Building blog-supported learning community among pre-service teachers

Deng Liping and Allan H K Yuen
University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong SAR, China

The emergence of social software, such as weblogs, has provided new opportunities for social interactivity. The blogs provide users with a way of sharing and reflecting on their experiences while interacting with other users with similar interests. Educators and researchers have begun to explore the educational use of weblogs in schools at all levels. However, although the pedagogical benefits of blogs have been documented in both theoretical and empirical accounts, very few studies have addressed the design issues of building learning communities with weblogs. Also, the extant literature on designing online learning communities is usually situated in discussion forums or course management systems. Unlike online discussion in discussion forums, blog-enabled interactions are distributed in individual blog space. The implications of this difference for designing and supporting a weblog-enabled community needs further investigation.

This study focuses on supporting a learning community among student teachers during their teaching practice. A design experiment was conducted to use weblogs as a major community-building tool to connect dispersed students. Exploration of the educational use of weblogs centres on two aspects: social support and collective reflection among student teachers, both of which are regarded as critical for beginning teachers. Within the framework of online community building advanced by Preece (2000), design efforts centre on usability and sociability dimensions. The usability dimension focuses on interaction design issues, such as choosing technical tools and platforms; while design elements in the sociability dimension include the community goal, rules and roles of participants. In addition, a community blog was created as the central community space.

The paper outlines the design framework, procedure, implementation and outcome of the design experiment. The study is aimed at contributing both theoretical and empirical data to community building with weblogs, and the results will inform community developers and educators about how to create a conducive online environment for learning communities with weblogs.