Blogs for Learning and Teaching


blogging.pngBlogs or web-logs are websites that allows users to reflect, share opinions, and discuss various topics in the form of an online journal. They allow readers make comment on posts, and are typically structured so that entries appear in reverse chronological order. Across the globe 133,000,000 blogs have been indexed by Technorati since 2002 and estimates suggest that 900,000 blog posts are created in an average 24hr period (stats sourced from The Future Buzz ).

This section provides an overview of blogging and its potential for use in learning and teaching. A range of resources have been included to support your learning. Click on the links below for further information:
  1. What is a Blog?
  2. Blogs: Features and Functionality
  3. Blogging: Impacts
  4. The Benefits of Blogs for Education
  5. Exploring the Blogosphere: Educational Blogs
  6. Find Out More About Blogs
  7. What Next?

Activities for this topic


Learners who are completing the Social Networking Course should refer to the Moodle site for more information about the activities provided:


1. What is a Blog?


"A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world. Your blog is whatever you want it to be. There are millions of them, in all shapes and sizes, and there are no real rules. " (Definition from Blogger.com - http://www.blogger.com/tour_start.g).

Although most content on traditional blogs is comprised of mainly text and images, there are many different types of blogs including:
  • Art and Photography Blogs: Designed primarily to share visual information and resources, used by artists to document and share their works or by communities of artists who use the environment to share and collate their works.
  • Video Blogs: Designed primarly to share video content, and usually includes subscription services that allow readers to keep up to date with the content via RSS feeds.
  • Podcasting Blogs: Designed primarily to share audio content, and usually includes subscription services that allow readers to keep up to date with the content via RSS feeds.
  • Microblogs: Allow users to post short updates (usually 140 characters or less) and includes text and links to interesting content. Twitter is the most popular microblogging service worldwide.

Watch "Blogs in Plain English" - a fantastic overview of blogging produced by the Commoncraft Show. The video includes information on:
  • How blogs are changing the idea of news in the 21st century
  • How blogs are created and organized
  • The role of blogs in bringing like-minded people together
  • How blogs facilitate conversation

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2. Blogs: Features and Functionality


bloggingfeatures.jpgBlogs are usually supported by an automated website publishing systems which includes a range of tools that make it easy to publish content online. Although each blogging tool has it's own nuances and custom functions, they usually include the following functionality:

  • Rich Text Editing Tools - Also sometimes referred to as a WYSIWYG editing environment, these tools make it easy to publish text, images and multimedia within posts and pages on your blog.
  • Commenting Tools - Simple web-based forms which allow readers to submit comments in reponse to posts or pages. These tools generally also include management tools which allow the blog owner to manage comments including approval and deletion options, and setting for fully open commenting or registered user only commenting.
  • Image Upload Tools and Albums - Tools for uploading images to the web and managing and inserting them within posts and pages on your blog.
  • Syndication Tools - Blogging platforms gennerally include dynamic feeds in standard formats like RSS and ATOM so that readers can subscribe and stay up to date with the latest posts
  • Options for Customizing Look and Feel - Tools to customize headers and footers, layout and colours used in the blogs layout and design. Most blogging platforms also include a range of pre-formatted templates that users can choose between.
  • Privacy Tools - Allowing the blog owner to choose how their blog is accessed - including password only access, registered user only access or entirely public (usually default).

Other features could include:
  • Widgets for customizing sidebars and the content displayed there
  • Spam Blocking tools to manage incoming spam comments
  • Multi-User tools which allow for collaborates to manage and contribute to a central blog
  • Multi-Language Capability allowing for display of special language characters and translation tools
  • Blog statistics tools to track visitors and usage on the site.

Which Blogging Tool is Right for You?

There are many different blogging platforms available. Some are web-based tools that bloggers can subscribe to use, whilst others are server based and require personal or enterprise web hosting.

For educators, the emergence of stable, customizable online blogging tools has been key to the uptake of blogs for learning and teaching. Most of these services are free (or low cost) and most include the features described above. However you can compare various blogging plaforms by checking out the following sites:

Recommended Blogging Tools


Check out the How-To Guides which have been provided to support this topic to explore the blogging tools we recommend for SWSI staff and students:

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3. Blogging Impacts


blogotree.jpgOver the years, blogs have evolved from mainly personal online diaries and journals to a recognised publishing environment for news, and opinion. They are used widely by individuals for personal or professional development, by organisations who want to communicate with staff or customers, by educators and by mainstream news outlets. They are also used widely in the entertainment industry as a tool for connecting to fans and promoting content, and are even used by governments to communicate with citizens about political and social issues. One of the main impacts of blogging from a global perspective is the democratization of information. In many fields it has allowed new voices to emerge and new sources of knowledge to become accessible to bigger audiences.

Although it is impossible to provide an real-time statistical data about how many blogs or bloggers are currently active around the world, the following numbers provide a snapshot of the blogosphere in 2010:

  • There are over 25 million WordPress publishers as of June 2010: 11.4 million blogs hosted on WordPress.com plus 13.8 million active installations of the WordPress.org software
  • 126 million – The number of blogs on the Internet (as tracked by BlogPulse)
  • As of January 2009, there have been a total of about 133 million blogs indexed by the blog search engine Technorati dating back to 2002

  • 346,000,000 – number of people globally who read blogs (comScore March 2008)
  • 77% of active Internet users regularly read blogs
  • 81 languages are significantly represented in the blogosphere.

Source:

Technorati's State of the Blogosphere series chronicles the evolution of the Blogosphere and provides some statistics on the global network of blogs that has evolved since 2004 notes that: "Self-expression and sharing expertise continue to be the primary motivations for bloggers, and 70% of all respondents say that personal satisfaction is a way they measure the success of their blog" and "Bloggers describe significant, positive impacts on their personal lives, but even more bloggers have experienced positive career and business impacts. 70% say that they are better known in their industry because of their blog." (Read more: http://technorati.com/blogging/article/day-2-the-what-and-why2/#ixzz0tQYwgJrU)

Blogging is having impacts across many areas, including:

  • News Media: Blogging has enabled the emergence of a decentralized news source which isn't controlled by traditional news media outlets in the way that newspapers, radio and television have in the past. Not only does it enable reporting of issues and opinions by anyone, but has also enabled bystanders to report events on the spot and in real time. For example the Hudson River Plane crash was reported by a passing ferry passenger via microblogging service Twitter; and aid agencies were able to provide on-the-spot reporting of the disaster in Haiti - connecting to a global network of donors and supporters to help enable emergency relief. Additionally, many news outlets now use blogs as a publishing platform for their content - for example many of the Sydney Morning Herald's journalists write regular blog posts for inclusion in the SMH's online edition.
  • Citizen Journalism: Many writers use blogging environments to publish their work and shed light on the issues they are interested in. These blogs range from citizens publishing the latest entertainment news and gossip through to social activists who use blogs to share and promote information on human rights, the environment or global issues.
  • Political Blogging: There are thousands of blogs around the world that focus on politics and political issues. Political Bloggers have had a significant impact in recent elections in both the US and Australia in recent years - both as a vehicle for politicians to connect to voters and as a space where individuals, journalists and pundits can share their perspectives on the issues of the day.
  • Corporate Blogging: Many organisations use blogs as a medium for communicating with and gaining feedback from their workforce. Blogs are often also used as part of online corporate training tools. For example the BBC
  • Promotion and Customer Relations Blogs: Many companies are using blogs to connect with customers and promote their products. This can include inviting and/or paying established bloggers to write about their product or developing a dedicated blog to support a product or brand.
  • Small Business Blogs: Many small businesses use blogging platforms to create online shops and promotional spaces for their products and services.
  • Artists Blogs: Provide a space for artists and digital creators to share their work with larger, more diverse audiences. It also provides opportunities for artists to share and collaborate - allowing new forms and works to emerge.

Blogs engage people in knowledge sharing, reflection and debate. They often engage both writers and readers in deep and ongoing discussions via commenting tools, and can foster growth of communities of practice. They also allow users to engage in much wider conversations, which can connect viewpoints, ideas and knowledge on a global scale.

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4. The Benefits of Blogs for Education


There are many benefits to educational blogging depending on your particular area of teaching practice. In particular General Education and Languages teachers report extremely successful outcomes in using blogs with their students. However, blogging can have impacts across a wide range of subject areas - from carpentry to business studies!

Blogs can assist in engaging students, developing their literacy skills and in building learning communities. The following is an overview of some of the benefits of blogging in education:

  • Increasing Relevance of Learning: Using blogs to collect students experiences and reflections can empower them to develop deeper understanding and become more engaged and self-directed in their own learning
  • Highly Motivating to Students: Often allowing students who dont always participate a 'voice' in classroom activities
  • Literacy Skills Development: Including developing improved vocabulary and skills in creating sustained pieces of writing. Participants get better at reflecting and expressing reflections in their writing. They also develop skills in responding, reflecting and commenting on other peoples ideas.
  • Effective Forums for Discussion and Collaboration: Blogging and commenting environments can enable learners to engage in collaborative activities more easily and create stronger connections between learners and facilitators. Blogs provide a space for sharing opinions and learning in order to grow communities of discourse and knowledge. They are a space where students and teachers can learn from each other.
  • Opportunities for Learning in the Real World: Educational blogging allows students to engage in an authentic learning environment which includes real audiences, and connects them to subject matter 'experts' and a global dialogue around their particuar learning topic.
  • Flexible Resources: Blogs provide a space for sharing and publishing of classroom resources which is independent of time and place. Students can engage in learning at a time and place that's best for them - including via mobile devices.
  • Simple Technology: Blogs are surprisingly easy to use, and require minimal technical skills to setup. They also provide tools which make it simple to publish and compile resources which include text, images, sound and video.

Watch this video interview with Will Richardson, which also includes an overview of how a student used a blog to record a workplace based learning experience and collaborate with her teachers. For more information on Will Richardson's work check out his blog - Weblogg-ed - learning with the read/write web .

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5. Exploring the Blogosphere: Educational Blogs


There are many examples of fantastic blogging practice going on in learning communities and by educators. Reading and connecting to these sites can help new bloggers to find a voice and form for their own blogging exploits. Check out the examples below, which provide a quick snapshot of some of the types of blogs you can explore.

blogs_biology.jpg
Classroom Blog
Extreme Biology:
http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/
A classroom blog maintained by Ms. Baker and her biology students, based in Northeast USA. Includes general news and information and classroom resources and activities.
blogs_tesol.jpg
Learning Community Blog
Let’s Talk – St George ESOL:
http://sydneyinstituteonline.net/letstalk/
A class blog maintained by Rosa Ochoa at St. George TAFE. Provides a space to share interesting content with students and by students. Includes lots of podcasts to assist students in developing their language skills.
blogs_groom.jpg
An Educator's Personal Blog
http://deangroom.wordpress.com
The personal blog of Australian educator Dean Groom - currently Head of EdTech at the Learning and Teaching Centre, Macquarie University, Sydney. Provides ideas, discussion and resources on education and educational design.
blogs_telt.jpg
Organisational Blog
UNSW Technology Enabled Learning & Teaching Blog:
http://blogs.unsw.edu.au/telt/
Published by a group of staff from the TELT Team at the University of New South Wales. Provides news, information and resources on UNSW's eLearning tools and strategies.
blogs_jokaydia.jpg
Communities of Practice and Blogs
jokaydia.com:
http://jokaydia.com
Supports a community of practice and provides new and information to educators who are exploring the use of virtual worlds in education.
blogs_schoolblog.jpg
School Blog:
Belmore South Public School
http://belmoresouthpublicschool.edublogs.org/
Provides a space to connect to the school community - parents, teachers and students. Used to share news about school events and initiatives and to celebrate students' work.
blogs_fln.jpg
Network Blog
Flexible Learning Network Blog
http://fln.sydneyinstituteonline.net/blogs/
Provides a space for members of the TAFENSW Flexible Learning Network to share, collaborate and discuss. Provides interesting information about current elearning strategies and projects.
blogs_janehart.jpg
Resource Blog
Jane's Pick of the Day
http://janeknight.typepad.com/pick/
A resource site that provides an elearning oriented 'pick of the day, selected by Jane Hart of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies in the UK.

Finding More Blogs to Explore


There are literally thouands of educational blogs being published by educators, educational technologists and academics available online. One of the best ways to get an idea of connecting this global educators network is to start reading blogs. The following is a list of educational blogs which were nominated for the 2009 Edublog Awards Best Individual Edublog 2009 category .

The Edublog Awards is an annual event which seeks to acknowledge, reward and celebrate the work of bloggers from all sectors of education. You can access additional blogs from theEdublog Awards nomination lists here .

Check out the latest post via the RSS Feed embedded here, or click on the links below:

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6. Find Out More About Blogs


Check the links below for further information:

General Information about Blogs


Using Blogs in Education


Blogs: How-To Guides


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7. What Next?

  1. If you are completing the Social Networking Course, visit the Moodle site and complete the activities for Topic 9: Blogs in Education.
  2. Check out the next section of the SWSI Social Networking Wiki - Communication Tools .
  3. If you are exploring Social Networking independently, check out the Social Networking Matrix and select the tools that will be using in your teaching practice.

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