Blogs and Bloom’s

In my recent post, Blogging to Educate I introduced the concept (and value) of student blogging in educational settings, and today I stumbled upon an article, Strategies for Blog-Powered Instruction (Demski, 2011) prompting me to explore how blogging can develop student writing, and higher order thinking skills. Blogging is similar to ‘journaling’ in that students record thoughts, impressions of identified course content, yet in a ‘digital’ space, a space where  students can ‘publish’  their writing to either the  class, small group or even to the public via the world-wide web (as we saw in Mind the Science Gap blogging project described in a previous post). In a world of status updates, Twitter and texting jargon with sentences that would make any English instructor cringe  – idk, wut do u think we should do? (translation: I don’t know, what do you think we should do?), blogging can encourage authentic writing expression.

Blogs and Blooms Taxonomy
The blog space provides more than a place for personal expression. The student goes through the process of thinking about what to write, reflecting on course content and potentially analyzing course content using higher order thinking skills. If we examine  Bloom’s taxonomy, we can see how the blogging activity, if well structured mind you, has the potential to push and challenge the student up on the scale in a way that Twitter and Facebook cannot.

‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ source:

Assessment of the Blog
When it comes to assessing the student’s blog activity, I like to attach a point value (or grade) to the assignment, which supports the overall ‘purpose’ of the assignment as discussed earlier. One approach is to include the blog in the participation grade, with a rubric outlining the basic requirements. We use a rubric which includes the specific number of posts, and a minimum number of words per post, though we don’t go too much further than that. I would recommend not grading each individual post (as you would an essay), as this could quell creativity; but grade collectively at the end of the course. Another option, is to divide students into small groups where group members give feedback to one another. Feedback from peers is an excellent way to encourage class involvement and can raise the bar! 🙂

Components of an Effective Blog Assignment

  • The assignment supports one or more of the course objectives, otherwise it loses value and becomes busy work.
  • Instructions for students are clear and concise and describes the purpose of the assignment and how it relates to the course. This helps to ensure the student engages in the blogging process.
  • Guidelines for students outline how to complete the blog – and avoid instructing the student to simply ‘summarize’ a reading or discussion.  Instructions push students further by asking the student to give their opinion on the content in light of _____ (analysing), or encouraging students to apply the lecture material to a real life problem etc.
  • ‘How-to’ instructions walk the students through how-to create a post, navigate the menu etc.  These instructions are separate from the guidelines, as some students may not need to read the ‘how-to’ instructions.

Blogs have the potential to be a valuable educational activity – if the assignment meets certain criteria: aligns with course learning objectives and its purpose is articulated in order that students do not view it as ‘busy work’, but as a beneficial and worthy endeavor. Learn more, about blogging at

Demski, Jennifer. Campus Technology, Strategies for Blog Powered Instruction. January 2012

Students Blog to Learn at “Mind the Science Gap”

While updating one of our online courses this past week I suggested to the professor a ‘blog activity’ where  the student would use the blog feature within the learning management system we use (Moodle). The student will ‘blog’ about his or her text-book reading assignment each week, recording his or her thoughts, impressions and questions. By thinking about the reading, not simply summarizing, the idea is that the student will have the opportunity for deeper thought and reflection, thus encouraging critical thinking skills.

Screen Shot: Ming the Science Gap BlogStudent Blogging in the Big Leagues
Coincidently, that night I read a post on one of the blogs I follow where the blogger, a professor at a university, was launching a blogging assignment for his students that goes exponentially beyond what I had worked on that day! It is quite brilliant actually, Master’s degree students in a Public Health program will write public blog posts aimed at the non-expert community member about an emerging area of scientific interest weekly, for ten weeks. The professor requested that his blog readers consider being a mentor, by giving feedback on a weekly basis to one of the ten students. The prof even outlined the mentor guidelines.

The blog, Mind The Science Gap will use the medium of science blogging to develop effective communication skills by giving students the opportunity to develop their skills by interacting with members of the community – perfect training for students in a Public Health program! It also includes all the components necessary to support student success –  including  guidelines for mentors when giving feedback.

Mind the Science Gap and the blogging exercise I mentioned earlier are examples of how technological applications, in this case a BLOGGING tool, can be applied and used in an educational environment to create applicable and challenging learning assignments. This is an example of using educational technology effectively, creating relevant learning exercises, where tools are used to support targeted learning objectives. I’ll be following Mind the Science Gap for the 10 weeks, and will post progress and observations along the way… check back.