Blogs


Introduction


"Blog" comes from 'Web log' and is typically an online journal type site, set up in reverse chronological order of dates of entries (ie most recent on top.)
Blogs offer a platform for one person (the 'blogger') to post thoughts and/or links. In educational settings, blog posts could be work for students to complete, articles or video clips to further their learning, or a summary of the main points of the lesson. The main attraction of a blog is that students can then comment on the post, and to enhance discussion further, comment on their peers comments. As it is hosted on the internet, a blog can be accessed from anywhere without needing access to the school server, for example.

Strengths & Weaknesses of Blogs in education settings

STRENGTHS
  • Simple: to set up, to post, to comment on
  • Public and easily accessible: send parents the link, create an RSS feed so that they get updates
  • Easily organised by date:
    • reverse chronological order allows the most recent work to be clearly found at the top of the page
    • students (and parents) can see what has been done each day, what homework was set
    • provides a clear overview of the week / term / semester: good for future planning (especially if the teacher makes an evaluative comment either on this blog, or a separate 'professional' blog.
  • Can set publishing date in advance, so can create the week's blog posts in advance, and set them to come online each day
  • Can change dates of posts, so can re-publish year by year, although it appears that this has to be done on a post-by-post basis which would be quite time consuming over the course of a full year (especially if for multiple classes)
  • Perhaps best used by students as an online journal where the teacher and peers can read and comment on their posts.

WEAKNESSES
  • Blogs were originally set up as a 'journal' type online application. In this sense, they work well. But in their transition to an educational tool, I think the weaknesses outweigh any benefits (and most of the benefits are available on either Wiki and/or Moodle).
  • Posting reverse chronologically is not necessarily the best way a teacher or student would like things organised (perhaps by unit instead)
  • Requires constant attention: updating of what is to be done and then amending if changes happened during class
  • ´╗┐Student 'comments' are live, which is great for immediate interaction, but can mean that the first three or four comments then get plagiarised by the lazy or cunning.
  • While 'categories' can be used, it is more difficult to go straight to a certain section, particularly one from earlier in the year (was it in February or March?) or to have to scroll down a quite long page. Larry Ferlazzo has a vast array of information on a number of blogs. Two in particular draw out these points:
    • http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/ Larry's general site, overloads the reader with information, icons, posts. I know he has some good points, links and videos about Theory of Knowledge, but where to find easily? (Yes, the search button, but surely there's a better way?!) Even after a search, posts appears in reverse chronological order, rather than relevance order.
    • http://unitedstateshistory.edublogs.org/ Larry's site for US History has a great range of links and activities for a term long unit. However, it is a long page, with posts from 2009 (which worked well in 2009 as he put each post up weekly or so), but now students need to scroll down to the bottom and work their way up (or Larry has to change the dates of each post). I prefer the Moodle approach where the author has better control over the order of each 'post' and can simply hide future posts.
  • Over a few sessions of searching for educational blogs, it was difficult to find many which had stuck with the date format for outlining work, and having students comment on it. There were plenty that had been abandoned after only two or three posts, or students had been sporadic in their response.

OVERALL

I think that blogs can have their place, and obviously many people enjoy their features, but I don't like the day by day approach. I tend to know the work I want to complete over the next two week cycle, or perhaps even the whole term, with guidelines of how many lessons I will give to each part of the syllabus, but this can be completely thrown by a good question, or a pertinent current event, or students' skills or understanding not what I envisaged. In a previous setting, I had to submit lesson plans for the whole week in advance, and found that between a fire alarm, or an assembly that ran overtime, or the students either taking far longer or quicker than I thought, the day by day plan has to be continually updated.
In answer to the above, I could post fortnightly or so - one post per key point - but from a History teacher's perspective, reverse chronological order just seems to be the wrong way around!

Examples of Educational Blogs


Popular (& free) blog hosting sites