Ruijie Zhao
Department of Humanities
Parkland College

Blogs As A Reflective and Collaborative Learning Tool


Learning Environment
--blogs as a tool


Blogs and Postwriting










Pipher (2006) belives that "blogs surfaced in the 1990s as online journals for people who worked with computer technology, but they quickly morphed into a much bigger phenomenon. Computer users began posting personal blogs that included everything from daily activities to poetry, travel tips, movie reviews, political commentary, and thoughts about the universe" (p. 199). Blogs were initially used as diaries or journals to record and share personal feelings and were used for various purposes such as writing movie reviews and disseminating political commentary. The possibility of writing blogs in different genres is noticed by Penrod (2007) who indicates that [a]s an e-genre, blogs allow for a variety of written expressions in an easy-to-use format in which writers can concentrate on writing rather than technology" (p. 45). Like other Web 2.0 technologies, blogs do not require technological expertise from the users, which makes it an ideal tool for students. Such user-friendliness is confirmed by Penrod, who asserts that “a blog’s appeal is based on how well a writer can communicate with an audience. Blogs allow individuals to move from silence to articulating their voices without the need for extensive technical knowledge” (Penrod, p. 45). The ease of writing with blogs attracts people, including technophobes, to treat blogs as a writing venue. This ease reassured me that blogs would be an appropriate venue for students to share their voices. In addition, the self-explanatory and intuitive design of blogs makes online writing less intimidating, fostering interactive dialogues and quick feedback. If students have a low comfort level with new technologies, the ease of using blogs should alleviate their pressure so they can concentrate on the quality of what they write and can offer constructive feedback to their peers.  Therefore, I chose blogs to create a virtual space that fosters dialogues, which subsequently deems blogs as an interactive online learning environment.

I decided to use blogs during the postwriting stage because blogs give students a chance to reflect. Postwriting literally means “after writing,” which can be a very broad definition because writing, as a practice, may not have an end. In classroom teaching, however, it is impractical for instructors to give students unlimited opportunities to revise their work and assign them new grades for the newly revised papers as a means of documenting students’ progress. In this article, postwriting refers to the time when students have submitted the final revision of their papers but have not yet received grades from the instructor. I chose this specific stage because once students know their grades, they may repeat the instructor’s marginal and/or end comments on the final drafts or treat this as an opportunity to vent anger, confusion, and dissatisfaction for displeasing grades or express delight or excitement for pleasing grades rather than regard postwriting as a chance to evaluate progress and write a constructive reflection.

Being defined as the stage between students’ submission of the final draft and receipt of the grades, postwriting carries much significance in teaching practices. Very often, in both theoretical and pedagogical discussions, the writing process is segmented into prewriting, writing, and rewriting. It is difficult to distinguish between writing and rewriting because responsible writers constantly revise and rewrite; therefore, rewriting becomes part of writing. I, however, do not think that writing should stop when the final draft is submitted. Time runs out during classes and papers must be turned in, but postwriting needs to be encouraged. If students are taught that writing is a continual process, they need to see such a concept being practiced in teaching; accordingly, this is the reason that I emphasize postwriting.

As indicated earlier, the purpose of introducing postwriting is to provide students a channel to reflect, evaluate, critique, and articulate the previous writing activities. This process of reflection, evaluation, critique, and articulation fosters students’ skills to read critically and analyze both the products submitted and the process of creating the product. In other words, the mission of the postwriting stage is to promote active, reflective learning. However, where does active learning occur? Learning occurs in social environments.  Ng, Lan, and Thye (2009) argue that “knowledge is created through the interaction of learners, never in a social vacuum,” thus emphasizing the importance of social interactions among learners in the knowledge creation process (p. 202). Successful learning tends to take place in a social and interactive environment.

The social aspects of postwriting are conceivably enhanced through students interacting via blogs with their own ideas and written words, their peers’ work, and other participants in the class. During this interacting process, students carry on inner and outer dialogues, encouraging them to identify differences, address conflicts, and make decisions.

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