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eLearning:

Driving Instructional Design


with Emerging Technologies
LINKING DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY TO ENHANCE
THE POTENTIAL OF ONLINE TRAINING

The Application of Blogs in Teaching and Learning

Presentation by James Matheson and Tony Whittingham

In this workshop you will:

a). Obtain information on the pedagogical application


of blogs (1) to enable you to identify areas for their
potential use in your own teaching and learning areas.

b). Develop an awareness of the skills required for


developing ‘classroom’ blogs (2).

c) Identify through discussion, the potential and


limitations of blogs (3) in a classroom.

1. How Are Blogs Used in Teaching and Learning.


In Stephen Downes article “Educational Blogging”(4)
he highlights the use of blogs by students as a
‘personal publishing tool’, however some teachers are
using blogs to organize class seminars and to record
the progress and contributions of students in
collaborative projects (5). Used in this way, the blogs
become “group/project blogs”—that is, individual
blogs authored by a group of people.

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Mireille Guay, a Canadian teacher notes: The
conversation possible on the weblog is also an
amazing tool to develop our community of learners.
The students get to know each other better by visiting
and reading blogs from other students. They discover,
in a non-threatening way, their similarities and
differences. The student who usually talks very loud
in the classroom and the student who is very timid
have the same writing space to voice their opinion. It
puts students in a situation of equity.”

2. Creating a Teacher’s Blog.


The two major options for teachers creating blogs are
either a WWW hosting service (e.g. Blog.com,
WordPress.org) or an application downloaded and
installed on their own or campus server (e.g.
MoveableType).

a) Hosting services (6). A hosting service is a Web site


that will give you access to everything you need in
order to create a blog. It will offer a form for you to
input your entries, some tools that allow you to create
a template for your blog, and access to some built-in
accessories. Your blog is hosted on the hosting
service (hence the name), and the URL will typically
reflect the hosting service’s URL. The best-known
(and one of the earliest) hosting service is Blogger
(http://www.blogger.com).

b) Installed Applications. A remotely installed


application is a piece of software (7) that you obtain
from the provider and install on your own Web site.
These systems are similar to Web-based applications
such as ColdFusion (8)or Hypermail (9) . Because of
this, the number of users is much lower, but those
who do use them tend (arguably) to be more
dedicated and more knowledgeable than those who

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use hosting services. Installed applications are also
more suitable for institutional use, since access can
be controlled.

3. Getting started - How are blogs being used in work


and education.

a) Blogs in the Workplace.


An example of a company blog (10) used to keep
customers and staff informed of the development of
new products and services.

b) Blog - Website Differences


An example of the increasing use by companies (11)
to use blogs to complement their static
brochure/commerce websites with dynamic blog
information. CLICK ON THE BLOG LINK IN THE
WEBSITE’S MENU.

c) How can blogs benefit teaching ?


Go to this excellent example of the use of a blog to
support teaching. (12)
Note the following:

3.1 THE TEACHER’S BLOG.

1. The ‘Archive’ enables access to all posts in the blog


and provides a view of the subject’s management.
2. Blog authoring is restricted to the teacher. In the
student blogs authoring is available to all
‘contributors’ i.e. students with a Blogger blog.
3. The teacher has added links to WWW resources in
the sidebar.
4. The teacher has added links to student blogs for
Discussion Groups and Projects.

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3.2 STUDENT DISCUSSION GROUPS AND PROJECTS
BLOGS.

1. Each member of the group has responded to an


email invitation to join the group from the blog’s
orginator. The students are registered in the blog as
contibutors with authoring privileges. Refer to the
‘Members’ option.
2. The contibutor’s name provides a link to a profile
which in turn can link to the student’s individual blog.
3. Note the posts and comments from all students in
the group.

4. Blogs and RSS Feeds

RSS (13)stands for Rich Site Summary or Real Simple


Syndication.
Blogs (and an ever-growing number of other sites)
generate a behind-the-scenes code in a language
similar to HTML (14) called XML (15).

This code, usually referred to as a “feed reader”(16)


makes it possible
for teachers to “subscribe” to the content that is
created on students’ blogs
so they no longer have to visit the blog itself to get it.
As is true with traditional syndication (17), the content
comes to you instead of you going to get it, hence
“Real Simple Syndication.”

Finding the time to click through students’ sites and


keep abreast of any changes on
a regular basis would be nearly impossible. But what
if you only had to go to

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one place to read all of the new content on all of those
sites? Wouldn’t be so
difficult, would it? Well, that’s exactly what RSS feeds
allows you to do by using
a type of software called an “aggregator”(18)or feed
collector. The aggregator
checks the students’ feeds that the teacher
subscribes to, usually every hour, and it collects all
the new content from those sites. Then, when the
teacher is ready,
she/he can open up your aggregator to read the
individual student blogs.

5. Teachers Using Blogs

In a recent TAFE workshop teachers identified the


following strengths of blogs for use in the Teaching
and learning:

1. Blogs are free and easy to create….maintenance


may be an issue.
2. Use of templates simplifies design.
3. Content can be entered from anywhere at anytime.
4. Content may be accessed from anywhere at
anytime.
5. Posts provide students with an opportunity to
practice writing skills .
6. ‘Old’ posts can be archived and can be retrieved
from a calendar.
7. A blog may have multiple authors.
8. Anyone can contribute comments about posts.
Comments may be moderated before they are
displayed.
9. Blog posts can be monitored using RSS feed
aggregators.

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10. Organisation of blog content can be achieved by
creating and assigning categories to posted content.
Specific content can then be retrieved by specifying a
category.
11. A blog environment for the Teaching and learning
may include a) Teacher blog, b) Student blog, c)
Project blog, d) Group blog.

The following diagram illustrates a classroom multi-


blog application:
STUDENT BLOG
* Progress
* Requests
* Reflections
* Resources links
* Observations
TEACHER BLOG * Portfolio of work (ePortfolio/Blogfolio)
* Class/subject/project schedule PROJECT BLOG
* Guidelines * Progress reports
* Updates * Problems
* Resources links * Issues
* Motivation messages * Solutions
* Notification of events * Roles
* etc. GROUP BLOG
Discussion forum for:
* Topics
* Issues
* Challenges
* Solutions
* Problems

6. World Wide Web References.

1. http://archive.nmc.org/projects/dkc/sts_4.shtml
2. http://educational.blogs.com/edbloggerpraxis/

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3. http://www.smh.com.au/news/livewire/reading-all-
about-it/2005/11/23/1132421675682.html
4.
http://www.educause.edu/pub/er/erm04/erm0450.asp?bhc
p=1
5. http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/?q=node/233
6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_hosting
7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software
8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coldfusion
9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypermail
10. http://autodesk.blogs.com/between_the_lines/
11. http://www.lincolnsign.com/
12. http://democracymatters.blogspot.com/
13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rss
14. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Html
15. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xml
16. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_Feed_Reader
17. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_Feed_Reader
18. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggregator