Blogs as Informal Learning Settings

One of the most effective informal learning methods I know of (and one that I use and abuse frequently at camp) is peer teaching. When you allow people to explain things to others, you’ve done a number of thing.

First, you’ve taken somebody who may not get to be in the spotlight very often and put them center stage. When they realize they’re the local expert, that boosts a potentially low self-image.

Secondly, you’ve encouraged the class as a whole to pay attention. This one isn’t obvious until you see it at work. Last week at camp, I had a girl who wouldn’t listen to instructions and couldn’t figure out how to do most projects. I would have to build her projects more often than not. Then she’d ask to go help others. Finally, I sat her down. “Sweetie, you can’t help people with a project you can’t do on your own.”  Amazingly, she did all of her own projects from that point on, even if she had to struggle through it, just so she could have the privilege of helping other students at her table.

Third, students learn better when they have to turn around and explain to somebody else. It sticks in their brain and becomes more clear for them.

Fourth, by encouraging peer teaching, you crate a situation where the students regard you more as a resource that the authority, and that’s wonderful feeling. It creates a bit of self-reliance in the students. It can help build bridges of (momentary) respect as a student realizes they need help from a student they normally wouldn’t talk to.

Blogs are a great peer teaching tool. They encourage the students to write, to become reflective, to handle criticism gracefully, how to give criticism constructively. They allow students to discuss and debate without the direct interference of the teacher. I think there’s also a fair bit of authentic assessment inherent in the educational value of blogs.

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