Saturday, September 09, 2006

How do we know that blogs and podcasts improve student learning?

Just a question that I'm wondering about. I have started blogging with my classes and continued to do it because I believe it will help my students learn. And lots of teachers do say that it will help students become better writers, that they will take more care and be more motivated to learn skills they need when writing for a real audience. And that does seem to make sense. I feel that I have enjoyed writing more and that the practice of writing on a regular basis has made me a better writer than I would have been without the regular practice. But how do we know it is working to improve learning for our students? Has anyone done any studies? How do we evaluate the use of blogs, podcasts and digital learning environments generally? Would these convince teachers who are sceptical?


  1. Good questions. I used a class blog for the first time this summer in a graduate class on Managing Diversity. It was great for building a learning community. This semester I am using one to list resources and links for my senior HR Management students. Haven't really evaluated their writing except to require it...Would love to hear what others are doing.

  2. Just browsing away in my network and I find this, which may go some way towards an answer: I have just completed a research project looking at the effect of podcasting on oral language. My assertion was that podcasting had caused a marked improvement in my students abilities. However, through my research I found out that this was not the case. Podcasting was just the tool that I used. What had caused the marked improvement was the environment that was created when using Podcasting as a tool. This new technology supported a truly social constructivist environment and I now assert that it was through working this way (as collaborative partners, jointly constructing oral language for an authentic audience, receiving and giving feedback, making revisions on their oral language projects) was what made the difference. I think that Podcasting was the ICT Tool which supports a constructivist Environment and the two together enhanced the knowledge building.


  3. That fits my's not the blog that improves writing's creating a learning community and a desire to participate fully in class assignments, something I was able to do by using this technology. You can check out my class blog at if you like.

  4. I'm writing my dissertation right now about the use of blogs in a writing class. My experience has been that the writing itself may be only slightly better, but the learning seems huge. What people learned about through the blog was much more than writing.

    I am finding that the students were much more aware of audience which gave their writing a completeness and complexity that is often lacking in student work that relies on formulas and and whose audience is only the teacher. So that's a good thing.

    As with evaluating many aspects of teaching and learning, assessing whether improvement has taken place because of the new tool is hard. In my field, for example, we'd have to agree on what good writing is, on what level most freshman are at and whether that level increases more than it does in a "traditional" class. Hard to determine.

  5. Jo,thanks for visiting my class blog at

    I am dealing with this same issue. I have a department that is very skeptical questioning that blogging is not "academic" enough. I have found that the students are conscious of audience, but since they are so use to being informal in their own Facebook/MySpace audiences, they don't often see the need to tweak the entries for the audience of the class blog. I do feel that it provides an opportunity for discourse and for an open classroom environment. I don't know that it improves their writing as much as it improves their communication skills.

  6. I haven't worked up to the class blogging just yeat (getting there strategically), but we've definately been doing more writing on the computers via email and word processing. Already, just two weeks into the school year I can see children taking more effort (and with more interest) in the final outcome of what they are writing. Very promising at such an early point in time!

  7. Hi everybody. I am a beginning teacher and think that blogging sounds good. It probably would entertain children. However, I am sceptical about the effect that blogging has on student achievement. This is partly due to the fact that blogging uses very simple language, extremely informal tone, lax spelling and grammar as well poor editing.
    Then there are problems of computer access, especially in schools where kids don't have great access.

    What would convince me is having a reputable university test and retest these techniques on different learner groups and then comparing these to a control group. I would also like to know when to use blogs, etc, and in what circumstances it would be best to do so. Until there is evidence, I will be unsure and reluctant to use these in class.