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Student use and evaluation of an edublog.

Abstract

The blog has rapidly grown in popularity since its inception in the mid-1990s. Likewise, the edublog (aka educational blog) has recently emerged as an online tool to support instruction. Little research has been conducted that examines the use of the edublog in an educational setting. This study examined students' use and evaluation of an edublog designed to support studio art instruction at the university level.

Introduction

Blogs are rapidly growing in popularity in the United States with nearly 12 million American adults posting to blogs and with nearly 57 million American adults reading blogs regularly (Kajder, Bull, and Van Noy 2004; Richardson 2005; EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative 2005; Marsan 2006). Edublogs (aka educational blogs) are increasingly being used in educational settings as a means of communication; an instructional resource, a collaborative tool, and a showcase for students work (Toner 2004; Molina 2005; Karchmer, Mallette, Kara-Soteriou, and Leu 2005; Ray 2006). Despite the push-button publishing capabilities of edublogs, those that support studio art instruction are rare (Lenfestey 2006). This study examined both student use and perceived value of an edublog designed to support studio art instruction in a university setting.

Background

Weblogs, precursors of edublogs, began as digital journals in 1997, with authors providing "online chronological collections of personal commentaries and links" related to specific subjects, such as politics, travel, or the law (EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative 2005). By 1999, weblogs were nicknamed blogs and experienced exponential growth. This growth was attributed, in part, to the appearance of blog hosting sites. These host sites provided tools that made posting blogs easier (Blog 2005). Xanga, an early blog hosting site, reported hosting 100 "diaries" in 1997. By mid-2006, Xanga reported serving "27 million users worldwide" (Xanga 2006). In 2001, the first edublog, "a blog written by someone with a stake in education," emerged (Edublog 2006). With few educators using blogs in the classroom, initial research "focused on the potential of blogging in teaching and learning" (Ferdig and Trammell 2004, 12). Ferdig and Trammell identified four benefits of using blogs with students. The use of blogs

1. helps students become subject-matter experts.

2. increases student interest and ownership of learning.

3. gives students legitimate chances to participate.

4. provides opportunities for diverse perspectives, both within and outside of the classroom (2004, 13-14).

Eide and Eide, experts in brain structure and function, work with children with learning difficulties. These specialists in neurolearning drew the following conclusions about blogs:

1. Blogs can promote critical and analytic thinking.

2. Blogging can be a powerful promoter of creative, intuitive, and associational thinking.

3. Blogs promote analogical thinking.

4. Blogging is a useful medium for increasing access and exposure to quality information.

5. Blogging combines the best of solitary reflection and social interaction (Eide Neurolearning Blog 2005).

Despite the benefit of using edublogs to support instruction, Richardson (2003) observed that blogs were uncommon in the classroom. Quible concluded that "the slowness with which blogs are being integrated into the classroom is probably not a result of instructors" reluctance to use them; rather, the slowness in more likely a result of instructors' unfamiliarity with blogs and their almost unlimited use in the instructional process" (2005, 328). Molina (2005) reported that many academic institutions now use blogs. For example, the blogging project at Warwick University boasts nearly 2,600 users, while Georgetown University uses blogs for collaborative research. Brescia and Miller conducted a study "to generate some initial consensus about the instructional advantages of blogging in college settings." The findings of their study revealed that the most valuable aspects of blogging were (1) the reinforcing of course engagement and (2) the repetition of exposure to coursework (2006, 44).

Purpose

The purpose of this pilot study was to determine students' use and perceived value of an edublog designed to support and expand studio art instruction at the university level.

Research Questions

1. The following research questions were posed prior to conducting the study:

2. Will university students enrolled in a studio art course access an edublog designed to support their instruction, even if they are not required to do so?

3. Will university students enrolled in a studio art course, who access the edublog, follow specific links related to their instruction?

4. If university students enrolled in a studio art course access an edublog and follow links related to their instruction, how helpful will they find the links?

Participants

Participants in this study were students enrolled in a studio art course (ceramics) during the 2006 summer term at West Texas A&M University. Seven of the student subjects were males and seven were females. Four of the student subjects were graduate students and ten were undergraduate students (one sophomore, two juniors, and seven seniors). Thirteen of the student subjects were White. One student subject was Hispanic. Nearly half (six) of the student subjects were art majors. Of the eleven student subjects who were employed, four held jobs in the art field (art teacher, graphic designer, art curator, and artist). Student subject ages ranged from 19 to 59 years, with an average age of 27 years.

Instrumentation

The following three questionnaires were used in this study: (1) Edublog Background Questionnaire (2) Edublog Midterm Questionnaire (3) Edublog Final Questionnaire. The Edublog Background Questionnaire was designed to determine students' prior knowledge of, thoughts about, and experiences with edublogs. The survey prompted students to:

1. Tell us what you know about edublogs.

2. Tell us what you think about edublogs.

3. Tell us about your own experiences with edublogs.

The Edublog Midterm Questionnaire was designed to determine student use and perceived value of the edublog site, as well as provide the researchers with a formative evaluation of the edublog at the midterm of the studio art class. The survey prompted students to:

1. Report how many times the edublog site was accessed.

2. Report which links (related to specific course projects and processes) were accessed.

3. Express how helpful the links were using the following scale: (0) not helpful at all (1) somewhat helpful (2) helpful (3) very helpful (4) extremely helpful

4. Express what other types of support information students would like to see posted to the edublog.

5. Express any questions, comments, or suggestion students had at midterm.

The Edublog Final Questionnaire was designed to determine student use and perceived value of the edublog site since the midterm, as well as provide the researchers with a summative evaluation of the edublog at the end of the studio art class. The survey prompted students to:

1. Report how many times the edublog site was accessed since midterm.

2. Report which links were accessed.

3. Express how helpful the links were using the same scale employed at midterm.

4. Express any questions, comments, or suggestions students had at the end of the studio art class.

Procedures

Prior to the beginning of the term, the researchers met with the studio art instructor to examine the course curriculum, including the projects students were required to create and the processes students were required to use during the course. Based upon this meeting, the researchers outlined an edublog designed to support studio art (ceramics) instruction. The edublog was created at Blogger, a free blog hosting service. Due to sophisticated development tools provided at Blogger, the edublog was created in three simple steps--(1) creating an account, (2) naming the edublog, and (3) designing the edublog through the selection of pre-formatted templates. The edublog set-up process took less than ten minutes. The populating of the edublog with links to resources that were educationally sound and clearly aligned to course projects and processes took significantly longer. For each course project or process, potential Web resources were identified. The resources were then evaluated for instructional soundness and curriculum alignment. The selected links were then posted to the edublog and officially annotated. Special Note: The URL (Internet address) for Blogger, as well as the WTAMU Ceramics edublog created for this study, may be found in the References. The edublog study was designed to roll out in three phases.

Phase one included the following:

1. The development and posting of an edublog that welcomed students and supported their first three course projects and processes (slab, pinch, and coil).

2. The development and staging of a presentation that introduced students to the edublog and demonstrated how to access the edublog, including how to navigate supporting links to instructional resources and to view sample finished projects.

3. The development and administration of an Edublog Background Questionnaire designed to determine what students already knew about edublogs, what they thought about edublogs, and what their prior experiences were using edublogs.

Phase two of the edublog study included the following:

1. The development and administration of an Edublog Midterm Questionnaire designed to determine student use and perceived value of the edublog site to date. The questionnaire also elicited questions, comments, and suggestions from students, contributing to a formative evaluation for the further development of the edublog.

2. Based upon the remaining course projects and processes, as well as the Edublog Midterm Questionnaire findings, the edublog was further developed and updated.

3. A memo was composed and distributed to students, apprising them of 13 new postings to the edublog. Since some of the links within the postings included PDF files placed within password-protected E-Reserves on the WTAMU library server, logon information was also provided.

Phase three of the edublog study included the following: The development and administration of an Edublog Final Questionnaire designed to determine student use and perceived value of the edublog site since midterm. The questionnaire also elicited questions, comments, and suggestions from students, contributing to the summative evaluation of the edublog and the study.

Phase One Findings

The Edublog Background Questionnaire was administered to students prior to the beginning of the study. When asked to, "Tell us what you know about edublogs," students revealed that they had very little prior knowledge of edublogs. Twelve of the 14 students indicated that they knew nothing about edublogs. Two students knew that edublogs were educational resources used to teach. When asked to, "Tell us what you think about edublogs," 12 of the 14 students indicated that they could not respond. One student indicated that she felt edublogs were very helpful. Another student indicated that he wanted to learn more about edublogs. When asked to, "Tell us about your own experiences with edublogs," 13 of the 14 students indicated they had no experiences with edublogs. One student indicated that she helped create an edublog.

Phase Two Findings

The Edublog Midterm Questionnaire was administered when students were halfway through the class and had completed the first three projects (slab, pinch, and coil) that were supported through the edublog. Questionnaire results indicated that the edublog site was accessed 6 times by 5 of the 14 students (36 percent). Eighty percent of these students accessed the slab posting. Sixty percent of these students accessed the pinch and coil postings. Students evaluated the links provided on the three project postings as follows:

1. The evaluation of slab posting links averaged 2.25, a value between helpful and very helpful.

2. The evaluation of pinch posting links averaged 1.67, a value between somewhat help and helpful.

3. The evaluation of coil posting links averaged 2.33, a value between helpful and very helpful.

The overall evaluation of links averaged 2.08, a value between helpful and very helpful. In an effort to improve the edublog, students were asked what other types of supporting information they would like posted to the edublog for the second half of the term. Six of the 14 students listed specific requests, such as information related to the raku process, glaze recipes, videos demonstrating techniques, and more. Students were also asked to pose questions, offer comments, and provide suggestions for the edublog site. Comments included praise for providing the edublog site, excuses for not spending more time on the site, and suggested links to add to the site.

Phase Three Findings

The Edublog Final Questionnaire was administered when students completed the course. Questionnaire results indicated that the edublog site was accessed 17 times since the midterm--a nearly threefold increase from the first half of the term. The edublog site was accessed by 8 of 13 students (61 percent)--a 25 percent increase. Special Note: Enrollment changed from 14 to 13 students, as one student dropped the course. Seventy-five percent of these students accessed the glaze posting; 63 percent accessed the turning/trimming/tooling and health/safety postings; 50 percent accessed the centering, cylinders, planters, bowls, teapots, juicers, and raku postings; and 38 percent accessed the wedging, plates, and lips/lids/handles postings. Students evaluated the links provided on the thirteen project, technique, and informational postings as follows:

1. The evaluation of health/safety posting links averaged 3.0, a value representing very helpful.

2. The evaluation of juicers posting links averaged 2.75, a value between helpful and very helpful.

3. The evaluation of glazes, planters, teapots, and raku posting links averaged 2.5, a value between helpful and very helpful.

4. The evaluation of turning/trimming/tooling posting links averaged 2.4, a value between helpful and very helpful.

5. The evaluation of plates and lips/lids/handles posting links averaged 2.33, a value between helpful and very helpful.

6. The evaluation of centering, cylinders, and bowls posting links averaged 2.25, a value between helpful and very helpful.

7. The evaluation of wedging posting links averaged 2.0, a value representing helpful. The overall evaluation of posting links averaged 2.4 percent, a value between helpful and very helpful. The final value, although within the same range, was .32 higher than the midterm value.

Students were also asked to pose questions, offer comments, and provide suggestions for the edublog site. The comments and suggestions included the following:

1. I hope to see edublogs in my other courses as well.

2. I think you should keep this edublog for future students.

3. I have already taken four ceramics courses. Had I not, I would have read every link.

4. Post pictures of work actually done in class.

5. Add more pictures that hint at the limitless possibilities, for in an art class, there are limitless possibilities.

Discussion

Although the number of students who accessed the edublog site increased from 36 percent at midterm to 61 percent at the completion of the course, a closer examination and comparison of the questionnaire findings revealed that nearly 25 percent of the students never accessed the site at all. The researchers attributed this finding to the fact that participating in the edublog study was not a requirement of the course. It was an optional, self-motivated activity. One participating graduate student commented that the edublog "may need reinforcement from an instructor to become an effective tool."

At midterm, when the edublog was updated with thirteen new postings designed to both support instruction and provide requested information, the researchers found insufficient content-specific Websites from which to create resource links. Consequently, researchers resorted to gathering information from textbooks and current trade books in the studio art field. Selected portions were scanned, saved in PDF (portable document format), and posted within e-reserves on the WTAMU library server. Since access to e-reserves was password protected, many links on the updated edublog site required students to logon to the e-reserves first. Accordingly, students were provided with logon information, as well as step-by-step instructions, to help them through the accessing process. Although researchers were concerned this added step might cause a negative reaction from students, none was expressed.

Some students indicated that their access to the edublog site and instructional links would have been more significant if they had more time, such as during a regular semester. Since this study was conducted during an abbreviated summer term, which only lasted approximately six weeks, it is recommended that this edublog study be repeated during the regular semester.

Conclusion

The purpose of this pilot study was to determine students' use and perceived value of an edublog designed to support and expand studio art instruction. This was accomplished through three phases. Phase one findings established that students had very little prior knowledge of edublogs. Phase two findings revealed that 36 percent of the students accessed the edublog designed to help them with course projects and processes. Students evaluated the links presented during this phase, rating them between helpful and very helpful. Phase three findings revealed that 61 percent of the students accessed the edublog. Students evaluated the links presented during phase, rating them between helpful and very helpful. Based upon the increased access rates, the positive resource link ratings, and the optimistic and constructive comments students provided at the close of Phase three, the researchers concluded that students valued the edublog site. Therefore, it is recommended that the use of edublogs to support university-level studio art instruction, as well as to support other courses, be explored further.

Acknowledgments

The researchers would like to express their appreciation to Ms. Wendy Walden, undergraduate work study student, who assisted with this study.

References

Blog. (2005). Wikipedia. Retrieved November 15, 2006, from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog.

Blogger. (2006). Available online at the following URL: http://www.blogger.com/start.

Brescia, William F. and Miller, Michael T. (2006). What's It Worth? The Perceived Benefits of Instructional Blogging. Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education 5: 44-52.

Edublog. (2006). Wikipedia. Retrieved November 15, 2006, from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edublog.

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005). Seven Things You Should Know About Blogs. Retrieved November 15, 2006, from EDUCAUSE www.educause.edu/ir/ library/pdf/ELI7006.pdf.

Ferdig, Richard E. and Trammell, Kaye D. (2004). Content Delivery in the Blogosphere. T. H. E. Journal 31(7): 12-15.

Kajder, Sara; Bull, Glen; and Van Noy, Emily. (2004). A Space for "Writing without Writing" Blogs in the Language Arts Classroom. Learning and Leading with Technology 31(6): 32-35.

Karchmer, Rachel A.; Mallette, Marla H., Kara-Soteriou, Julia; and Leu, Donald J. (2005). Innovative Approaches to Literacy Education--Using the lnternet to Support New Literacies. Newark, Deleware: International Reading Association.

Lenfestey, Harold J. (2006). An Examination, Classification, and Evaluation of Art Edublogs. Unpublished manuscript.

Marsan, Carolyn D. Can Blogging Boost Your Career? (2006). Retrieved August 28, 2006, from Network World http://www.networkworld.com/cgi-bin/mailto/x.cgi.

Molina, Pablo G. New Student Collaborative Tools. (2005). Retrieved August 31, 2006, from EDUCAUSE http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/dec0501.pdf.

Quible, Zane K. (2005). Blogs and Written Business Communication Courses: A Perfect Union. Journal of Education for Business 80(8): 327-332.

Ray, Jan. (2006). Welcome to the Blogosphere: The Educational Use of Blogs AKA Edublogs. Kappa Delta Pi Record. Summer: 175-177.

Richardson, Will. (2005). Blog Revolution: Expanding Classroom Horizons with Web Logs. Technology and Learning 26(3): 48.

Richardson, Will. (2003). Web Logs in the English Classroom. English Journal 93(1).

Toner, Mark. (2004). BIogs Help Educators Share Ideas, Air Frustrations. Education Week 23(18).

WTAMU Ceramics (Edublog). Available online at the following URL: http://www.wtamuceramics.blogspot.com/

Xanga. (2006). Wikipedia. Retrieved November 15, 2006, from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanga.

Jan Ray, West Texas A&M University, TX

Harold Lenfestey, West Texas A&M University, TX

Darold Smith, West Texas A&M University, TX

Jan Ray, Ed.D., is the Program Chair and an Assistant Professor of Instructional Design and Technology in the College of Education and Social Sciences; Harold Lenfestey, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Art History; and Darold Smith, M.F.A., is a Professor of Art in the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities.
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Author:Smith, Darold
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Date:Dec 22, 2006
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