A blog or weblog (from the combination of the words web and log) is a web-based application where authors regularly write articles (posts or entries) in journal style. Entries are displayed in reverse chronological order. Blogs usually include text, images, and links to other blogs, websites, and other media related to their topic.
According to Jo An Oravec (2002),
- Types of blogs
- Typical single user blogs
- Embedded blogs in portals (e.g. in C3MS, LMS or CMS systems)
- Collective blogs, e.g. news engines or the default module displayed in a C3MS
A blog generally comprises a number of different elements. In the main block, posts are displayed in reverse chronological order. Each post includes a title, date, the author's name or nickname, a permalink to the article (i.e. the URL of the full article), and trackback (and/or number of trackbacks), i.e. links to other sites that refer to this entry. Posts often include links to related news articles, documents, or other blog entries.
(See TrackBack on Wikipedia, accessed 05:40, 4 May 2007 (MEST))
Bloggers can associate tags to each entry. Tags are key words which can be used to describe the content of a post; they are particularly useful for readers who can easily find posts of particular interest to them. (See also Tagging). It's always possible to edit previous entries.
Readers can submit comments to each post. However, due to spamming problems, some bloggers may disable or moderate comments.
In the sidebar, depending on the layout choosen, we can find several navigational links: to other blogs or wesites of interest (blogroll), to archived entires (both by date and tags), to the author's profile, to a search form, and to RSS or XML syndication feeds.
According to some bloggers, blog users should follow some elementary rules of conduct. Most bloggers are not journalists and can't be expected to follow journalistic ethics codes; however, since posts are public and can be viewed by anyone, responsible bloggers should be asked to follow some basic guidelines.
- Be honest and fair: bloggers should avoid plagiarism, always cite (and possibly link to) their sources, never post inaccurate information, distinguish between facts and commentary, and refrain from distorting facts.
- Treat human beings with respect: bloggers should be polite and considerate when addressing other Internet users, especially in the case of children, and avoid intruding into anyone's privacy.
- Be responsible: bloggers should admit and correct their mistakes, explain the aim of each blog and invite dialogue with readers over the blog's content.
Blogging etiquette for student and teacher bloggers
Using blogs for educational purposes is a relatively new phenomenon. Internet articles, websites and webblogs show that education-oriented blogs have had a large impact during the last few years. According to some bloggers, it is extremely important to set clear guidelines especially for this type of blog, in order to render them useful and effective.
The guidelines and writing rules should not only be a list of prohibitions, but also highlight the positive aspects of educational blogs(Warlick, 2007). They could begin with a list of aims, as for example:
- this blog will provide students with material in order to improve their writing skills;
- this blog will improve interaction and communication between classmates.
The rules should be valid for both the teacher and students. Susanne83 thinks that it might be a good idea for the rules to be drawn up by the teacher in close collaboration with students in order to be more effective.
Blogs are used in diffent types of schools: primary schools, high schools, universities, etc. The rules vary depending on the school, the teacher and the blog. In short, no official standard for educational-blog rules exists so far. Some common rules are:
- do not be offensive when you express your opinion;
- do not include any personal information about you or other people in your posts;
- write things that are factual.
Some examples of blogging rules for educational oriented blogs can be found at:
- Bud the Teacher's Wiki
- Class Blogmeister
- Otley All Saints CE Primary School Blog
- Yale Universtiy Webblogs
- Technically speaking, there is a difference between using a blog among other tools within a design, or whether it is the "center stage" medium. DSchneider uses blogs in his own teaching just as little reflection tool within his C3MS project-based learning model.
- A blog can be given to individual students, to groups or to the class as a whole. Note: if students use multiple blogs, make sure to understand how the "blogsphere works", i.e. how to integrate RSS feeds and how to use news feed aggregators or other integration software like webtops.
Typical educational uses include, for example:
- as a note taking tool in class
- to collect resources and ideas (with small comments and reflections). That is actually what most "academic" blogs do. E.g. a very fine "world class" example is Pasta & Vinegar.
- as note taking tools for (before/during/after) field trips, e.g. to write down questions, observations, reflections, etc. See inquiry learning
- as a (class or project) management tool (instead of a forum or any other writing tool).
- as a news tool for a school or even a class
- as a website (instead of a CMS tool or HTML pages)
- as reflection tool
- as discussion tool (either via the comment tool or within a multi-blog setup with trackbacks)
Advantages of using blogs in educational settings
Nowadays, teachers are introducing new kinds of technologies into the classroom. This involves not only an improvement in the means of learning, but also a change in people's attitude to teaching or learning.
Blogs as means of teaching and learning can be a useful tool for both students and teachers. Thanks to this technology they can be in touch on line; this provides a way to communicate openly without necessarily having to meet face to face. Educational blogs create a new kind of classroom where students and teachers can meet beyond the boundaries of the school yard and improve their skills through continuous communication ( Glencoe Online, 2006).
From a student's point of view
Using blogs in educational settings has many advantages:
- they can replace or facilitate traditional classroom teaching;
- they can help students link themselves and what they are studying to the real world;
- they can favour social interaction;
- they can make students more responsible;
- they can improve students' writing skills;
- they favour collaborative learning;
- they can help students learn how to use new technologies;
- they can increase students’ participation;
- students can share their ideas, works, and experiences;
- students can reflect on course material publicly and can be encouraged to give feedback by using the comment function.
When writing on a blog, students have the possibility to explore the real world and its sources. They come to know a variety of tools they may never have considered before (i.e. blogs, syndication feeds, social bookmarking) and learn how to use them. First steps are sometimes frustrating. This can happen because of students' lack of knowledge of some technologies, but in the end this new knowledge becomes useful not only for classroom activities, but also for everyday life. Usually students’ apprehension about blogging decreases in a few weeks as they learn to use the tools and increase their active praticipation. As pointed out by Jonathan Benda (2001, in Lowe and Williams 2004) “students lack background in the principles behind designing a Web site that really communicates something to an audience.” Therefore, using blogs helps bloggers in their activities and increases their motivation.
According to Susan McLeod (2001, in Lowe and Williams 2004), weblogs are
If used within a class, blogs can be used by students to share their ideas, knowledge and thoughts. Writing online has a two-fold advantage: first of all, students can share materials –be it works, ideas, etc-; secondly, they can learn through practice and repeated use of the same tools.
The benefits of social interaction that occur on blogs lead many teachers to agree that having students use blogs is very important. By making their writing public, students feel more responsible for what they write and how they write it since they're writing for a varied audience rather than solely for their teachers . Bruffee (2001, in (Lowe and Williams 2004)) claims that this “promoted student-writers’ abilities to se themselves as responsible writers and to view writing as a social activity.”
One great advantage of blogs is that students can improve their language skills, especially in writing and reading. Blogs, in fact, provide materials and language which is typical of everyday life so that students can feel their learning process linked to the real world.
When students write on blogs, they don’t come face to face with each other; this can spur them on to communicate with each other and participate more in online activities. This is especially true for those students who never intervene in classroom discussions because they are shy or afraid of making mistakes. Thanks to her experience, Linda Harasin suggests that “weblogs in our classrooms has been more effective for at least some of our students because it has increased participation: our quieter students who tipically don’t participate in face-to-face discussions are participating in weblog discussions” (Harasin 1996).
Another example can be seen in the . After completing an [etivity], students are supposed to provide feedback on the posts of their schoolmates. In the context of language learning, they analyse the posts from the point of view of grammar, content and finally, they express their opinion. This response is very useful for students as it helps them to learn from each other, correct each other's mistakes and avoid repeating them in the future.
Eric Wiltse , a Senior Lecturer at the University of Wyoming, in his study “Blog, Blog, Blog: Experiences with web logs in journalism classes” describes his students’ impressions on their new experience, an online journalism class project on writing web logs or blogs. The general reaction of his students to this new project was positive. According to them:
- blogs are easier to create and edit than journals they had written;
- blogging is a very new and creative way to communicate with other people in the class, thanks to the possibiliy to comment on entries;
- the feedback given by other classmates is useful for improving the content of your personal blog;
According to Wiltse (2004), “blog assignments could be adopted for any class that involves a writing component. The immediacy of publishing one's writing and the possibility of a reader anywhere in the world commenting on that writing make blogs powerful learning tools.”
From a teacher's point of view
Teachers, too, find it helpful to use blogs with their students. If students are anxious about face-to-face activities, teachers are anxious as well since their role is not only to teach but also to increase their students’ motivation. Using blogs can do just this.
An English teacher, Will Richardson, (see Washington Post), wrote a book on web tools for classrooms. In 2002 he created a blog concerning his literature course for his students to use. This tool stimulated conversation outside class and permitted him to understand his students’ real interest about the course. He concludes that blogs as teaching tools provided transparency in the contact between him and his students.
In a blog entitled “The question of teacher roles in Blogging –yet- traditional classrooms” , Barbara Ganley explores a teacher’s best attitude to this technological tool. Her opinion might be summarized in seven rules. A teacher:
- has to be a consultant, a guide;
- shouldn't dominate the classroom;
- has to participate on the blog alongside the students;
- has to help students in working together;
- has to be present to set the climate and select content;
- never has to use grades;
- has to stay out of the center of the blog.
In this way, students have the chance to explore and complete their e-tivities without feeling anxious about their final mark. Nonetheless, the presence of the teacher is necessary to give students some feedback about the result of their work; teachers should stay alongside the blog, and set the tone and the mood without imposing judgements or rules (Ganley 2006).
Blog software and platforms
Here are listed some of the most common tools for bloggers. If you have a hosting, you can install a standalone plateform (we have dressed a small list of the most important Open Source blogging tools). You can also open a blog without any installation. You can find a lot of commercial solutions (Google is your friend).
Popular open source software
- WordPress: based on PHP/MySQL is one of the best blog engines. The new version of WordPress integrates a small CMS
- MU WordPress: based on WordPress this version enhance some functionalities. The administrators can create more blogs with one installation. WordPress permits to have only one blog at time
- TextPattern: based on PHP/MySQL
- DotClear: french blog engine
- b2evolution: like MU WordPress
- Nucleus: multi-blog-CMS like MU WordPress (PHP/MySQL)
- Roller Weblogger: like MU WordPress but based on Java
Traditional search engines like Google web search often do not offer relevant results with blogs. Therefore, it is advisable to use specialized services, such as
References and Links
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- Baumgartner, P. (2004). The Zen Art of Teaching - Communication and Interactions in eEducation. Proceedings of the International Workshop ICL2004, Villach / Austria 29 September-1 October 2004, Villach, Kassel University Press. CD-ROM, ISBN: 3-89958-089-3. PDF
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