Weblogs

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Description

Weblogs are website publishing tools, usually fully managed via a web-based interface. These systems typically take care of basic HTML formatting and database management. While primarily thought of as facilitating personal publishing, blogs can be deceptively powerful content management systems and used to manage many different types of websites.

Background Information

The earliest blogs were created by hand, blogging became widely popular with the introduction of blog authoring tools such as Radio Userland and LiveJournal. Today, most bloggers use either Google's Blogger service or WordPress. Blogs are increasingly popular in education, with 400 thousand educational blogs hosted edublogs.org alone. Authors share opinions and support each other with commentary and discussions. Additionally, blogs give students ownership over their own learning and an authentic voice, allowing them to articulate their needs and inform their own learning.

Design Questions/Issues

Although weblogs are much easier to learn to use than most forms of website design, introducing them to students will usually require some form of technical support and training, especially in the early stages of use.

In Canada, there are concerns that requiring students to sign up for US-hosted services may involve the divulging of personal information (such as an email address), possibly violating protection of privacy laws. Commonly, these concerns are addressed by providing students with context to allow them informed consent, by providing Canadian hosted-alternatives, or having students use generic identities or pseudonyms. Most weblog tools have a standard “import/export” which allows authored content and comments from readers to be moved from system to system via an XML file. Replicating specific features or design themes may be more difficult.

RSS syndication is available with most weblog systems, and can be useful for tracking posting and commenting activity (via an RSS newsreader), for creating group-blogs aggregating content from individual sites, or for re-publishing blog content in other web environments.

UBC Blogs

UBC Blogs is an university hosted weblogging platform designed to provide free individual or group webspace for the UBC community. See the UBC Blogs page for more information on this service and how blogs are being used at UBC.

Examples

ETEC 522 course site with static content and discussions

UBC Digital Tattoo site (student-authored )on new media literacy.

Microbiology resource site to complement courses.

Post-Hegemony blog as a complement to academic scholarship.

Activity

Explore

Spend some time sampling prominent educational blogs. Be sure to look for signs of active discussions via the comments attached to posts. Also, note how the best bloggers “narrate their work” (placing their professional concerns in a personal context) and engage others in an ongoing distributed conversation.

You might start here.

Contribute

You might want to start your own, personal blog: create an account, select a theme, write a few posts. The basic steps can usually be completed in a matter of a few minutes. Popular free weblog hosting services include:

Reflection

Write an entry for your course weblog about your experience here (on your "Home" page and posting a new entry). How labour intensive was the process? What worked well? What was challenging? What surprised you?

Resources