Social Software

Teaching with blogs and wikis – basic tools for problem-based study projects

I just realized that in last five years I have not taught a single course without a blog and a wiki, except couple of courses were I have been asked (read:forced) to use the Moodle of the organization where I have been visiting.

This spring term I am teaching a course – or I actually call it study project – with the title: “New Media Concepts for WHO – Study Project Exploring New Media Concepts for WHO’s Health Action in Crises”.

For the project I set-up a WordPress blog and a workspace in Google pages. The Google pages we are using like a private wiki. For me these tools are not just “tools”. The decision to use these tools is based on the pedagogy I am trying to implement in the study project. The pedagogy is one kind of implementation of some of the principles of project learning and problem-based learning. I call it “learning in a problem-based study project”-

Project learning principles are: (1) setting ‘the driving question’, (2) investigations, (3) products or artifacts, (4) learning communities, and (5) use of cognitive tools (Bluemenfeld et all. 1991). Through investigation in a community by using different kind of cognitive tools to work out their own artifacts students will construct their own cognitive models and learn key concepts and principles and to communicate their knowledge to others.

Problem-based learning is another pedagogical approach. It does not emphasis the project or artifact creations similar way as the project learning. However, in both of them problems, challenges, and questions are central. Also in problem-based learning the study groups are working in a small groups … well to solve the problems. The groups meet regularly and between the meetings they work independently to search for information needed to solve the problems.

Why then a blog and a wiki?

When you have done something many times, it easily happens that it becomes “tacit knowledge”. This is a well-known phenomenon in studies of expertise. Experts often know what to do, even if they are not able to explain why their practice is good.

To make tacit knowledge explicit one must do some reflection. Ask why? Yesterday I did and wrote to the blog of the study project:

Here is a short introduction to our online working and learning infrastructure.

This blog is naturally the hub of the study project. Reading the posts in the archives you can track back what has happen in the project.

In addition to the blog we have Collaboration Wiki for internal collaboration.

Simple. A blog and a wiki. I was today thinking the different roles of the blog and the wiki in the project.

The blog is definitely the place to communicate on everything – I mean on everything. Basically there shouldn’t be any topic we could not talk to each other in public – on the blog. The possible add-value of communicating everything in public is that someone that has a solution to our challenge may hear us and contact.

The wiki is not a space for communication in a common sense. It is a place to keep larger documents and files that are still under construction. This way it is a more a warehouse, workshop and garage than a meeting room (that is the blog). Actually the wiki could also be public and open for anyone to follow and even participate, but this time we decided to do it this way.

Now I know why. If you are interested in to follow how the study project is progressing, please, add the blog in your RSS-reader. There will be nice stuff.

4 replies on “Teaching with blogs and wikis – basic tools for problem-based study projects”

Teemu,I appreciate your definitions of use for blogs and wikis. We're beginning to use Moodle in our own district and I was struggling to come to a sense of how blogs and wikis would now fit into the mix. I especially like your description of blogs as public places that may draw new voices into the conversation and wikis as private collaboration spaces.


Nicely thought out and explained, thanks Teemu! It's true that Moodle tools for blogs and wikis are elementary. But if you are forced to use Moodle, I hope you are not forced to use only Moodle and Moodle alone? If yes, then shame on those schools. You could just have the course syllabus and agenda in Moodle, along with links to the blog and wiki space. Maybe also with explanations of why and how the blog and wiki can be used in the course?


@samuli: you are right: I could have took people out from the Moodle to the real world and simply guide them to wikis and blogs. The challenge has been that I have been teaching just one "module" of some larger study course. Setting up a wiki and blogs for that, teaching students to use them instead of the Moodle tools they are already using in other modules of the course simply would cause so much overhead that implementing it would not make sense.


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