Deborah Bradbury, Memorial University of Newfoundland
2 Definitions and background
The origin of the blog began in 1994 when journalist Justin Hall created a journal on the Internet that was first called a web log (Muirhead, 2010, p. 1). Later shortened to blog (Wang, Lin and Laio, 2012, p. 139) to avoid confusion with server files (Muirhead, 2010, p. 1), blogs are defined as a “user-friendly, free virtual spaces” for people to create unique and personalized content (Arslan and ahin-Kzl, 2010, p. 183). Additionally, the content is open for users to create and manipulate ideas by commenting, editing and tagging ideas (Gray, Waycott, Clerehan, Hamilton, Richardson, Sheard and Thomson, 2012, p. 2).
Blogs are user-friendly websites (Deng and Yuen, 2010, p. 441) that do not require the understanding of HTML (Vurdien, 2011, p 127). Muirhead (2010) described that blogs have varying structures based on differing content and authors (p. 1), but typically they include text, graphics, audio and video (Manfra and Lee, 2012, p. 119; Nichols, 2012, p. 167). Blog entries are typically characterized by dated entries that are displayed in reverse chronological order (Deng and Yuen, 2012, p 48) and can continually be updated by users (Vurdien, 2011, p. 127). The activity of updating a blog is called “blogging” and the author is referred to as a “blogger” (Wang et al., 2012, p. 183).
Blogs are seen as a convenient way to create, produce and share students’ learning (Robertson, 2011, p. 1628). Blogging supports the Social Constructivism theory which advocates the importance of interaction and active participation in learning activities, including the opportunity for design and construction of meaningful artifacts using blogs (Fessakis, Dimitracopoulou and Palaidodimos, 2011, p. 243). Garcia-Sanchez and Rojas-Lizana (2012) conclude that involvement in a constructivist blog community can improve both social and cultural participation (p. 373) because the learning is an active process that is constructed by the learners and guided by the instructors (p. 362).
Blogging offers innovative approaches to learning in an engaging technological environment (Nair, Tay and Koh, 2013, p. 109). Robertson (2011) observed that blogs are a suitable way to create and share students’ learning, and they can offer opportunities for learning through comments and feedback (p. 1628). Educators can utilize blogs to increase the communication and collaboration among students as well as enhance their participation and engagement in the classroom (Fessakis et al., 2011, p. 243) because they provide opportunities for self-expression and self-reflection (Deng and Yuen, 2010, p. 442).
The use of blogs promotes interaction between students and teachers both in and out of the traditional classroom (Nichols, 2012, p. 167). Nair et al (2013) observed the outreach of blogs beyond the classroom extends students’ learning due to its interactive nature and its ability to build skills in communication, sharing, analyzing and writing (p. 109). In addition to creating an engaging environment outside of the classroom, student bloggers become part of a “discourse community” where they are working collaboratively to “negotiate and construct meaning and texts” (Hourigan, 2010, p. 2010). The collaborative learning that occurs as a result of blogging enables students to engage in activities that are distributed in both space and time (Alterman and Larusson, 2013, p. 151) and the ability to generate co--constructed content simultaneously (Gray et al., 2012, p. 2).
Blogging has “the potential for the increased access to quality information on the Internet” (Nichols, 2012, p. 166) and participation in blogging may encourage students to explore further educational opportunities on the Internet (Hossain and Wiest, 2013, p. 348). Additionally, the affordances of the blogging tool are extended because of its social networking opportunities (Manfra and Lee, 2012, p. 132) and “the hypertextual nature of the internet introduces greater learner control and increased decision making” (Hutchinson and Wang, 2012, p. 263).
Blogs allow for anytime, anywhere learning opportunities (Alterman and Larusson, 2013, p. 151), however Robertson (2011) found that students value face-to-face teacher and peer interaction and that in-person lectures and labs were helpful (p. 1641). Vurdien (2011) observed that students found face-to-face classes were very informative and more favorable for developing collaborative skills than online activities, and they highly value the guidance of their teachers and peer interaction (pg. 138). Additionally, bloggers sometimes show reluctance to reveal private thoughts (Hourigan and Murray, 2010, p. 211) because there is a lack of privacy and immediate communication (Andergassen, Behringer, Finlay, Gorra and Moore, 2009, p. 211). Blogging may be more suitable as a supplement for in class discussions and group work rather as a replacement (Hutchinson and Wang, 2012, p. 273).
Using a blog requires a degree of reflective and interpretive skills that students may not possess (Hourigan and Murray, 2010, p. 221). Additionally, decoding text in an electronic environment makes demands beyond that of printed materials (Hutchinson and Wang, 2012, p. 263). Due to the “hyper-textual nature” of the Internet blogs require readers to interpret the strategic use of color, make extrapolations about hyperlinked texts and graphics and to decode the possible actions of icons in a digital environment (Hutchinson and Wang, 2012, p. 263). Furthermore, Manfra and Lee (2012) observed that students may become overwhelmed by the multiple sources of information on a blog (p. 131) and the use of visual material may be a detractor if students do not possess the skills to analyze visual material (p. 132).
In a study investigating Grade 5 students’ motivation and teachers’ pedagogical practices with online blogs, Nair et al. (2013) indicated that both students and teachers tend to take online submissions of student work and assignments less seriously (p. 118). Gray et al. (2012) found that Web 2.0 assignments, including blogs are often offered as non-compulsory or as a preparation for additional assignments or tests (p. 9). Students may prefer the conventional paper and pencil mode of creating their assignments and the teachers may share that preference and that monitoring online asynchronous activities was not in teachers’ regular behavior (Nair et al., 2013, p. 110). Therefore, it is vital to consider the alignment between the learning activity and the curricular outcome to support the relevance of blogging (Gray et al., 2012, p. 11).
6 Works Cited
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Andergassen, M., Behringer, R., Finlay, J., Gorra, A., & Moore, D. (2009). Weblogs in higher education – why do students (not) blog? Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 7(3), 203-215.
Arslan, R. & ahin-Kzl, A. (2010). How can the use of blog software facilitate the writing process of English language learners? Computer Assisted Language Learning, 23(3), 183-197. doi: 10.1080/09588221.2010.486575
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Fessakis, G., Dimitracopoulou, A. & Palaiodimos, A. (2013). Graphical interaction analysis impact on groups collaborating through blogs. Educational Technology & Society, 16(1), 243-253.
Garcia-Sanchez, S. & Rojas-Lizana, S. (2012). Bridging the language and cultural gaps: the use of blogs. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 21(3), 361-381. doi: 10.1080/1476939X.2012.719396
Gray, K., Waycott, J., Clerehan, R., Hamilton, M., Richardson, J., Sheard, J. & Thompson, C. (2012). Worth it? Findings from a study of how academics assess students’ web 2.0 activities. Research in Learning Technology, 20, 1-15.
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Robertson, J. (2011). The educational affordances of blogs for self-directed learning. Computers & Education, 57, 1628-1644. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2011.03.003
Vurdien, R. (2011). Enhancing writing skills through blogging in an advanced English as a foreign language class in Spain. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 26(2), 126-143. doi: 10.1080/09588221.2011.639784
Wang, Y., Lin, H. & Liao Y. (2012). Investigating the individual difference antecedents of perceived enjoyment in students’ use of blogging. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(1), 139-152. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01151.x