MUniversity of Minnesota

August 31, 2004

Educational Blogging

Stephen Downes, a Senior Researcher with the E-Learning Research Group, National Research Council Canada, Moncton, New Brunswick, has written a wonderful article called "Educational Blogging" for the September/October 2004 issue of EDUCAUSE Review. The article discusses blogging in general and it lists examples of how educators are making use of this new medium in the classroom. One of the highpoints of the article is a discussion of Henry Farrell's (of Crooked Timber) five major uses for blogs in education:

First, teachers use blogs to replace the standard class Web page. Instructors post class times and rules, assignment notifications, suggested readings, and exercises. Aside from the ordering of material by date, students would find nothing unusual in this use of the blog. The instructor, however, finds that the use of blogging software makes this previously odious chore much simpler.

Second, and often accompanying the first, instructors begin to link to Internet items that relate to their course. Mesa Community College’s Rick Effland, for example, maintains a blog to pass along links and comments about topics in archaeology. Though Mesa’s archaeology Web pages have been around since 1995, blogging allows Effland to write what are in essence short essays directed specifically toward his students. Effland’s entries are not mere annotations of interesting links. They effectively model his approach and interest in archaeology for his students.

Third, blogs are used to organize in-class discussions. At the State University of New York at Buffalo, for example, Alexander Halavais added a blog to his media law class of about 180 students. Course credit was awarded for online discussion, with topics ranging from the First Amendment to libel to Irish law reform. As the course wound down with a discussion of nude bikers, Halavais questioned whether he would continue the blog the following year because of the workload, but students were enthusiastic in their comments ...

Fourth, some instructors are using blogs to organize class seminars and to provide summaries of readings. Used in this way, the blogs become 'group blogs'—that is, individual blogs authored by a group of people. Farrell notes: 'It becomes much easier for the professor and students to access the readings for a particular week—and if you make sure that people are organized about how they do it, the summaries will effectively file themselves.'

Finally, fifth, students may be asked to write their own blogs as part of their course grade. Educational Technologist Lane Dunlop wrote about one class at Cornell College: 'Each day the students read a chunk of a book and post two paragraphs of their thoughts on the reading.' In another class, French 304, students were given a similar exercise. Using a French-language blogging service called Monblogue, Molly, a business student, posted a few paragraphs every day.

Check out the whole article if you are interested.

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