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Reflecting on vlogs, blogs and podcasts in education research, teaching and professional development

Claire Tyson, Teacher Researcher, Homewood School and Sixth Form Centre Alison Fox, Senior Lecturer, Open University

The ubiquitous nature of the smartphone and the internet has normalised a new approach to seeking and managing information. Vlogs, blogs and podcasts (VBP) are creating literally thousands of freely accessible sources of information and opinion within reach of our questing fingertips – but are we facing an information overload?

The number of new academic articles published every day has long exceeded our reading or processing power and we need filters to help curate the information (Sacherer, Zoidl, Eichinger, Honnef, & Heschl, 2019). While in the future there will be the potential for a greater role for artificial intelligence to do this legwork (Massis, 2018), this will increase the speed of dissemination but still needs human decisions that require insight and interpretation (Ong, 2020).

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the average time taken from submission of a new academic article to its actual application in practice has been estimated at between 17 to 23 years (Morris, Wooding, & Grant, 2011). This is changing: the global response to Covid-19, for instance, has seen unprecedented international co-operation, shortening the time taken to develop a vaccine to mere months.

The process of transferring high-quality information into professional practice has two strands (Lang, Wyer, & Haynes, 2007): getting accurate information and getting that information used. VBP are easy to create and share and represent easy access compared to traditional journals or conferences (Sacherer et al., 2019). This shortens the translation gap but raises the questions of who gatekeeps this information and who provides quality assurance. How can we monitor both intention and information in media in which publication might be intended to both inform and persuade?

‘How can we monitor both intention and information in media where publication might be intended to both inform and persuade?’

In an ideal world, the information on which VBP are based would be carefully researched and published by an expert or authority (Webb, 2021), with consumers providing post-publication peer review. However, quality assurance needs to look beyond size of readership and citations. There is a danger that the popularity and success of an author will lead to more weight being attached to their blog or podcast than they might merit – for instance, the debate around the use of celebrities to deliver physical education (see Stirrup et al., 2020). As critical readers, examples of credibility ratings exist that take into account the intent and trustworthiness of the blog authorship (see for example the CRAAP Test).

In the Covid-19 landscape of school, college and university closures it is important that students at all levels are offered a blended learning environment (see Buttarazzi, 2020; Bernotaite, 2020). Resources such as VBP, which are free of charge and easy to access, are hugely helpful to teachers, trainers and mentors. As a vehicle for informal professional learning, they offer a way to access current thinking, stimulate further reading and inspire professional conversations which can drive practice change. Many VBPs are already being used to supplement traditional teaching materials and methods; for instance, by facilitating a ‘flipped learning’ model in which students come to the classroom having considered some of the issues in advance (see for example Ahmed, 2016; Raths, 2014).

While academic integrity will always privilege the role for the carefully researched and written article in peer-reviewed journals, we argue there is also a need to develop new methodologies for gathering and sharing evidence. We also suggest the following questions to frame further exploration: How can reading blogs, watching vlogs and listening to podcasts be used to connect a professional community and stimulate discussion and dialogue? How can they be used to create a more open, equitable academic community? How do they feed into the debate about Open Access?

To conclude, you are invited to join the online Vlog/Blog/Podcast Challenge from BERA’s Practitioner Research special interest group.


References

Ahmed, H. O. K. (2016). Flipped learning as a new educational paradigm: An analytical critical study. European Scientific Journal, 12(10), 417–444.

Bernotaite, G. F. (2020, November 5). [blog post]. Editorial: Teaching and learning in higher education for times of uncertainty [blog post]. BERA Blog. Retrieved from https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/editorial-teaching-and-learning-in-higher-education-for-times-of-uncertainty

Buttarazzi, A. (2020, November 5). Flipping the course curriculum: Digital engagement for active learning BERA Blog. Retrieved from https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/flipping-the-course-curriculum-digital-engagement-for-active-learning

Lang, E., Wyer, P., & Haynes, R. (2007). Knowledge translation: Closing the evidence-to-practice gap. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 49(3), 355–363.

Massis, B. (2018). Artificial intelligence arrives in the library. Information and Learning Sciences, 119 (7/8), 456–459.

Morris, Z. S., Wooding, S., & Grant, J. (2011). The answer is 17 years, what is the question: Understanding time lags in translational research. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 104(12), 510–520.

Ong, S. (2020, October 7). Will robots and AI take our jobs in covid-19’s socially distanced era?. New Scientist.

Raths, D. (2014). Nine video tips for a better flipped classroom. The Education Digest, 79(6), 15.

Sacherer, F., Zoidl, P., Eichinger, M., Honnef, G., & Heschl, S. (2019) Opinion article: Blogs and podcasts in medical education, Trends in Anaesthesia and Critical Care, 29, 1–3.

Stirrup, J., Hooper, O., Sandford, R., Harris, J., Casey, R., & Cale, L. (2020, July 20). ‘PE’ with Joe (Bloggs): The rise and risks of celebrity ‘teachers’ [blog post]. BERA Blog. Retrieved from https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/pe-with-joe-bloggs-the-rise-and-risks-of-celebrity-teachers

Webb, R. (2021, February 6). How to be an expert: What does it really take to master your trade? New Scientist.