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Transparency and constructivism, etc. (Or five good reasons to blog the research process)

A little while back I argued that your next wiki should be a pathfinder.  Here’s another argument: major research projects should be blogged.

This week marked the third year I’ve introduced the concept of research blogs to students. This year, the idea is catching on bigtime. For major projects, like our culminating Senior Seminar project, we encourage students to blog their research experience, to share the process, to let us in.  In our school, Pennsylvania’s traditional senior project involves: an outside mentored experience, a major research paper, a project resulting from the experience and the research,  a presentation of the semester-long exploration.

A project like this cries out to be blogged! 

My five big reasons:

1. Blogging inspires reflection and focus on process.  Research bloggers share their emotional and learning journey.  They discuss what worked, what they might do differently next time around.  They discover that experiences like building a thesis might take a bit of time, might be described in several posts.  Good projects are not immaculately conceived.  Good projects have some provenance. 

2.  Blogging helps learners organize and manage the process.  Students who have used the tools effectively, share that the paper and the presentation virtually write themselves.  The categories they establish help them manage the tasks that need to be accomplished.  We’ve found that suggesting such categories as operational definitions reminds students to do things they might ordinarily forget, for instance defining unfamiliar terms for the reader.  Blogging helps learners catch up.  RSS feeds push news in an area of research directly to the researcher.  Blog rolls ensure easy access to the links that matter.

3. Blogging is transparent. Along the way, peers, mentors, teachers, and librarians can follow the process, cheer the student researcher on, and help that researcher avert disaster when rescue is obviously warranted.  We set up a wiki index of class blogs. Teachers can easily track each student’s progress and love this convenience.

4. The best of these projects create pathfinders that might be shared by other researchers.  They contribute to the larger base of knowledge.

5. Blogging inspires interaction, social (constructivist) knowledge building, and the kind of intervention Carol Kulthau saw as critical in the information search process.  Teachers and librarians can use the blogging environment to participate in new "zones of intervention" in which they can accommodate, guide, and coach learners.  Peers and mentors and teachers and librarians can jump in at any point, make suggestions, offer support, cheer, or redirect, making the knowledge building less chaotic and more social and supportive.

I created a ResearchLogTemplate, a basic organizer for our research bloggers, but I’ve made it clear to students that they should use this merely as a starting point.  Blogging categories will vary for each project. 

I will ask my students for permission to share their blogs in this blog as our semester progresses.  Below is the front page from an old student sample.

  
researchlog Transparency and constructivism, etc. (Or five good reasons to blog the research process)bioneng Transparency and constructivism, etc. (Or five good reasons to blog the research process) 

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Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is the teacher-librarian at Springfield Township High School, a technology writer, and a blogger. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

Comments

  1. Doug Johnson says:

    As a by-product of transparency, the likelihood of plagiarism is lessened.

    Great post!

    Doug

  2. CAROLYN FOOTE says:

    Joyce,
    I love this idea. Also would like to know more about the senior projects, as we are considering those for next year.

  3. Chris Sloan says:

    What’s your process to get your students to arrive at research topics that they care about?

  4. joycevalenza says:

    Chris,
    Each of the senior teachers is taking a slightly different approach. One is mindmapping student interests–they’re posting their maps in their blogs. Another has students make a speech about their “passions.” All three have students reading a lot about potential topics in the next two weeks. They are including topic brainstorming as a category in their blogs. I tell them not to “marry” the first topic they meet. Over the next couple of weeks they need to do a lot of dating without commitment. Then , later choose one very special topic they can live with longterm. We are also doing lots of conferencing. They are playing with databases, searching blogs, exploring a number of search tools. After that we begin to explore questions and then we develop tentative thesis statements.

  5. Rene Terry says:

    Joyce, What a grand idea — which goes beyond the learning process itself. This is the beginnings of a true journal of an educational journey realized, where students can look back and see how they have grown. Better yet, they can take it with them (digitally) and continue to incorporate future learning.

  6. Gail Desler says:

    Thank you, Joyce, for making visible how blogging can support the senior research project. I met yesterday with a group of seniors in my district (who are connecting with Chris Sloan’s students in a year-long blogging project)and referenced your article. The opportunity to get and receive feedback from other students with the same or related topics generated questions, possibilities, and even enthusiasm.

    Thank you again for your very timely piece.

  7. Eileen Mann says:

    I love this use of blogs Joyce. We’d love to share this research process with our colleagues. Do you have any recent student samples? We’d love to share them.

  8. Eileen Mann says:

    I love this use of blogs Joyce. We’d love to share this research process with our colleagues. Do you have any recent student samples? We’d love to share them.

  9. Pat Neidert says:

    Joyce, Your article had me wondering whether anyone has tried using this process with middle school students? Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

  10. “Transparency and constructivism, etc. (Or
    five good reasons to blog the research process)
    — @joycevalenza NeverEndingSearch” was in fact a fantastic blog post.

    If only there were a whole lot more websites similar to this one in the word wide web.
    Well, thanks for your personal time, Steven

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I myself have never blogged nor do I really follow other’s blogs. What I liked about Five Good Reasons to Blog the Research Process by Joyce Valenza was the idea of providing space to fully process and explore their research [...]

  2. [...] Five Good Reasons to Blog the Research Process [...]

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