Saturday, February 14, 2009

Journaling + Reflections + Technology = Thinking about Teaching

An online resource for language arts describes several different ways to use journaling in the classroom.
  • Metacognitive Journal
  • Double Entry Journal
  • Reflective Journal
  • Dialectical Journal
  • Journal Activities
  • Response Journal
  • Learning Log
  • Synthesis Journal
  • Speculation About Effects Journal
The site provides ideas from which we can choose appropriate strategies for our own classrooms. As I examined the various descriptions, I saw ideas close to what I do in my classroom.

I ask my students to write reflections about various topics that we discuss. Our reflections have three parts: (1) description of the topic, (2) how the student will use it in his/her classroom as a teacher, and (3) the pros and cons the student sees in using the described topic.

In past semesters, these reflections were standalone assignments. Now, however, I ask the students to write these assignments in their blogs. If I were teaching high school students, I might ask them to post their reflections in comments to a blog that I maintained.

Julie Reed and Christopher Koliba in Facilitating Reflection: A Manual for Leaders and Educators state that
Journals are a written form of reflection in which students consider their service experience in light of specific issues, such as those contained in course content. Students can examine their thoughts and experiences through journals, and further the learning they have done in relation to the service.
I’m asking my students to reflect before they use these ideas in the classroom. And, of course, I hope they also reflect afterwards!
Before instructing students to complete journals, one must consider the learning objective that the journal is intended to meet.
I hope that my students discuss the ideas they learn in class with others in addition to thinking about the ideas themselves. By posting their initial reflections in their blogs, they are opening a door for communication and discussion with other educators (and pre-educators) throughout the world. They are also learning to be transparent. And, hopefully, this experience will set the stage for their involvement in collaboration with other educators.

Melissa Kelly, in an article about journaling for, lists benefits of journaling, including

  • Sort out experiences, solve problems and consider varying perspectives.
  • Examine relationships with others and the world.
  • Reflect on personal values, goals, and ideals.
  • Summarize ideas, experience and opinions before and after instruction.
  • Witness his academic and personal growth by reading past entries.
I think that by writing the types of reflections that my students do in their blogs, they are learning about the topics, thinking about them before use, and doing so in an open manner that invites others to discuss the topics with them.

This method of journaling is not confidential. However, it is a good start for students to learn how to think through ideas before trying them in the classroom. And being able to comment on their blogs allows others and myself to discuss these ideas with them. I like the extra benefits that technology adds to the journaling/reflections assignments.


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