According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, a blog is “a website where entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order”. The word “blog” is a portmanteau (a word that fuses two or more words for a combined meaning) of the words “web log”.
Blogs most commonly have a single author and theme, but may also be contributed to by a group of authors. Blogs may be categorized by topic (i.e., politics, food, entertainment, travel) or by primary media (i.e. image blogs, video blogs or vlogs, audi blogs).
Other common features of blogs include:
- commonly link to other posts or blogs
- commonly publicly available, but access may be limited
- many allow readers to comment on posts
- may use tagging for categorization
- may be subscribed to with RSS
- may link to media sharing sites like flickr or YouTube
- may include a “Blog Roll”, or linked list of related blogs
Blog Uses in Education
Based on their chronological structure as a common use for expressing an individual perspective, blogs are particularly well-suited for the following uses:
- online journaling
- reflection on experiential education – Northeastern’s Undergraudate Admissions recruited students to blog about their experiences at Northeastern
- documentation of scientific inquiry (or another process) – a professor from Northeastern’s Math department posts mathematical comments on the television show “Numb3rs”
- reporting/commentary on current events
- research summaries
- citizen journalism
Blogs have grown significantly in popularity in recent years. In December 2007, the blog search engine technorati.com was tracking 112 million blogs daily, a number that had increased by nearly 20 million in only four months.
The following examples illustrate a range of blog uses and features that have relevance to educational settings.
- Polar Science
A team of scientists from the University of Colorodo, conducting research in Antartica, used blogs as one of several communication tools on this website to communicate with teams of K-12 students as they conducted their research.
- A Duck with a Blog
This blog tracks a kindergarten class’ observation of a duck nest. It illustrates the use of a blog to document observation of a scientific or other process and also show the integration of multimedia in a blog.
- Absolutely intercultural
Two European academics (DEFINE) publish a weekly podcast on intercultural issues through this blog.
- Joey’s ASL Vlog
This vlog (or video blog) communicates through American Sign Language.
- Middlebury College: Creative Non-fiction
This blog was used as the learning management system for a writing class at Middlebury College. It includes a “mother blog”, to which all students contributed, and individual blogs used by students to publish their assignments.
- Northeastern Undergraduate Admissions
Northeastern’s Admissions office uses student bloggers to provide a personal view of campus life for prospective students.
- Numb3rs blog
Northeastern math professor Mark Bridger published a blog that explains the real math behind the television show “Numb3rs”. (This is a “blath”, or “math blog”.)
- The DNA Network
This network blog compiles daily entries from individual members’ blogs, all of whom share a common research interest.
Blog Software Options
There are many software options available for creating blogs, including online tools and blog software installed on a servers; there are both free and fee-based tools in each category.
Free, online blogging tools:
- Blogger.com is google’s blog tool.
- Edublogs.org is a community of educators using blogs at all levels of education.
Installed blogging software:
- WordPress, the software used by Edublogs.org.
- MovableType, which has a free version for personal use and enterprie versions for larger-scale installations.
For a comparison of 23 different blogging tools, see www.weblogmatrix.org.
Blackboard also features a course-centric blog tool. For instructions on setting up a blog in your Blackboard course, see the ATS Blackboard Tips Blog
Considerations for Blog Assignments
As you design a blog assignment for classroom use, you may want to consider the following questions:
- What is the goal of the blog?
- Should you have a class blog, individual blogs, or both?
- Who can see the blog?
- Who can contribute to the blog?
- Who can comment on the blog?
- What are the potential implications of these access choices?
- How often should students post?
- What media should they use?
- How will blogs be assessed?