Notes from “Educational Blogging: What, Where, Why and How”

Today, I had the chance to attend an educational technology session at MSU featuring Nicole Ellison, Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies & Media, MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences, and Leigh Graves Wolf, Learning Technology and Culture Programs, MSU College of Education. Their topic is “Educational Blogging: What, Where, Why and How.” Here are some notes from the session:

  • What is educational blogging?
    • Blogging in educational settings: in the classroom, between department members, intra- and inter-university research collaboration
    • We will focus on cases where students maintain blogs as part of their coursework
    • Pew research: 8% of internet users maintain a blog, 39% of internet users read blogs, 57% of bloggers are younger
  • Why blogs and education?
    • Not much work that makes causal claims about how blogs impact education, but that is difficult
    • Focus on critical skill of writing
    • Encourages students to engage with positions divergent from their own
    • Students are invests because their is a larger audience
    • Increases digital literacy
    • Supports peer-to-peer learning and student-to-instructor knowledge sharing
    • Learning becomes less bound by time and space
  • Where to blog?
    • ANGEL — they are protected, but no RSS
    • On your own server — college is in control of the content and can protect it with complete administrative control
    • Edublogs, Blogger, WordPress — differing levels of administrative rights
    • MicroBlogs: Twitter and Facebook
  • What: An educational blogging case study
    • What are the differences among students’ perceptions regarding the educational beenfit of writing a blog entry vs. reading other students’ blogs vs. reading other students’ comments?
    • What are student perceptions of the experience of blogging as an educational activity?
    • Overall perceptions:
      • A new experience and uniquely engaging in ways that traditional papers are not
      • Encouraged a less formal writing voice. potentially eliciting a more authentic writing style
      • Exposed students to different perspective; surprised by range of responses
      • They felt it was most useful to read other people’s blogs
      • “I liked the fact that we had to comment on others blogs. It’s cool to get some feedback on what I’ve written.”
      • ” I felt it was really cool when one of the people actually cited what I said in my blog on someone else’s blog.”
      • “It taught be some things that I didn’t pay much attention to before. It was cool because i was able to see what students thought about things we typically wouldn’t talk about in class.”
      • “[comments] are nice to see when the person really puts thought into them, and sometimes make me think and want to write more.”
      • I think it is more effective using the WWW because anyone can view it and we saw that when Ryan’s blog was commented on by the actual author of the piece that we read.”
  • What: Commenting
    • Not all students saw benefits of reading others’ blogs or comments
    • Uncomfortable giving critical feedback: “Some people didn’t even write what they were supposed to. Plus, I don’t really know how to respond to other people’s ideas, I don’t want to tell them that they are wrong or anything like that.”
    • Technical problems
    • I didn’t give them lots of guidance on how to provide comments, so I would do that differently
  • What: Implications for Practice
    • Students are going to come in with a notion of what blogging is, and students may need guidance on how to reconcile their notions of blogging with the classroom context
    • In some cases, encourage use of pseudonym since this content (if public) will be archived for years to come
    • Consider technical implementation
    • Students need guidance on providing constructive criticism
  • What: Enthusiastic, yet wary and ambivalent
    • Enjoyed reading others’ blogs
    • Expands thinking
    • Didn’t want to sound preachy and start arguments
  • How to blog
    • Different Use Models
      • One to many: From the teacher as a posting to students; from the student to others
        • Provide feedback to a presenter on his/her blog
      • Many to many (class blogs)
        • People can become experts in one area
      • Many to one (RSS aggregation)
        • Use Google Reader to read all of my students’ blogs
      • Experimental Writing
        • Creating an “academic” writing in blogging environment — posts within the blog are tagged and connected as well as external links (Leigh’s example)
      • Issues
        • Anonymous blogging
        • FERPA concerns
        • Intellectual property
      • Other tools
    • How: Assessment
      • Grade for content or completion?
      • Require a set number of posts?
      • Specify timing of posts throughout semester?
      • Require comments and feedback?
      • Need to back up posts
    • How: Practical Advice
      • Blog yourelf
      • Start small
      • Subscribe to RSS feeds
      • Read other educator blogs
      • Virtual University
      • Blogs for Learning

Author: Troy Hicks

Dr. Troy Hicks is a professor of English and education at Central Michigan University. He directs both the Chippewa River Writing Project and the Master of Arts in Educational Technology degree program. A former middle school teacher, Dr. Hicks has authored numerous books, articles, chapters, blog posts, and other resources broadly related to the teaching of literacy in our digital age. Follow him on Twitter: @hickstro

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