What is a Blog?
Blog, also known as Weblog, is an online diary. The entries are dated and arranged in reverse chronological order. One’s bits and parts of life are shared with anyone with internet access on this open platform. Blogs used for educational purposes are known as edublogs.
Why does one blog?
Since blog is a diary, the reason for blogging can be just to recall some happenings in the day, or simply some personal reflections.
With this understanding, a large number of edublogs will exist for reflection purposes. This may include things like article reviews, book reviews, expression of thoughts on current issues etc.
How can edublogs be used?
Besides using blogs for personal reflections, it can also be used for group reflections, where more than one student co-own a blog.
With the commenting feature turned on, visitors to the blog may provide feedback and thoughts on the blog entries. Students may thus be asked to comment on peers’ reviews. When the owner of the blog replies to the comments, a discussion begins.
Such discussions may be contained within the same blog, or visitors may choose to link the discussion back to his/her own blog by using the trackback feature.
Students shouldn’t just be the ones enjoying blogging, but teachers should also join in the fun and benefit from owning a blog! Through a teacher’s blog, students may be able to understand the concerns and thought processes of their teacher. This can lead to improvement in teacher-student relationship, and the benefits will extend to classroom face-to-face lessons.
A teacher may want to double his/her blog as a class blog where students can visit to put down their thoughts or feedback their comments on classroom processes. A separate blog can be created for this purpose too.
Often, teachers may not be able to clarify all of the students’ queries due to limited classroom hours. Such Q&A can be brought offline to a blog, where a teacher need not give answers to questions straightaway, but instead carry out some scaffolding to allow students to discover the answers for themselves. Students may in turn document each of these self-discovery learning journey in their personal blogs. Students are now empowered with the ownership of learning.
If teachers can take such documentations of learning as part of students’ assignments, this will instil meaning into students’ writing. While they are documenting their learning, they are also writing their reflections for an audience, which is their fellow classmates (may include friends from other classes/schools too).
What’s the benefits of using edublogs?
With the use of blogs, we are changing the way feeback is carried out. In the traditional paper-n-pen model, students are handing up written assignments for marking, the communication is very much one-way and one-to-one. The teacher marking the piece of assignment may be the sole person reading it, and the student will only receive comments from the teacher. With blogs, peer commenting can be introduced and views/ideas among peers can now be exchanged. Teachers will no longer be the sole source of feedback. Not to mention that the weaker students will now have the chance to model and learn from some of the better work put up by his/her classmates.
When teacher allows students to document their learning in blogs, they are transferring the ownership of learning to the students. Students understand that it has to be based on their own effort if they are going to make their blogs presentable to fellow peers.
The use of a blog by a group of students as a repository of resources, as well as to track progress in project work can promote cooperative and/or collaborative learning.
As blogs are relatively easy to maintain, it would save significant amount of time if blogs are used for a long term process, such as for portfolio building. Through a portfolio, a student’s progress in learning can be captured over time. A language teacher may want to allow his/her student to build a reading/writing portfolio.
Students are most excited when they are able to customise the look and feel of their blogs by editing their blogskins. This adds to the element of fun in learning, which can in turn motivate students in their learning.
Where to find blogs? Where to create one?
Searching for “free blog” under Google will turn up many results. There are basically 2 types of blog hosting services, namely the free and paid services.
One of the most commonly used free platform is Blogger.com. Almost everyone will be able to create a personal blog with just “3-steps” under 10 minutes.
Other common names are LiveJournal, Xanga, Diaryland etc.
Some bloggers may prefer paid solutions such as TypePad for additional features, while others with access to a server may opt for solutions such as Manila, MovableType, WordPress, b2evolution etc.
Most of our students, if not all, have been using the free solutions for hosting their personal blogs. Some schools may choose to use the paid/hosted solutions which can ride on their existing IT infrastructure and gives better control.
How do I start using blogs for my lessons?
From the pedagogical point of view, you may want to relook at your existing processes, and identify an area you would like to introduce the use of blog into. Ideally, this introduction should replace an existing processes, e.g. students handling in of journals are replaced with blog entries; students submitting of project progress reports are replaced with entries in blogs.
Next you’ll need to draw up an implementation timeline to see how you can step-by-step introduce blogs to your students. Depending on the IT proficiency level of your students, you may need to hand-hold them for the creation of accounts at the initial stage. You may also work with your IT HOD to engage any IT trainers in the training of students to get things started.
How do I monitor the updating of my students’ blogs?
You will be able to monitor multiple blogs with one single web-based tool: Bloglines.com. Bloglines will be able to communicate with the blogs and check to see if these blogs have been updated. A detailed user guide of using Bloglines.com is available for download.
(updated on 7th June 2005)
What is a Blog?