Authored by Cari Wilson and Barbara Heard (2008)
Edited by Crystal Pullman (2009)
A web log (blog) is an online diary or journal. Entries are made by one person or many people and are usually organized chronologically. Traditionally, a blog contains written words but blogs can also contain pictures, videos, podcasts, calendars, and hyperlinks. Available software makes blogs easy to set up and maintain, even for people with no programming skills. Blogs offer instant publishing to a worldwide audience who can then make comments and engage in dialogue with the author(s).
Watch Blogs in Plain English by Lee and Sachi LeFever for a brief overview of blogs and their uses.
Past to Present
Blogs started out as Web-based communication tools that afforded the author a place to comment on social issues or topics that interested them (Embrey, 2002). Initially, blogs were relatively slow to catch on. In 1997, there were only about two dozen blogs in existence (Oatman, 2005). Prior to Pyra’s 1999 release of its easy to use, Web-based software program, bloggers had to be fluent in HTML and know how to insert hyperlinks. Pyra, now called Blogger, and other such free blogging tools opened the world of blogging to the mainstream net user (Oatman, 2005).
By December 2007, the blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs (Wikipedia, 2008). Studies show that people age 20 and under make up close to 50% of the bloggers (Henning, 2003 and Herring, Scheidt, Bonus & Wright, 2004). Educators began to look at these numbers and wonder how youth's infatuation with blogging could be used to enhance and extend learning in both the K-12 sector and in higher education.
Pedagogical Reasons for Blogging
Blogging can be extremely exciting and motivating. Students are provided with the opportunity to publish their work to a worldwide audience. People can then provide comments or feedback to each post. The creation of this type of learning space can be inspirational for many students and teachers. There is "a fairly consistent positive achievement effect attributable to write-to-learn interventions” (Bangert-Drowns et. all, p. 42) such as journaling or blogging.
Constructivist learning theory and blogging
Constructivist and social constructive learning theories believe that learning should be a community endeavour rather than an individual pursuit. Using blogs in an educational setting enables students and teachers to socially construct knowledge (Henri 2005). According to Jeff Utecht, blogging encourages debate in many venues. It has the power to carry conversation beyond the classroom walls (2007). Learning communities who blog have the potential of becoming “communities of practice” as defined by Barab and Duffy (2000). Bloggers have the ability to participate in a community, which is an essential component of the educational process. The learner has access to a history of previous information and is able to respond within the current context providing value to a particular meaning. On going participation in a blogging community develops a sense of self in relation to the community of practice. Newcomers to a blog "are able to become central to and expand the community" (Barab & Duffy, 2000, p. 39). This is essential if there is to be a common cultural heritage with a shared semiotic domain. Steven Downs believes that blogging "is about reading what is of interest to you: your culture, your community, your ideas. And it is about engaging with the content and with the authors of what you have read - reflecting, criticizing, questioning, reacting” (2004, p. 24).
Blogging as Knowledge Building
Blogging allows bloggers to enter the "public space for distributed knowledge building" (Brady 2005). That is it allows for bloggers to create and build on existing knowledge with a public community. This occurs with three fundamental features: permalinks, comments and tracking. Each one plays an integral part of engaging the reader, maintaining up to date content and feedback, and allows for communication with the author. Permalinks often come at the end of blogs and allow other users to copy the url as a permanent reference to the post. Comments allow for direct communication with the author and other readers of the same post. This dynamic feedback and engagement allows for the dialogue space to occur. Finally, tracking which allows the author to know when their post has been referenced in anther post. This dynamic linking allow for material to be connected as materials are updated and referenced.
Blogging across subject areas
Blogging also has the power to bring non-traditional writing activities to courses like mathematics where most people would not expect to blog. For students “communication is critical to the development of mathematical proficiency” (Baxter et. al., 2005, p. 120). Hence, one of the purposes of writing is to act as a form of communication for those students who are passive during class discussions (Baxter et. al., 2005). Kathleen P. Chapman found that “journals revealed abilities and mathematical awareness that had been masked by poor grades,” and were “extremely valuable for diagnosing and trouble-shooting misconceptions” (1996, p.588). “By writing, students can make meaning by coordinating between new and old concepts; they would write freely and reflect on the material learned in class and react to it, taking the responsibility of coordinating between the new received information and their existing cognitive structures” (Hamdan, 2005, p. 609).
Promoting Multi-literacies through Blogging
In a study conducted across colleges and universities across the world, Fuchs et al. (2012) found that learners were able to effectively combine blended and online only settings for language acquisition purposes. This was powerful as it allowed students to realizes that self-directed learning can occur effectively through a blog and merging together mean forms of digital media and modes of communication to facilitating understanding of concepts.
Connecting Classroom and Promoting International Mindedness
Educational Uses of Blogs
Blogs are currently being used in a variety of educational settings and in many ways. Scott (2003) proposes an interesting matrix of the potential educational uses of blogging.
This matrix provides a means of dialogue when discussing various forms of blogs.
One type of educational blog is run by the teacher (grade school through university) and is used as a place where the syllabus is posted, reference links and resources for study are included and homework and class notes can be added. Another type is that run by a group of students as a place to collaborate and exchange ideas - almost like an online study group. A third type of blog is a class blog; created by and contributed to by a whole grade or class. These blogs often provide a place for students to publish their work to a wide audience and get feedback from their peers. As mentioned elsewhere in this article on Blogging, because of the ability to post anything, teacher's and parents need to be completely aware of what their students/children are posting. For example, rules should be in place such as 1) don't post address information, email or physical), 2) perhaps use a pseudonym online, to be assigned by the teacher, and 3) ensure that the blog is only for registered users (posting and commenting), with registration requiring teacher approval. These steps would help students to avoid giving too much vulnerable information out online, and would prevent potential threats from being able to interact with the students.
Many librarians now run blogs that are a combination of the first and third type and may include book groups, resources and relevant library news. Educators also use blogs as a way to post their own thoughts, observations and questions to their own peer group.
The underlying theme with all of these blogs is that of communication. Boulos, Maramba and Wheeler provide many examples of how "wikis, blogs and podcasts, have been increasingly adopted by many online health-related professional and educational services. Because of their ease of use and rapidity of deployment, they offer the opportunity for powerful information sharing and ease of collaboration" (p. 2006).
Examples of Educational Blogs
Sandaig Primary School in Scotland has a very involved blog that has lots of pictures and student writing on it. It also has a student written book review blog.
The Grade 7 blog at Ridgeview Elementary is used to post homework instructions and reminders, upcoming dates of interest, resources for current units of study and examples of student work.
Cold Springs School library blog Voices from the Inglenook is used to provide parents with information regarding what happened in the library for the current week as well as book reviews.
The Georgia - NJ Connection Building Better Journalists is a great example of students collaborating to build knowledge. The two schools are in different parts of the USA and involve elementary school students and high school students in developing journalism skills.
An interesting blog for high school chemistry students is - Nuffield Advanced Chemistry. It enables students to access course material, post questions and make comments.
The Law School Academic Support Blog: A member of the Law Professor Blogs Network provides support for law students and professors. Many entries are aimed at law professors, providing advice on how to integrate subjects or make their lessons more exciting.
There are also blogs specifically for teachers, such as the one on Pedagogle.com Pedagogle.com. This is a place where teachers (K-12) can communicate with one another, often about needed resources, or classroom situations. This is a resource sharing site created by teachers, for teachers. It is not-for-profit, and allows teachers who teach K-12, all over the world, to register and use the resources for free.
A Downside to Blogging?
Here today gone tomorrow. Blogs have the reputation of being short lived. Before blogs are used in an educational setting it is important that their use is evaluated carefully. At the present time there doesn't seem to be a set of generally accepted standards or procedures available for evaluating weblogs (Clyde, 2005).
Due to the accessibility of blogs, it is important that student safety is a priority. Students should be taught Internet safety so they do not inadvertently put themselves at risk from predators. Many school districts do not allow blogs through their firewalls as it is almost impossible to screen blogs for content. Many schools have students write their blogs anonymously, however, this devalues the whole personal experience of blogging. Some blog providers, such as ePals Schoolblogshave recognized this problem and found ways to work around it by giving teachers a way to preview work and comments before they are published. It is increasingly common for school districts to support blogging in the classroom. Students must be taught Internet safety as an explicit component of the written curriculum.
The increasing popularity of blogging both professionally and personally has created the blurring of these two aspects. Anyone who blogs personally must be careful and aware that their blog could easily be accessed by employers, potential and current, and must conduct themselves professionally both on and offline in the face of increasing accessibility to both your private and professional life.
In addition, not all students have access to a computer out of the classroom. This can make it difficult for all students to participate equally.
Where to Next? The Future of Blogging
Making the most out of using blogs in the classroom calls for more research into the similarities and differences among gender, ethnicity and age groups of bloggers. With this information, teachers can personalize their classroom blogs to motivate and support a variety of learners (Huffaker, 2005).
Moblogging may be the next natural step in blogging. Users are able to blog from a mobile device, such as a cell phone or a smart phone (i.e. Iphone, Google's G1). MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) software is used to transform text, imagery or audio/video captured by mobile phones into a special blog site (Schartz, 2006). For more information on moblogs, see Moblog at Wikipedia.
The Giant Blogging Terms Glossary: An exhaustive list of the terms used in blogging accompanied by definition, plus links to other blogging basics.
How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else): Tips for protecting privacy and freedom of speech when blogging. Appropriate for adults.
Blogging: Select Higher ED Blogs: A collection of links to examples of blogging in a variety of higher education settings.
Pedagogical Underpinning of Blogs in the Classroom: Barbara Ganley presents her pedagogical reasons for using blogs in the classroom and invites comments.
The Educational Blogger Network: (eBN) is a community of teachers and education eblog professionals and supporters who use weblogs for teaching and learning. The network assists members to advance integration in education.
Jerz’s Literacy Weblog: This weblog covers a range of literacies, including reading writing, visual literacy, and information literacy.
Mesjo: This is an education blog written by an education librarian. It provided information about, and links to, education resources with emphasis on educational blogging.
Grandview Elementary Library Blog: The blog that looks more like a web site. It is well worth a visit to grasp the potential use of blogs.
The following are some of the blogging services commonly used in higher education and beyond:
Moveable Type: http://www.moveabletype.org/
(from Eli discovery tools - Guide to Blogging, 2007).
Wordpress (for existing webpages or domains): http://wordpress.org
Blog Search Engines
(from Eli discovery tools - Guide to Blogging, 2007).
Barab, S. & Duffy, T. (2000). From practice fields to communities of practice. In D. Jonassen and S. Land (Eds.), Theoretical foundations of learning environments. Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Baxter, J. A., Woodward, J., & Olson, D. (2004). Writing in Mathematics: An Alternative Form of Communication for Academically Low-Achieving Students. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 20 (2), 119-135.
Brady, M. (2005). 'Blogging: personal participation in public knowledge-building on the web', Chimera Working Paper Number 2005-02. Colchester: University of Essex.
Chapman, K. (1996). Journals: Pathways to Thinking in Second-Year Algebra. Mathematics Teacher, 89, 588-590.
Clyde, Laurel A. (2005). Educational Blogging. Teacher Librarian. February, 32 (3), 43-5. Retrieved Feb. 16, 2008 from https://revpn.ubc.ca/http/vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com/hww/results/results_single_ftPES
Downes, S. (2004). Educational blogging. Educause Review, 39(5). Retrieved Feb. 16, 2008 from http://www.educause.edu/pub/er/erm04/erm0450asp
Eli dicovery tools - Guide to Blogging (2007). http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI8006F.pdf Retrieved Feb 17, 2008
Embrey, Theresa. (2002). You blog, we blog: A guide to how teacher librarians can use weblogs to build communication and research skills. Teacher Librarian. December, 30 (2), 7-9. Retrieved Feb. 16, 2008 from https://rsvpn.ubc.ca/http/vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com/hww/results/results_single_fulltext.jhtml;hwwilsonid=EHJSDHXRIPROFQA3DIMSFF4ADUNGIIV0
Fuchs, C., Hauck, M., and Muller-Hartmann. (2012). Promoting Learner Autonomy Through Multiliteracy Skills Development in Cross-Institutitonal Exchanges. Language Learning & Technology, 16 (3), 82-102.
Hamdan, M. (2005). Nonlinear learning of linear algebra: active learning through journal writing. International Journal of Mathematics Education in Science and Technology, 36 (6), 607-615.
Henning, J. (2003) The Blogging Iceberg: Of 4.12 Million Weblogs, Most Little Seen and Quickly Abandoned. Braintree, MA: Perseus Development Corporation
Henri, James (2005). Understanding the information literate school community. Leadership issues in the information literate school community. Eds. James Henri and Marlene Asslin. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, 2005. pp.11-26
Herring, S.C., Scheidt, L.A., Bonus, S. & Wright, E. (2004, January) Bridging the Gap: A Genre Analysis of Weblogs Paper presented at the 37th Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences (HICSS - 37)
Huffaker, D. (2004). The educated blogger: Using weblogs to promote literacy in the classroom. First Monday, 9(6). Retrieved Feb. 16, 2008 from http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue9_6/huffaker/index.html.
Kamel Boulos, Maged N, Maramba, Inocencio & Wheeler, Steve (2006). Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education. BMC Medical Education 2006, 6:41doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-41 Retrieved Feb. 22, 2008 from https://rsvpn.ubc.ca/http/www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6920/6/41
Lefever, Lee & Lefever, Sachi. "Blogs in Plain English" Retrieved February 29, 2008 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKcqge8SvzQ
Oatman, Eric. (2005). Blogomania! School Library Journal. 8(1). Retrieved Feb. 16, 2008 from http://schoollibraryjournal.com/index.asp?layout=articlePrint&articleid=CA632
Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (1994). Computer support for the knowledge-building communities. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3(3), 265-288.
Schartz, (2006). "Moblogging Projects," February 13, Blogging Pedagogy,at http://pedagogy.cwrl.utexas.edu/node/28
Scott, Leslie, "Matrix of some Uses of Blogs in Education," October 9, 2003, EdTechPost, http://edtechpost.ca/wordpress/2003/10/09/Matrix-of-some-uses-of-blog-in-education Viewed Feb. 21, 2008
Utecht, Jeff (2007). Blogs aren't the enemy. Technology & Learning, April (9) 32-3 Retrieved Feb. 16, 2008 from https://rsvpn.ubc.ca/http/vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com/hww/results-single-ftPES
Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog retrieved Feb 3, 2008
Williams, Jeremy B. & Jacobs, Joanne. (2004). Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Education Technology. 20 (2), 232-247 Retrieved Feb 17, 2008, from https://rsvpn.ubc.ca/http/www.jeremybwilliams.nt/AJETpaper.pdf
Blogger Free blogging software
Blogs is Plain English You Tube video about blogs.
epals school blogs A safe alternative blog provider.
Ganley's Academic Writing Blog.Provides examples of the educational use of blogging in higher education.
The Georgia - NJ Connection Building Better Journalists A great example of high school students and elementary school students collaborating to build knowledge.
Grade Seven Blog from Ridgeview Elementary School.
Law School Academic Support Blog: A member of the Law Professor Blogs NetworkAn example of law professions writing to support one another.
Live Journal Examples of different blogs and statistical information.
NITLT Statistical information about blogs.
Matrix of Some Uses of Blogs in Education A matrix showing some of the potential educational uses of blogging.
Re:act - Nuffield Advanced Chemisty A blog for high school chemistry students to access course materials, ask questions and make comments.
Sandaig Primary School A school that uses blogs for their various communities of learners.
Technorati Blog search engine.
Voices from the Inglenook A school library blog that informs parents about the library program in the school as well as a weekly book review.
Wikipedia Short explanation of moblogs.