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Jo Walter's design narrative

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Jo Walter
30 March 2015

Title Blogging as a tool for critiquing leadership practice – Jo Walter

 

Narrator

Tutor

 

Situation

Students within a small tutor group for a module in leadership in the tourism sector were asked to create a blog in which they explored their own leadership practice, reflecting on this in the light of module concepts and leadership theory.

 

Students then shared each new blog post with the others in their group (six in total), via Twitter and were required to post a comment in response to at least two other students’ blog postings.  All of the students in the group elected to use a WordPress blog with some happy to set this to public and other’s having only invited followers from the tutor group.

 

As the tutor, I was required to ask them questions on Twitter, which might then inform the comments they made and the critical discussion in their next blog posting.  All students were required to post a response to this Twitter question and to add their own questions/statements where appropriate.  Once the five blog posts, comments and Twitter discussion had been completed, each of the students had to produce an action plan outlining their own leadership development intentions.

 

Students were encouraged to buy-into this type of learning design by the tourism sector’s own congruence with blogging and Twitter as business tools, so that the learning wasn’t isolated to leadership theory, but encompassed learning about technological factors as well.  It was the belief of the module team who designed this assessment activity – as set out in the Module Information Form (MIF) presented to the module approval board that this would be the case – that engagement with these methods would therefore exceed the ‘norm’ for collaborative learning interaction.

 

Task

 

The aim was to encourage students to combine the following:

Reflections of their own descriptions

Critical evaluation of these experiences and leadership theory

Collaborative discussions with peers in the sector

Use of technology relevant to sector requirements

Creation of a leadership development action plan

 

The formal measure of ‘success’ was that students undertook the required number of posts, comments, Twitter discussions and created an action plan with at least four objectives.  This was then mark as the first element of their formal assessment on the module – against a marking grid with sliding scales – to ascertain whether they had passed the module (40%) or achieved a higher/lower banding than this.

 

However, I think this is an extremely simplistic measure of success and perhaps was more effective at measuring participation (which some might even define as ‘forced’ collaboration, since marks were directly assigned to this), than measuring learning.

 

Actions and Results

 

  • Students read a range of leadership theories – learning from this was not tested until assessment of the blog post, but here marks were awarded for the number (as opposed to the quality) of posts, which had an impact on the depth of learning arising.
  • Students were provided with guidance to develop a blog and Twitter account, with tutor support where necessary – All students created these accounts and for five of the six, blogging was a new experience.  Therefore it is reasonable to assume that some learning arose as a result.  Some difficulties were experienced by students who were unwilling to make their posts public, which lead to an extra layer of activity before other students could comment.  This ultimately also had an impact on both internal and external moderation processes.
  • Students began to complete the five necessary blogs – sometimes students would forget to post the Twitter notification and/or other students would not provide the required feedback.  It became quite onerous as the tutor to monitor this, chase students for links and to ‘encourage’ other students to comment.  The marks assigned to this were offered as a carrot/stick, but I think the course team had naively hoped this wouldn’t be necessary.
  • As the tutor, I posted on Twitter, ‘key’ questions in relation to blog post themes.  This was extremely challenging due to the limitation of the characters allowable on Twitter and it felt like a gimmick to me, as we were unable to engage in any depth of discussion.  Students in the group did make the required number of responses, but there was little to no evidence of new insight tangible for the tweets reviewed.  I would suggest it was more of a tick-box exercise to fulfil the assessment requirements.
  • All of the students completed an action plan, but in some cases this was not effectively linked to the blog posts and there was little to no evidence of the Twitter discussions having had an impact on the objectives defined.  The activities and resources did not prepare the students fully for developing an effective action plan – for example couching this with a SMART framework.

 

 

Reflections

Before engaging with the readings for Weeks 8 and 9 of H800, I was sceptical that learning had taken place… or at least meaningful learning. However, this is difficult to quantify and, looking at A6 which maps digital media to the four facets of learning, I can see that it does (at least to an extent) address them all:

 

  • thinking and reflection – e.g. readings, blog posts

  • experience and activity – e.g. own reflections, setting up blogs, posting/comment

  • conversation and interaction – e.g. tweets, responses to blog posts

  • evidence and demonstration – e.g. posts, action plans

     

    However, what I would learn from this about future design is to create some balance between measuring the frequency of activity and the quality of activity in support/demonstrating learning and to avoid the use of a particular technology as a gimmick, where this is less fit for purpose than other tools.

     

     

Extra content

Embedded Content

Contribute

Paul Curran
3:59pm 31 March 2015


That's interesting Jo about the gimmicky nature of certain technologies. Personally I've found the benefit of Twitter is in tweeting links to longer articles or interesting websites. It's very hard to have meaningful discussion using just the 144 characters. 

Jo Walter
4:43pm 31 March 2015


Thanks for commenting Paul.  I agree that is a far more appropriate use of Twitter, but I must say that I don't find it a tool I particualrly enjoy using - as there is an awful lot of 'white noise' that takes time to plough through.

Lydia Spenceley
8:51am 8 April 2015


Hi Jo.  I haven't used Twitter (yet!) and hadn't thought about using it as a way of directing learning in some way but this is certainly something I will think about for the future although I share Paul's concerns about the limited length of the contibutions.  Your comments on the difficulty of marking some of the activities were really interesting - as I have only really used blogs on a VLE where I have administration rights I hadn't come across the problem of people not wanting to share their posts, so thank you for this and it's something for me to think about when designing blog activities in the future using clouds rather than VLE systems.

Jo Walter
8:40pm 20 April 2015


Hi Lydia

Thanks for your comments.  I think the nature of the default public setting of some blog tools - like WordPress - can make some students apprehensive.  Some of mine are 'scared' enough of posting in the VLE in case they say something 'wrong'.  There are ways round this, with setting the blog to private/invitation only access, of course, but it is worth bearing in mind in setting the parameters and providing guidance to students on expectations and how to proceed/ensure a degree of privacy with online tools.

Thanks again for your comments.  Off to find your cloud now.

Jo

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