Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lunch 'n Learn: Blogs

Our June Lunch 'n Learn discussed the use of blogs in education.

What is a blog? Technorati, a website that currently tracks over 112.8 million blogs says,
A blog, or weblog, is a regularly updated journal published on the web. Some blogs are intended for a small audience; others vie for readership with national newspapers. Blogs are influential, personal, or both, and they reflect as many topics and opinions as there are people writing them.

Blogs are powerful because they allow millions of people to easily publish and share their ideas, and millions more to read and respond. They engage the writer and reader in an open conversation, and are shifting the Internet paradigm as we know it.

If you want to know what a blog is, just look at this site! We are using a free blogging service called Blogger which is owned by Google. It was very easy to create an account. You just need an email address. It is also very easy to create and edit new posts and add content such as images, links, and video. Blogs are so easy that everyone is blogging these days. Ok, not everyone, but people of all ages and nationalities are creating blogs on all kinds of topics. People regularly read the blog posts of friends, family, and people they have never met. They seek out the blogs of experts in their fields, politically like-minded individuals, celebrities, and anything else that interests them.

When a readily-available technology becomes this popular it is only inevitable that you'll find it being used in educational settings. After all, college students are already familiar with blogs. Blogging in your course is another way to reach them at their level. You can blog. You can have your students blog. Or, you can all find and read other peoples' blogs. Here are some examples we have found:

Murray State University President's Blog
Southern Oregon University President's Blog
Real Lives of Ball State Students
Stanford Med Students Blogs
Reason & Persuasion Class Blog
The Nietzscheblog (Philosophy Course)
Law Professor's Blog

And here are some ways we thought of that you could use blogs in your classroom:

  • blog about your own research, experiences, thoughts, travels
  • have students blog about their research, experiences, thoughts, travels
  • have an online discussion
  • post links to resources, images, video
  • have students post comments on those resources, images, videos
  • have students blog as a form of journaling or self-reflection
  • use a blog for students to discuss course topics and findings
  • have guest "speakers" make blog posts and students can comment
  • create a class publication or newsletter
  • have students use blogs for creative writing and writing practice
  • find interesting/expert blogs and have students read or participate in them
  • portfolio/resume website

Some questions that we had about blogs in our L'nL session were,

Can anyone read a blog I create?
Blogs can be public or private. You can allow only selected people, or the entire world to read your blog posts.

Can multiple people post to the same blog?
Yes, this is possible. Blogger, for example, allows 100 authors for a single blog. Each post is "signed" by the author so you know who said what.

What else can I put on my blog?
Have a look at this one and see. Besides text, links, images and video, you can add 'widgets' to your blog like the ones on this site that display links, archives, headlines from other websites, profile information, blog stats, Twitter updates, and more.

What's the difference between a blog and a wiki?
Both are popular Web 2.0 tools. Both are webpages that are easily editable. Wikis are more for document collaboration between multiple people. Blogs are traditionally personal journal-entry type websites- though now there are also "group" blogs.

Which blog service should I use?
First, decide what you want to do with your blog. Do you want it to be public or private (invited readers only)? Do you want multiple authors? Then look at the various features offered by the free blogging services listed below (or search for more) and decide which one will meet your needs. Check out this review/feature comparison chart.


We will continue to add more blogging and blogging in education resources. Check the resources widget on the right for more stuff in the future.


elle mcmahon said...

Michele, this is great. I particularly like the info from Common Craft. ellen

Carleen said...

I teach Technology for Adult Educators. I include a unit on Web 2.0 technologies and assign students to teams for a research project focused on blogs, wikis, podcasting, social networking, social bookmarking, and virtual worlds. They become 'experts' on their technology and provide 'teach-ins' for their classmates. Blogs usually end up as the most popular of the tools and one that all students find will be useful in their professions, i.e. corporate, community college, K-12. They also easily relate to the many blogs that they follow, especially in such a political year!