Blogging for education

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Introduction

Description- Blogs (journal web sites designed to be updated regularly) can compliment and enhance existing courses activities and assignments. In this one hour workshop, we will demonstrate basic features of the SFU blogging software, show some innovative examples of college and university course blogs, and discuss principles for designing blog-based learning activities. Participants are asked to bring their own laptops (if possible) to the session. 

Learning Outcomes

Participants will be able to:

  • Describe a blog and its basic components
  • Request and set up a blog at SFU
  • Make a blog post
  • Assess how and why they might use a blog to help students learn in a specific course
  • Brainstorm ideas for a blog-based learning activity in a course
  • Use an RSS reader to monitor a course blog.
  • Distinguish between blogs, vlogs, and podcasts


Basics

From getting started to best practices

What is a blog?

A blog (a portmanteau of the term "web log")<ref>Weblogs: A History And Perspective, Rebecca Blood, September 7, 2000.</ref> is a type of website or part of a website. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. "Blog" can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog. <ref name="Wikipedia">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog</ref>

Anatomy of a Blog

Posts - The main type of content, a post is essentially a single web page that can be categorized and is time stamped with the publication date. Blog posts are typically sorted in reverse chronological order, displaying the most recent posts first.

Pages - Similare to a post in everyway, except for the removal of the time stamp. Pages are used in the same way as a traditional website where the content remains static and needs to be easily located at all times.

Comments - One of the key features of a blog is the ability for users to add their own feedback and thoughts publicly on individual posts.

Categories - All posts and pages can be categorized. THe blog categories are highly visible on the blog and assist users sorting through the different themes that the blog may be covering. There typically very few categories and are of a high or general level.

Tags - Similar in every way to categories except the frequency and variety of tags can be much higher.

Dashboard - Wordpress uses the analogy of the the "dashboard" to describe the admin area of a blog where content can be added, rearranged and the design can be modified.

WYSIWYG editor -"What You See Is What You Get" - The interface found when editing a post or a page. Allows for basic formatting options (bold, images, links etc.)

Recent Changes - an overview of all activity on the blog.


Website, Blog or Wiki?

Traditional websites use "folder within folder" design - Navigation often matches file

A blog displays "post" in reverse chronological order, but can be grouped by categories or tags

wikis are "flat". There is no inherent structure, each page is a 2nd level page, hub & spoke design.

Blogs at SFU

Where to find more information?
General information about Blogs at SFU is available at blogs.sfu.ca. SFU Blogs are run off of the Wordpress platform.


How to request a blog?
Instructors or researchers who wish to use the Blog service should email blogs@sfu.ca, with the class section(s) of students, and any instructors, TAs, etc. that should have access to the Blog.

Editing

Each article in most cases can be edited by all members of the wiki, but how do you create new articles?

The help page that answers this question is called How to create a new page in the wiki

There are two basic steps:

Search first - necessary in more public or heavily used sites

Make an internal link on an existing page with the Rich editor, or using wiki text title

  • It is some what a backwards at first, but in wiki you create THE LINK to the page before you create the page itself.


Using blogs in the classroom

Preparing yourself and your students for online collaborative activities


What types of class activities are wikis best suited for? 
 

In general...

  • Course Website - Provide resources, Syllabi, handouts
  • Collaborative writing /Group authoring - Show ongoing progress of work
  • Brainstorming - Outlines, Presentations, Projects
  • Mindmapping - For conceptual exploration, or website design (low fidelity site maps)
  • Building a knowledge repository - Course "text book", Taxonomies, A collection of resources
  • Building community, accountability and social responsibility - Participants need to take an active part in the management and evolution of the site.


(get some more specific ideas here)


In a ‘socially mobile learning environment’, it is no longer sufficient to use online learning and teaching technologies simply for the delivery of content to students. A ‘digital literacy’ exists where flexible and mobile technologies must be explored for collaborative and (co)creative purposes, as well as for the critical assessment and evaluation of information.<ref>Duffy, Peter D. and Bruns, Axel (2006) The Use of Blogs, Wikis and RSS in Education: A Conversation of Possibilities. In: Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006, 26 Sep. 2006, Brisbane. http://eprints.qut.edu.au/5398/</ref> From Duffy and Bruns  2006 (summarized above)
Students can use a wiki to develop research projects, with the wiki serving as ongoing documentation of their work.
Students can add summaries of their thoughts from the prescribed readings, building a collaborativeannotated bibliography on a wiki
A wiki can be used for publishing course resources'like syllabi and handouts, and stu- dents can edit and comment on these directly for all to see.
Teachers can use wikis as a knowledge base, enabling them to share reflections and thoughts regarding teaching practices, and allowing for versioning and documentation.
Wikis can be used to map concepts. They are useful for brainstorming, and editing a given wiki topic can produce a linked network of resources.
A wiki can be used as a presentation tool in place of conventional software, and students are able to directly comment on and revise the presentation content.
Wikis are tools for group authoring. Often group members collaborate on a document by emailing to each member of the group a file that each person edits on their computer, and some attempt is then made to coordinate the edits so that everyone’s work is equally rep- resented; using a wiki pulls the group members together and enables them to build and edit the document on a single, central wiki page.

Assignments and activities

Choosing blog assignments that work for your course

When first starting out it is often difficult to decide where and how a blog may come into play and benefit the student overall learning experience. Some question you may begin asking yourself are:


Educational examples

Example 1 - 

Example 2 -

Example 3 - 

Example 4 -

Example 5 -



Links

An ongoing collection of links both internal and external to SFU about using blogs in education

Other SFU  Blogs


External Blogs


Blog-related Links



References


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