This is the first in a regular series of articles exploring some of the terms used in e-learning (view other articles in the series). We’ll do our best to break down the jargon and explain what things are from a basic perspective.
‘Blogs’ are the first term we will be looking at. Blog is a word derived from the phrase ‘web log’. Blogs started being used in 1998-1999 and quickly became a popular web tool. Inside a blog, any authorised person can write messages called posts using the blog editing tool. These posts are then published to a web page which can be read by the blog audience, which can be everyone or restricted to authorised readers.
Posts are automatically arranged in reverse chronological order, so the newest posts are listed at the top. Another feature of blogs is their ease of use. They do not require knowledge of web programming languages to be able to make a web page using one. They also normally allow readers to comment on the issues that the author has brought up in the blog post, encouraging online dialogue. Many blogs allow the ability to publish images, videos, and other files.
The first blogs started as online diaries or journals, as they could easily be used to write about events in date-order. More recently blogs have also been used by news organisations to provide editorials on news stories, by public figures who want to share their thoughts and ideas to a wide audience, and in a variety of other ways such as .
In terms of educational uses, you could use a blog for:
- Student reflections on learning activities or experiences. For instance, use of a blog is popular during placements.
- Feedback on writing. Students can post ideas in their blog for other students to read and comment upon.
- Reporting back from conferences or events. If you are at an event, you can use a blog to summarise key points and thoughts as both a reflection for yourself later, and a way of involving those not at the conference, who can discuss and comment on the issues raised.
- Lecturer exemplars. Some lecturers have demonstrated a reflective style of writing by keeping their own blog for students to see and comment on.
- Guest speakers. You can invite guest writers to write posts about their lives or employment to inform students.
In addition to popular free blog tools (e.g. http://www.blogger.com and http://www.wordpress.com), there is a blog feature you can use within Blackboard sites. Blackboard blogs are only available to users in the site (either individuals, groups, or the whole site depending on instructor-chosen settings) where the blog is set up, so it is good for private reflections or whole-class news feeds. However, it will not work if you want to have a dialogue with those outside of Blackboard. Using a blog hosted outside of the University allows this dialogue outside of Blackboard, either through comments from outside authors or through guest speakers writing entries on the blog. However, there are issues around privacy and account management to consider as the blog will require more work to set up and will be available to everyone.
Read more about blogs in the Educause Learning Initiative’s 7 things you should know about Blogs.