When is a Blog the right tool?
Blogs can be very flexible and have many features, when is it a more appropriate tool over a discussion board? Naturally, weblogs can serve many purposes in an educational setting depending on how you choose to use them.
Blogs provide an opportunity for online, public reflection without demanding high levels of technical skills on the part of students. Being “owned” by the students that create them, blogs can take on a life of their own during and after a particular term.
Public blogging puts the students’ work out where anyone can see and learn from them. While not suitable for every class or every topic, when public reflection is feasible, the enhanced performance obligations often result in stronger and more dynamic writing.
Discussions that happen through blog comments are often more substantive than through closed interfaces such as the Moodle Discussion Forum. Students take more ownership of this reflective process when it takes place in public and there is a wider audience range that may include other subject experts.
Blog vs Moodle Discussion Forums
|personalized, students have ownership and can customize look and feel||control of content is driven by group across all users with no interface customization|
|students can take their blog with them when they leave the class for their e-portfolio||availability is limited to the duration of class|
|detached from Moodle gradebook||attached to Moodle gradebook|
|has the potential to be public and to include the greater community but can also be private||private to class members|
|can become a news source||accumulate limited group input and visitors|
|authors ‘comment’ on each others’ posts||authors ‘reply’ to each others’ threads|
|organized by category, tag, and/or menu navigation||organized by forum subject|
|order of posts governed by most recently updated/published||order of threads governed by most recent reply|
|can turn on/off comments||can allow/disallow new thread creation|
Blogs can be used to:
Log Reflective Writing – Individual students use weblogs to create and collect reflective exercises such as journals, assignment responses, or directed writing exercises. Because weblog entries are “published” rather than simply sent to an individual, it highlights and reinforces the idea of semi-formal discourse. If the weblogs are made public (or shared with just the rest of the class), then the student will gain practice writing for others.
Form a Class Community - A single weblog can be maintained by a group of authors. Creating a single weblog instance in which all students in a course become authors is a natural method for creating a class community. Like a discussion forum, the instructor will need to facilitate the flow of posts, model good blogging behaviors, and define expectations for what students can (and should) post. A class weblog might be topical or it might be assignment driven. A community weblog in the distributed learning setting can lessen the sense of isolation and increase social presence.
Create a Collaborative Resource - Students collaboratively build a weblog around a specific topic is a good exercise in research and writing. This development may result in a genuinely useful resource to the world at large. Blog software lowers the barriers to entry to allow for this kind of collaboration at a distance.
Develop a Class Information Site – In a distributed learning setting, timely and efficient information dissemination is critical. Weblogs are easy to maintain and post, and most weblog tools allow for different streams of information that can be syndicated and picked up by students in a variety of different ways. This is more visible than discussion board posts or posting such information as course documents, while allowing for room to expand on topics and posts that are not easily handled by the “Announcements” section of a Learning Management System.
Build an E-Portfolio – A blog can be a place to show progress or present materials that a student has used or created throughout a project, class or program. Since most blogs allow for posting multiple types of media, as well as adding links and commentary, this can be a great tool for e-portfolios.
Foster Peer Review – Have students post their work to a blog to get comments back from other students and other blog readers before submitting to the instructor for grading. Suggestions and comments about content or grammar can be a good exercise for both writer and reviewer. The added impact of getting comments from experts outside of the class can be a powerful motivator.
Techniques For Using Class Blogs
Multiple Blogs – Aggregated Community & ePortfolios
Aggregating and/or linking to individual student blogs that students can customize themselves provides enhanced sense of ownership of the reflective experience. These blogs can be more reflective of individual personalities even though each of them are publicly relating to similar– and sometimes identical– topics, stories, and current events.
Individual blogging activities also create a kind of ad-hoc portfolio that can be useful not only to the individual blogger as they progress through their academic career, but is a resource for other students for reference and as part of forming an active learning community.
Single Blog – Collaborative Space
A single blog with multiple authors provides a close knit and forum-like atmosphere for reflection and contribution to a single whole. The students don’t have their own personal blogs but group sections can be formed for projects with the use of tags.
Blog-Site – Course Content Portal
Blogging software can be used to create a public web site to house course content with or without the ‘blog’ element. With the blog element enabled for the instructor it can be continuously updated with current event information. Courses that use this method must have copyright permissions to post the content. This can also be a great way to help generate interest in your course and degree programs.
Rubrics For Grading Blogs
Blog posts graded over a semester’s length
For sophisticated, technically inclined users, there are a plethora of options for setting up a weblog on your own server or using your own web space. However, getting started demands little or no expertise… just a few minutes of time to get registered with a weblog host and start publishing!