Blogs (a short form of the original term weblogs) are classic web 2.0 tools which allow users to share their thoughts, potentially globally, and receive feedback, again potentially from around the globe. Many major blogging platforms have app versions for mobile devices, so that blogs are also increasingly aligned with mobile learning.
Blogs are effectively online journals where you can post updates – in the form of text, pictures, audio or video files – as often as you like. A blog can thus function as a reflective diary but it can also be the centrepiece of a conversation, since readers can leave comments for the blog’s author and each other, forging connections and community around topics of mutual interest. Advantages for students include the fact that they are writing for a wider audience – whether the entire internet on a public blog, or a more restricted group of class peers on a private class blog – and can receive feedback, thus co-constructing knowledge with others as they develop their online personas. Blogs are also commonly ‘in conversation’ with one another, as bloggers link to and comment on each other’s ideas.
For a light-hearted introduction to the principles underpinning blogs, see the Common Craft video Blogs. For information on creating blogs, see Adam Marchant’s ICTAdam, a series of blog entries guiding teachers through the process of setting up and getting the most out of blogs. For further information on the use of blogs in education, see The Edublogger, Support Blogging’s Educational Blogging or Konrad Glogowski’s reflective Blog of Proximal Development. You might also like to take a look at the YouTube video Top 10 Reasons to Use Blogs in the Classroom., or Edublogs’ Ten Reasons Every Educator Should Start Blogging.
Basic blogs can be quickly and easily set up at no cost, though many blogging services now work on a freemium model where basic functionality is available for free, but users pay for more advanced functionality. Well-known blog hosting services include Blogger, Edublogs, LiveJournal, WordPress.com (a freemium service which hosts your blog) and WordPress.org (where the WordPress software is available for free but you need to host your own blog). Typepad is a paid blogging service. A popular blogging service for use with young learners is Kidblog. There are also a number of blogging and diary apps available in Google Play, Apple’s iTunes, or other app stores. Recently popular variations on the basic blogging idea include the multimedia-oriented Tumblr, and the multimedia storytelling service Storify.
While older student blogging projects can be easily found on the web, newer projects with school-level learners are not so readily found because many blogs have now been set up as password-protected sites and/or integrated into LMSs or other institutional platforms which are not publicly accessible. This has been done in order to protect students’ identities and safeguard them from inappropriate interactions and comments, though in fact it is also possible to hide students’ identities on public blogs by removing identifying information, and to wholly or partially disable public commenting options.
For examples of older student blogs which are no longer maintained, but nevertheless illustrate the possibilities of blogs, see: English Advertising Class, Internet English with Amanda, Kyle Chan and Top 21 Class (blogs by English learners), the Teaching & Learning with ICTs blogroll (blogs by pre-service teachers), and Cameron’s Space and Wiki Thoughts (blogs reflecting on PD courses). Most publicly accessible current student blogs are by tertiary students; see for example First_year@UniMelb (a blog for first-year students at Melbourne University). For a discussion of the current trends in educational blogging, see the annual Current State of Educational Blogging report.
Blogs are increasingly being used by educators to help their students build intercultural skills as they interact with peers from different parts of the world, whether in a lingua franca, or in a bilingual mode where students are learning each other’s languages. The Quadblogging service, established a number of years ago in the UK, helps teachers to find appropriate blogging partner schools around the world.
For examples of professional educational, research and journalistic blogs, take a look at Mark Pegrum’s E-language blog, Jenny Cameron’s Librarian’s Web 2.0 Travels, or the excerpts on the Blogs to follow page. You might also like to check out Ronnie Burt, Sue Waters, Karen Walsh and Kathleen Morris’s guide for educators, 50 Topics to Inspire Educators to Blog. Further sources of educational blogs include:
- Top 10 Education Tech Blogs (Brainscape, 2017)
- Top 100 Education Blogs for Educators and Teachers (Feedspot, 2017)
- Community News (Edublogs, ongoing)
- Teach 100 (ongoing)
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