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Blogging 101

Posted by judiyostCA Mar 25, 2009

In Steve Hargadon’s Encyclopedia Britannica Blog, “Moving Toward Web 2.0 in K-12 Education,” he identifies the following educational benefits of Web 2.0 (more fully defined in his post):

 

 

 

  • Engagement – act of content creation
  • Authenticity – creating for very real audiences
  • Participation – being a contributor to the world’s body of knowledge
  • Openness and Access to Information – a greater willingness to share information
  • Collaboration – the building of and participation in personal learning networks and communities
  • Creativity – increase of creative capability
  • Passionate Interest and Personal Expression – creation of online portfolios of which people are passionate
  • Discussion – environment for learning how to talk about things
  • Asynchronous Contribution – ability to contribute to discussions over time
  • Proactivity – participating actively and independently
  • Critical Thinking – using critical thinking to evaluate content


 

Considering these aspects of Web 2.0, the potential for educational use of the blog in particular seems quite strong.

According to Blogger, which has provided blog space for users since 1999, 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. In simple terms, a blog is a web site, where you write stuff on an ongoing basis. New stuff shows up at the top, so your visitors can read what's new. Then they comment on it or link to it or email you. Or not.

 

"Blog" is short for "weblog" since blogs first started out as logs of links to other Web sites. Linking to and commenting on others' blogs or news stories are still important components to many blogs. However, blogs have branched out to include any type of personal commentary, reflection, or journaling, usually written by a single person. The other important component to most blogs is the ability for visitors to leave comments on the blog entries.

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New blog entries are often created every day. Keeping up with one's favorite blogs could be a chore (especially blogs for a whole classroom or multiple classrooms), but through RSS (Real Simple Syndication), you can subscribe to blogs and get updated content all in one place. We'll explore the topic of RSS in depth in the future--so be sure to check back.

Take a look at this short video on how blogs work and what they're used for:

 

 

 

In regards to using blogs in the classroom, Will Richardson discusses ideal blogging: "students using their blogs to really try to connect with their readers around the topics that they are reading and writing about. To do more than reflect, but to really articulate new thinking or understanding in the writing." Like any meaningful learning, it takes a lot of effort and time to get students to be thoughtful writers and commentators.

 

Are you currently using blogs in your classroom? Are authentic conversations and critical thinking actually occurring in the blogs you see students write? What ideas do you have for making blogs be a more effective medium for thinking, learning, and sharing? We'd love to hear your experiences and thoughts.

 

 

To view the first article of this series on Web 2.0 resources and their use in the classroom, read, "What's All the Hype about Web 2.0?"

For more on the topic of Web 2.0 resources, continue to the next blog in this series, Wikis 101.

A study, Creating and Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social — and Educational — Networking, conducted by the National School Boards Association explores who uses social networking sites, and how and why they use them. The study also compares responses by students, parents, and school officials related to online safety. Some of the study’s most interesting findings about participation in social networking are:

 

  • 50% of students use these sites specifically to discuss schoolwork
  • Only about 7% of all students say that someone online has asked them for personal information, and 6% of parents report this kind of activity with their children
  • In addition to expected activities, such as posting messages and downloading music, students also  participate in other interactive behaviors:

 

  • 25% update personal Web sites or profiles
  • 24% post photos
  • 17% blog
  • 16% create and share virtual objects
  • 10% collaborate on projects
  • 9% submit articles
  • 9% create polls, quizzes, or surveys

 

This report raises several questions in my mind:

 

  • How can educators take advantage of social networking features to enhance student learning?
  • What challenges face educators who want to incorporate social network sites into their instruction?
  • What policies are necessary for the effective, educational use of social networking sites?

 

What are your thoughts on the use of social networking sites in the classroom?

Educators and readers may well see the Doctorow name and immediately think of E.L. Doctorow and works such as Billy Bathgate and Ragtime and not recognize Cory Doctorow - no relation. Cory is a well-known blogger, author, and editor of the online journal, Boing Boing. Earlier this year, Cory put together a very savy article highlighting some pitfalls and strategies for writing during this day and age.

 

As we all spend more and more time online using Web 2.0 tools it becomes harder and harder to write. For some, that writing is responding to students or colleagues and for others that may well be fiction. Regardless, we all ought to spend a bit more time thinking about how we write and, just maybe, how we can be better writers. Doctorow's recommendations may not be the be-all and end-all, but I think they are a great signpost to think about how we write in this 'age of distraction.' Specifically he suggests:

 

  • Don't research

Researching isn't writing and vice-versa. When you come to a factual matter that you could google in a matter of seconds, don't. Don't give in and look up the length of the Brooklyn Bridge, the population of Rhode Island, or the distance to the Sun. That way lies distraction — an endless click-trance that will turn your 20 minutes of composing into a half-day's idyll through the web. Instead, do what journalists do: type "TK" where your fact should go, as in "The Brooklyn bridge, all TK feet of it, sailed into the air like a kite." "TK" appears in very few English words (the one I get tripped up on is "Atkins") so a quick search through your document for "TK" will tell you whether you have any fact-checking to do afterwards. And your editor and copyeditor will recognize it if you miss it and bring it to your attention.

 

  • Short, regular work schedule

When I'm working on a story or novel, I set a modest daily goal — usually a page or two — and then I meet it every day, doing nothing else while I'm working on it. It's not plausible or desirable to try to get the world to go away for hours at a time, but it's entirely possible to make it all shut up for 20 minutes. Writing a page every day gets me more than a novel per year — do the math — and there's always 20 minutes to be found in a day, no matter what else is going on. Twenty minutes is a short enough interval that it can be claimed from a sleep or meal-break (though this shouldn't become a habit). The secret is to do it every day, weekends included, to keep the momentum going, and to allow your thoughts to wander to your next day's page between sessions. Try to find one or two vivid sensory details to work into the next page, or a bon mot, so that you've already got some material when you sit down at the keyboard.

 

  • Realtime communications tools are deadly

The biggest impediment to concentration is your computer's ecosystem of interruption technologies: IM, email alerts, RSS alerts, Skype rings, etc. Anything that requires you to wait for a response, even subconsciously, occupies your attention. Anything that leaps up on your screen to announce something new, occupies your attention. The more you can train your friends and family to use email, message boards, and similar technologies that allow you to save up your conversation for planned sessions instead of demanding your attention right now helps you carve out your 20 minutes. By all means, schedule a chat — voice, text, or video — when it's needed, but leaving your IM running is like sitting down to work after hanging a giant "DISTRACT ME" sign over your desk, one that shines brightly enough to be seen by the entire world.

 

As Doctorow freely admits, he isn't the discoverer of these strategies - many may seem pretty obvious. However, thinking about how you write and the processes that can distract or prevent you from getting things done has long been a strategy we teachers have used with our students and we might as well 'walk our talk.'

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