Reflective Practice/Theory

Tanja’s comments about “theorising” our educational blogging practice raise some interesting questions:

It seems that there are tips and techniques, and descriptions about blogging – I guess I’m interested in hearing about how this field of blogging and journalism education (and practice) is being theorised? Are there any empirical studies that have been done (perhaps where a particular development has been tested to see what happens) and then analysed? in the field of journalism, are theories just being applied or are they being tested to see if they hold up – am just interested in how theories in a particular field might also be generated as new technologies become available to do and think about things we may not have before

Let me unpack this a little as I see it:

tips and techniques, and descriptions: yes these abound and there are now many places to go for practical help. But because the field is still young sometimes it is in working out the technique that we begin to theorise.

theorising the field: I think this is beginning to be done. Certainly there is theorising about online learning and networked learning – Tanja’s own reference to the marvelous notion of “learning swarms” is a wonderful example of this. Certainly there is the beginning of theories about blogs in higher ed and about blogs in journalism. All this needs to be brought together more clearly in regard to blogs in journalism education.

empirical studies, testing and analysing how theory (practice?) holds up: in a traditional sense, as far as I can find, there is almost none of this. However I would make an argument for projects like this blog as a different kind of empirical research.

Blogging is linked, cumulative, open-ended research. It is grounded in our empirical experience of writing and reading, linking and surfing, thinking and responding. It is action research, grounded theory.

Sites like edublog are marvelous examples of a deeply reflective mix of open-ended theroising about online teaching practice.

Sometimes with a very practical bent:

We also talked about the strangeness of making assignments in a blogging course. I want people to leave the course more skillful and confident as researchers, having built a lively and substantial site that is of real service to others, and made up of well-crafted sentences and paragraphs reflecting a good command over the choices a writer faces line by line. So, what should be assigned for Monday, then? Write anything you want? Yes and no, I’d say. A week of wandering among possible topics and interesting sources might be just the thing for one student to be doing right now, as she starts to come to a focus for her inquiry, while another student might need to be attending to the particulars of a theory that animates a field, in order to build a vocabulary for the writing to come. It’s hard to say with confidence that everybody ought to be doing the same thing, so we’re trying an experiment: I’m asking everyone to make their own decisions about content and quantity of writing for the week, knowing that quality is the main short-term goal and that those things above are the long-term goals. We’ll talk over how that went on Wednesday.

Other times from a more explicitly theoretical perspective:

So maybe here’s my point: blogging is not democratic only because it gives each person a place to publish — it is also democratic because it is a body of practices that help each person invent something worth reading. It is as if freedom of speech is not valuable only or even mainly for its freedom, but rather it is valuable for the social practices that it helps a society cultivate, for the internal and social work it helps individuals do, and for the quality of the speech that results from those things. Not to mention the quality of listening.

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