Samples, tips, and ideas for using blogs in the classroom.
Microblogging or blogging using shorter, and usually more frequently posts, is the newest evolution of the process. Twitter is probably the most well-known microblogging platform with Tumblr rising in popularity. Microblogs are also used for promotion and to promote collaboration within organizations. Sites can be hosted for free at the platform or users wanting their own address can use paid hosting, such as Go Daddy, to purchase a domain name.
The term blog is derived from the combination of web and log to refer to these electronic logging sites that became popular in the 1990s. Typically easy to access, many of the sites are available for free, and they allow users to post reverse chronologically ordered entries using their choice of available templates. Since blogging began, these sites have continued to grow in number creating a dynamic web-sharing environment that puts publishing in the hands of the user.
Choosing a Host
The first step to creating a blog is to choose a platform to host the blog. Two of the most popular sites are Blogger and Word Press. Both sites are free, though Word Press is also available with greater functionality and hosting at a cost. Edublog is an offshoot of Wordpress and is actually geared towards the classroom. As a result, a teacher can host the class blog and then create unlimited student blogs. Students can then design and maintain their own blogs, all under the auspices of the class blog. This makes for remarkable ease in grading student blogs. While there is a free option to create an Edublog, it's limited. Going pro allows for more maneuverability and greater options for the teacher. Click here for a look at the class blog I created for my British Literature students.
All of the sites are easy to join, and will ask the same basic information: create a username, submit your e-mail address, and add a password.
Your site can be private or public, allowing you to decide whether only you or a chosen few can see your posts. You can also decide if your blog will be open to the general public. Even if you have an open blog, you have the ability to limit comment capabilities or prohibit them altogether.
Recently, Tumblr and Instagram have gained in popularity and offer users a photo-based blogging experience. Use of Instagram requires that an app be downloaded and used with compatible phone camera equipment to create photos that can be filtered to give them a more artistic feel before being uploaded.
Microblog Tumblr offers easy uploading for a variety of media including music, photos, and art. All sites offer users the ability to include keywords in their postings, which can increase search engine ratings if you’re interested in attracting readers to your sites. Because of this public nature of both Tumblr and Instagram, students can learn the difference between public and private writing. This would also be a good way to connect students to professionals in the fields they're thinking of pursuing.
See Tawny LeBouef Tullia's Tech Talk on Tumblr
Sample Blog Assignment
Blogging can be an excellent pedagogical tool in the classroom. Not only does the student work on such tangible skills as writing, design, and visual and auditory rhetoric, the student learns the relevance of writing. The student can also learn the public nature of writing and the reality that writing is a form of communication. Through blogs and visitors' comments on blog posts, the student engages in a dialogue with her/his audience.
Below is a Research Blog assignment that I've assigned to my first year composition students.
Photo: TWU Flickr