaluated favourably across a diverse range of educational settings, including clinical education (Kamel Boulos, Maramba, & Wheeler, 2006), postsecondary education (Leslie & Murphy, 2008), higher education in general (Lankshear & Knobel, 2006) and in more informal learning settings (Stefanone & Jang, 2008). As an evolving form of social software, the functionality of the blog has gradually extended beyond simple online reflective diaries, offering readers the opportunity to interact with the writer through the posting of comments directly to the blog within a likeminded community (Luehmann & Tinelli, 2008). Blogs also have an archive feature where a history of posts is presented in reverse chronology, providing users access to a complete record of what has gone before. The hypertextual dimension of the blog should not go unmentioned. The ability to embed hyperlinks, hypermedia (such as video and audio), and images into the blog also serves to enrich the content generation options of the writer. Although blogs are generally used to reflect personal opinions, they have communication with others at the centre of their purpose (Kop, 2007) and are therefore potentially powerful dialogic tools. They promote learning through collaboration, and the sharing of knowledge and best practice (Hramiak, Boulton, & Irwin, 2009; Ojala, 2005). Finally, blogs encourage deep and continuous learning through regular reflection and also through knowledge management (O'Donnell, 2006). Reflective journal writing and peer feedback, both of which are achievable through blogging, may also enable teachers to detect barriers to good practice. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.