In a previous post about using blogging in the classroom wisely, I pointed out that – from a broad perspective – a blog is whatever the author wants it to be. Today, I would like to expand on that statement by examining and comparing blogs and blogging.
PART I: STUDENTS
(DUE TO TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES AND COMPLETE FRUSTRATION, THIS POST WILL BE BROKEN DOWN INTO TWO PARTS, STUDENTS AND PROFESSIONALS.)
Students Blogging for a Specific Formal Learning Experience –
ORG_COMM is a collection of student blogs that contains responses to assignments from a communications course. The content of these posts may represent each individual learner response, but the overall format and presentation is not personal since all of these student blogs are written with the same purpose and assigned topics. The presentation is all text and it is clear that these student are all about meeting instructor expectations.
I find it odd that commenting does not seem to be activated or available on these blogs. Apparently interaction was never in the plan here. This absence prompts me to ask what the purpose of these blogs really was; because without the potential for public readers and ongoing discussion, these students could have just as easily posted to a private group page or CMS discussion board. Now, to be fair, these blogs seem to have been written in 2003…
Mr. Borges and the Blog Squad is more like a classroom resource page or a virtual classroom blackboard. It contains assignments, podcasts, blogs, examples of student work, a twitter feed, and even social responsibility banners. There is so much going on! On the surface, it doesn’t really look like there is much exchange or interaction going on here, but that is because you have to dig through the layers of links a bit to find it.
Extreme Biology is a high school biology blog where students post about anything related to biology. This freedom allows students to write about biology topics that interest them; therefore, it’s not surprising that other learners are interested, too, and that they add well-constructed comments to continue the ongoing discussion. Biology is no longer limited to the classroom for these learners because blogging has opened it up to the world. If you are wondering how her students feel about Ms. Baker’s biology blog, you can watch their YouTube video. I also like the way pictures are included with each post to cue the reader!
- ORG_COM Student Blogs
Besides presentation and the collection of resources, there is another big difference between these examples and that is purpose. The students in the communications class were using the blog as a repository for completed assignments, so they were writing to fulfill the instructor’s expectations.
- Mr. Borges & the Blog Squad
The other student bloggers have much more freedom about the content of their posts. This is a likely reason for why the communications class blogs seem to have had such a short life span; the semester ended and so did the reason that those students were blogging in the first place.
- Ms. Baker’s Extreme Biology
When students are blogging as part of a specific learning experience, they are obligated to follow the guidelines set by, and meet the expectations of, a particular instructor. This may not only influence, but limit, the variety of available topics, the overall presentation, the level of interaction, and the inclusion of writer personality.
The goal is to optimize the learning experience by purposing blogs and blogging as a technology tool in support of instructional goals and learning objectives.
Students Blogging Outside the Formal Learning Experience –
Voices from Cornell Abroad
is a collection of student blogs as they share their learning abroad experiences. Certainly there are similarities among the students and their circumstances, but everything else is unique and those differences result in blogs with highly personal content and presentation. These students are sharing their personal day-to-day experiences and emotions as they investigate a new culture. These blogs are FUN! They are COLORFUL! They contain a ton of exciting and vivid pictures!
- LAUS Blog
Voices from Cornell Abroad
LAUS at PSU is the blog for liberal arts undergraduates at Penn State where students write about events both on and off campus. The openness of the blog and the diversity of student contributors are evident in the increased level of content variation. Some posts are more academic or informational while the purpose of others is clearly to share personal experiences. Multimedia is frequently used to supplement the text as well. When bloggers are not constrained by the formality of established curriculum, their freedom of choice results in broader content choices, I think.
It was also interesting to compare the comments between these blogs. While the posts on the Penn State blog had few comments, the Cornell student blogs were full of comments from family, friends, and other students. Among other purposes, the Cornell student blogs were clearly being used as a way to stay connected.
What do I see as the most important aspects to consider in using blogs for learning?
1. It is never too early to start. Blogs and bloggers evolve and mature with time and experience.
2. Where classroom use is concerned, make sure that blogging is the most appropriate technology tool to fit the instructional goals and learning objectives of the formal curriculum.