Educational blogging

The class I’m taking on New Media, Social Media and Learning asked me to “do some digging around in Google, Yahoo, or [my] search engine of choice and find an interesting article about educational uses of blogs”, to post about “why [I] found the article [I] linked to particularly interesting” and to “extend or improve the ideas described in the article in some way”.

My classmate Nina, has already completed the assignment and posted it on her blog.  I did a quick search of Goolge, on the terms: education, blog, and use.  I also did a quick search of Google Scholar using the same terms.  Like Nina, I found few scholarly articles on educational blogging and none in the past year.  I’m not doing a serious lit review, so I’m not looking very hard (and ignoring the libray databases), but still, scholarly articles on educational blogging don’t seem very easy to find.

However, I know that there is a lot of information available about educational blogging.  Over the past year, I’ve been collecting tidbits of information about educational blogging so that I could share these ideas with my students.  Most of this information has come from bloggers who teach in K12 settings.  Unfortunately, I’ve spent too much time collecting and too little time processing.  My resources are scattered across Delicius, Diigo, and Google Reader.  Maybe now I can use these bits of information to come up with some coherent thoughts on educational blogging.

I found a post on “The use of blogs in education” (from a blog that, based on the style and frequency of posts, I suspect was set up to fulfill a class assignment) that gave four main purposes for using blogs in education:

  • Classroom Management
  • Collaboration
  • Discussions
  • Student Portfolios

Each of these could be considered a valid educational use of a blog.  A teacher could keep a blog to post announcements and assignments and strengthen home-school communication.  A teacher could set up collaborative assignments or discussions on blogs and require students to use blogs to display electronic portfolios of their work.  Blogs can be used to share resources (Free Technology for Teachers, iLearn Technology) or they can be used to deliver education, such as “how-to guides” and more (The Edublogger).

But like Sarah Stewart, I tend to think that for teachers and students (anyone really), the greatest power of blogging lies in its ability to encourage reflective practice.  Clarence Fisher, Dan Meyer, and Geoff Sheehy are just some examples of teachers who keep blogs in which they reflect on their practice on a regular basis.  Clarence Fisher and Konrad Glogowski have written many posts on how they use blogging to encourage reflection in their students.  I believe that Mr. Glogowski’s post on How to Grow a Blog is must-read for anyone interested in educational blogging.  I like the metaphor of blogs as an organic entity, as something that can grow.  Blogs as electronic artifacts are definitely not organic, but the learning that they represent is a result of organic processes.  Learning does grow.

From what I have learned about educational blogging, it seems that using blogs as way to turn in “electronic essays” or even to house “online writing journals” is a waste of the tool.  A public blog for a reflecting on your own practice (whatever that practice may be) is like talking to yourself without being crazy. . . someone out there might actually be listening.

From my own experience, I’m not sure I know how to “grow a blog” yet, but I feel like through blogging, I learn more all the time, and most of what I learn isn’t about blogging (blogging would have very little value to me it were).

If you are interested in ideas for implementing blogging in your classroom, I suggest you check out these resources (in addition to the ones mentioned above) for inspiration.

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About Kimberly McCollum

I'm a former middle and high school science teacher and current stay at home mom.
This entry was posted in edublogosphere, Graduate Work, Teaching and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Educational blogging

  1. Thanks for such a great and educational blog post…I wanted to email you directly with a private comment, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it via your blog. Is there a way?

  2. David Wiley says:

    I sort of agree with your claim about using blogs to submit writing assignments. If you’re just shooting your writing off into the dark, I think you’re right – there’s very little value in using blogs this way.

    However, there is always a chance that someone will read what you write on your blog, and engage you in a conversation. There’s no chance of this happening when you email or print your assignment to hand in.

    Of course, best of all, all your writing should be reflective, or probing, and if you’re listening to what comes back (even from yourself as you reread what you’ve written), then magical things can happen.

  3. @John – there didn’t used to be a way to email me directly, but because of your comment, I’ve added a “Find Me Online Widget” to the right hand column. I’ll also be sending you a direct email.

    @David – I know that some k12 teachers set up blogs on closed systems out of Internet safety concerns. I’m wondering, how much value do you think blogging adds when the only commenter is your teacher (and possibly a few classmates)?

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  5. Good overview of educational use of blogs…my article listed the five main uses as, (1)Posting class times, assignments, readings etc. (2)Instructors link through blogs to online sources that illuminate their course, (3)Educators use blogs to organize in-class discussions to create a community of learners, (4)Group blogs–one blog authored by several students, (5)Creation of a blog and content postings would constitute some component of the students’ grade. I am also anxious to hear how your use of blogs in your classroom goes!

  6. Cheryl Morse says:

    Kimberly,
    Thank you for the reference to How to Grow a Blog. I have been a little lost on blogging. Not really use what is expected of me. At first, it seemed like a online journal and I wasn’t finding much satisfaction with it. This article helped me a great deal. It will also help me explain what I want my students in 287 to do as well. Glogowski talks about the idea of blogging as a personal journey but one that students are not comfortable with because there are a lot of unknowns and it is not safe. How have you dealt with the dichotomy between safety and freedom in learning with your students?

  7. technologymavin says:

    There were two phrases that jumped out at me as I read the articles that you linked to:

    ‘engaging with ideas’
    ‘engaging with writing that is personally relevant’

    So, a blog that just posts electronic announcements or assignments for a class or is used for home/school communication is not the best use of a blogs.

    A good benchmark question might be, “How does this (the blog) help students learn?”

  8. @Linda – Thanks for sharing. I think that some of those uses are excellent ways to use blogs, though others might be better served by a different kind of webpage.

    @Cheryl – You’re welcome. Also, you bring up a good question about the dichotomy between safety and freedom in learning. Since my students are adults, I don’t feel that there is much of a dichotomy. While I know that the web is full of unsafe sites, I’ve very rarely encountered one and I don’t expect my students to come across very many either (at least no when doing work for my class).

    When dealing with children, the issue of safety is much more relevant. However, I think it’s also been blown way out of proportion. Contrary to popular belief, the Internet hasn’t lead to a huge increase in child exploitation. Recent studies show that the students who are at risk because of their online behavior tend to be the same students who are at risk because of their offline behavior. Risks exist, but if students are taught to follow some simple rules and procedures, they can do a good job of avoiding dangerous places and protecting their personal information. It’s important that we teach them how to self-filter.

    @technologymavin – I agree. As educators, shouldn’t “How does this (anything) help students learn?” always be our benchmark question?

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  10. I sort of agree with you about blogging for assignments, but I suppose it depends what you use blogging for. Yes, as purely a tool for reflective practice, then I agree with you. But educational blogging is more than that – it is a tool for sharing and also recording.

    I was required to blog assignments for a course I did last year: http://sarah-stewart.blogspot.com/2008/02/facilitating-online-learning_7004.html

    I love that they safely stored away there for me to easily refer to them in the future. But there will be people who say “but what about plagiarism?”

  11. sandrar says:

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  12. Pingback: Article? What’s an Article? | SaraJoy Pond

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