Blogs (aka, web log) have become an integral part of the connected world of the Internet. The blogosphere has become so ubiquitous in our daily lives that it has, almost unnoticed, taken over all ‘traditional’ media, from news and sports to politics, food, and fashion. Every conceivable topic/interest/fringe/niche has blogs (plural!) with a community devoted to discussing it.
In the education field, blogs have long been adopted by teachers and trainers, to share ideas and learn from each other. Recently, they have been introduced into the classroom for students to use as a part of their learning. So, how do blogs best contribute to a student’s learning?
A blog-writing assignment requires, just as a formal paper or essay would, students to do research and report on what they’ve learned after integrating it with their own ideas (Glogoff, 2005). They have to practice close reading for comprehension (Downes, 2004) as well as evaluate a variety of sources to judge the authority and reputability of its information (Lever-Duffy & McDonald, 2015), an important skill in the 21st Century.
Writing, whether ink-on-parchment or online, is a tool for communicating ideas to more than just another person in a conversation. In order to do this effectively, a student must develop their argument, develop their position, and write to their audience (Wheeler, 2011). Blogging—like any writing exercise—helps students improve their writing, not just in grammar and usage but for comparison and persuasion (Lampinen, 2013).
When students have freedom to express what they’ve learned, they are more engaged in taking ownership of their own learning (Edyburn, 2013); these two principles form the core of the Universal Design for Learning approach. The ability to think creatively and develop new ideas is a critical skill for the 21st Century (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, n.d.).
This shouldn’t be completely free expression. While students are more engaged when they have a large degree of control over what they write (Lampinen, 2013), simply blogging to complete a tightly-controlled (i.e., assessed by a teacher with a rubric) assignment is just the same as writing a paper (Downes, 2004). Educators who want to use blogs for learning should use a student-centered approach, where they act more as a facilitator, guiding students rather than just directing them.
Blogging allows students to use hypertext; the ability to link to the vast array of useful resources on the web (Downes, 2004) greatly expands the tools available when writing (for example, all the hyperlinks in this blog!). Students can use hyperlinks and multimedia as ways to back up their opinions and interpretations, giving them a deeper understanding when crystalizing their ideas (Wheeler, 2011).
Since they’re on the internet, blogs connect students to a larger community—not only to other students in their class but to the world at large (Downes, 2004). This leads to a great deal of peer learning but it also means students must understand the etiquette of internet communication when composing content that could be construed as not meaningful, constructive, or even ethical (Stewart, 2011)
Today, blogging means more than just posting an article online. As a Web 2.0 technology, it incorporates a social media aspect that allows interaction and discussion using comments. This enables a learner-centered feedback and dialogue where students are learning more from each other than just the instructor (Glogoff, 2005). The asynchronous nature of comments and discussion threads means that students can reflect on the material, process what they’ve learned, and collaboratively build each other’s understanding (Hrastinski, 2008).
Downes, S. (2004, January 1). Educational blogging. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/educational-blogging
Edyburn, D. (2013). Inclusive technologies: Tools for helping diverse learners achieve academic success [Electronic copy]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books/AUEDU620.13.2
Glogoff, S. (2005). Instructional blogging: Promoting interactivity, student-centered learning, and peer input. Innovate, Journal of Online Education. Retrieved from http://studentcenteredlearning.pbworks.com/f/Instructional+Blogging.pdf
Hrastinski, S. (2008). Asynchronous and synchronous e-learning. Educause Quarterly, 4, 51-55. Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eqm0848.pdf
Lampinen, M. (2013, April 8). Blogging in the 21st-Century Classroom. Retrieved from Edutopia: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/blogging-in-21st-century-classroom-michelle-lampinen
Lever-Duffy, J., & McDonald, J. (2015). Teaching and learning with technology (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (n.d.). Creativity and innovation. Retrieved from P21: http://www.p21.org/about-us/p21-framework/262
Stewart, M. (2011, June 20). Fostering student creativity and responsibility with blogging. Retrieved from Edutopia: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/blogging-in-the-classroom-meredith-stewart
Wheeler, S. (2011, July 5). Seven reasons teachers should blog. Retrieved from http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.com/2011/07/seven-reasons-teachers-should-blog.html