In the previous post, I talked about RSS and managing information online. Let’s take a step back and talk about what exactly we mean when we use the terms blog and blogging. So what is a blog and what makes it different from a journal or any other type of online writing? If you’re reading this, you’re reading a blog. I brainstormed a list of possible reasons why people would want to create a blog:
- communicate an idea
- talk about a personal interest
- gather support for a cause
- market an idea or concept
- connect to a network of like minded thinkers
- seek feedback on ideas
- share information about events in a school or community
- examine our own learning about this tool before we teach our own students and teachers
Will Richardson (2010) in his book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms gives this definition: “In its most general sense, a Weblog is an easily created, easily updateable Web site that allows an author (or authors) to publish instantly to the Internet from any Internet connection.” He goes on to say that, “they are comprised of reflections and conversations that in many cases are updated every day (if not three or four times a day.” (p. 17) “Blogs engage readers with ideas and questions and links. They ask readers to respond. They demand interaction.” (p. 18)
While this blog is an exploration of learning about Web 2.0, it is a sharing of ideas, resources and links that when part of the class learning network, contributes to the larger discussion on this topic. I am by no means an expert, but I am connected to the blogs of many who are experts and thus my learning is ongoing and richly populated by the discoveries and sharing of others.
In my exploration of Web 2.0 tools, I recommend the Common Craft videos for their easy to understand explanations. Here is their video explaining blogs:
Blogs are easy to sign up for. Two that predominate are Blogger and WordPress. I chose WordPress last summer when working on the course, Inquiry Learning, and have stuck with it. There are a lot of features to learn that make personalizing your blog manageable and they take time and perseverance. Uploading videos or images to my blog took a bit of work but the effort is worth it. When you read a blog that contains a variety of media, it’s more engaging and interesting. This is one of the challenges of maintaining a blog – keeping your readers interested. More about that in a minute. To learn about your blog platform, there are helpful resources at the site. Here is a screen shot from WordPress:
The Blogger home page offers similar features to WordPress but has a different format. I think whichever you choose will work well. This is a screen shot of Blogger from several years ago when I first started to explore online tools. You can see that it wasn’t used after I created an account.
Blogs, as I mention at the top of the post can be used by anyone for a variety of purposes. They keep the most recent additions or posts, at the top of the blog and make it easy with archiving to search earlier posts or “yesterdays news” as it’s called in the Common Craft video. They allow anyone to publish on anything, the latest news, etc. without “the constraints of the editorial process” as discussed by Elyssa Kroski (2008). Formal publishing is truly challenged with the doors wide open to amateur, citizen journalists with access to free web publishing . A question however, that comes to mind is how can we keep up with the flow and is it worth keeping up with? Please see the links in the post, “Drinking from the fire hose” for further discussion of ways to manage and sift using sites such as www.technorati.com and www.blogsearch.google.com
At this point, I’m not sure I would blog for personal reasons. I am interested in keeping up with bloggers I find interesting or entertaining and may post a comment from time to time but beyond that, I don’t see myself creating content. Knowing what I know now about the commitment you have to make to keep a blog interesting, engaging and up to date, I know that I don’t have that kind of time. Sharing professional learning, well, that’s another matter.
Mining the web, as my family is learning to do, using RSS to keep track of useful information, is how they are accessing bloggers. They are not yet blogging themselves but I can certainly see how easy they would find it. They are not fearful of this technology and sharing with people beyond their own personal network.
From a professional perspective:
Finding your blogging voice is key to becoming a successful blogger. You have to ask yourself, what is the purpose of my blog and who is my audience? Clearly, the bloggers that I follow (see post on RSS) know how to blog and for whom they are blogging. In Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (2010), Will Richardson talks about what it is that you need to consider when you post. As he tells us, “When I post to my Weblog, I anticipate the reader’s response as much as I can, but ultimately, my post is still a draft, a way to test my ideas and writing against an audience.” (p. 30) In the context of instruction in classrooms, blogging would give students, and does in countless examples, a real audience for whom they are writing. Of course, students heading off into the blogsphere would need to be scaffolded or supported with proper instruction in blogging, the do’s and don’ts, and how to be safe online.
So what separates blogging from just plain journaling? According to Will Richardson, real blogging is “links with analysis and synthesis that articulate a deeper understanding or relationship to the content being linked and written with potential audience response in mind.” Further, he adds, “extended analysis and synthesis over a longer period of time that builds on previous posts, links, and comments.” (p.31)
If we were to create a recipe with the ingredients for a successful blog, it might read something like this:
- a cup of your personality
- a dash of personal opinion
- a spoonful of participation
- a healthy does of meaningfulness
- and a serving of sustainability – keeping the blog up to date
To share in a PLC through a blog would require all the ingredients. Blogs are an easy way to share resources, ideas and build a database of learning. Posts become archived items that serve teachers’ professional learning. What a powerful way to share your thinking and comment on the thinking of others! With RSS feeds connecting bloggers together, whether students or teachers, the community becomes a vital and organic learning forum extending beyond the four walls of a school.
References: See post “Drinking from the fire hose”