Using blogging and laptop computers to improve writing skills on a vocational training course

Nick Marsden, Eileen Piggot-Irvine


The action research project described in this paper was part of an initiative to bring about change in the way courses are delivered in the vocational trades area at UNITEC New Zealand. We decided to focus on students' writing on a new Level 3 course - the Certificate in Automotive and Mechanical Engineering (C.A.M.E.) in which all participants had netbooks or laptops for the first time. We selected blogging because it introduces new possibilities in a field where one would not expect to see much written work by students. Using the Problem Resolving Action Research (PRAR) model (Piggot-Irvine, 2009), we approached the project in three stages. At the reconnaissance stage it was clear that writing skills did not enjoy a position of priority. We gauged the C.A.M.E. students' attitudes to writing in general, and to digital technology via the use of a questionnaire and a focus group. We then implemented new approaches to teaching using digital technology in response to perceived needs. At the evaluation stage, we collected further responses via a questionnaire and a focus group on the students' attitudes to blogging and digital technology. Key findings included that the students were not discouraged by writing tasks, nor by digital technology, and that vocational tutors may need to play a more active role in embedding writing in courses.

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