blogging and education


image by stylespion 

Here is a list of interesting quotes about blogging, which I compiled a few years ago and I re-discovered on a dead class blog, which I am going to delete now. While, of course these bit of information are not exactly hot news to most  of my discerning readers, they may be still useful for somebody who is new to blogging, or using blogs in an educational context. So I am posting them here.  Sorry, I have not got the time to directly link to surces right now, but the references are given at the end.

What is a weblog?
„Weblogs, or blogs as they are affectionately termed, are frequently updated websites, usually personal, with commentary and links. Link lists are as old as home pages, but a blog is far from a static link list or home page. A blog consists of many relatively short posts, usually time-stamped, and organised in reverse chronology so that a reader will always see the most recent post first. The first weblogs were seen as filters to the Internet; interesting links to sites the reader might not have seen, often with commentary from the blogger.“ (Mortensen/Walker 2002)

„A weblogger filters a mass of information, choosing the items that interest her or that are relevant to her chosen topic, commenting upon them, demonstrating connections between them and analysing them.“
(Mortensen/Walker 2002)

“Weblogs combine two oppositional principles: monologue and dialogue. A reaction to a statement is not only directed to the sender but also to unknown readers. Very often the weblogger gets feedback from unexpected sources: new relations and contexts emerge. This (assumed) undirected communication develops to an open and involving activity.” “Weblogs not only enable interaction with other webloggers, they offer a way to engage in a discursive exchange with the author’s self (intrapersonal conversation). A weblog becomes an active partner in communication, because it demands consistent criteria for what will be posted to a weblog (and how). This “indirect monologic dialog” of weblogs allows us to conduct communicative acts that otherwise would only be possible in very particular circumstances.” (Marcus O’Donnell 2005)

“Blogging is about, first, reading. But more important, it is about reading what is of interest to you: your culture, your community, your ideas. And it is about engaging with the content and with the authors of what you have read—reflecting, criticizing, questioning, reacting. If a student has nothing to blog about, it is not because he or she has nothing to write about or has a boring life. It is because the student has not yet stretched out to the larger world, has not yet learned to meaningfully engage in a community. For blogging in education to be a success, this first must be embraced and encouraged.” (Stephen Downes 2004)

“The tangible work of research in the humanities is reading, thinking and writing. In blogs these collapse into one movement. Blogs assume linking and reading and are the written trace of these activities. A blogis a trail, a visible trace of the process of research. (Mortenson/Walker 2002)

Academic Weblogs
Game researchers Mortensen/Walker write: „ A lot of our research is done online.
(…) The weblogs were originally used as a way to keep our focus while online, serving as constant little reminders of the real topics we were supposed to write about. They soon developed beyond being digital ethnographers’ journals and into a hybrid between journal, academic publishing, storage space for links and site for academic discourse.“ (Mortensen/Walker 2002)

“Weblogs are written continuously and published without being revised.

This instant publication encourages spontaneous writing rather than carefully thought out arguments. Being allowed to write spontaneously releases us of the expectation that our writing must be perfect and polished. While most weblogs are personal and informal in their purpose, academics writing in this genre also use a much more informal writing style than they tend to in articles written for publication.”

“From a junior scholar’s point of view, blogging can be an excellent method for developing and sustaining a confident and clear voice of one’s own and the ability to
formulate and stand by opinions.”
(Mortenson/Walker 2002)

„The reason, simply, is that in order to develop and sustain a clear and confident voice of one’s own, one has to carefully formulate and stand by one’s opinions. Writing a blog assists here because it forces a student to confront their own opinions and contemplate how their views might be interpreted and reflected upon by others“ (Williams/Jacobs 2004)

“Blogs are chronologically ordered, rather than ordered according to the logic of an argument or the persuasive patterns of rhetoric. Their order is determined by the time of thinking. In contrast to the logical and topical organisation usual in academic writing and note-taking, blogs are chronologically ordered.” (Mortenson/Walker 2002)

Critical Thinking
As Richardson says, blogging as a genre of writing may have “great value in
terms of developing all sorts of critical thinking skills, writing skills and information literacy among other things. We teach exposition and research and some other types of analytical writing already, I know. Blogging, however, offers students a chance to a) reflect on what they are writing and thinking as they write and think it, b) carry on writing about a topic over a sustained period of time, maybe a lifetime, and c) engage readers and audience in a sustained conversation that then leads to further writing and thinking.” (Stephen Downes 2004)

Learning Progression
There are four hurdles to pass to move from willing volunteer to competent blogger: learning the technology environment, developing an initial view of blogging, plugging into the conversation, and developing a voice. These are not so much discrete phases as they are parallel tracks that can be managed. (Marcus O’Donnell 2005)

Lifelong Learning
“From time to time, we read about the potential of online learning to bring
learning into life, to engender workplace learning or lifelong learning. When Jay Cross and others say that 90 percent of our learning is informal, this is the sort of thing they mean: that the lessons we might expect to find in the classroom work their way, through alternative means, into our day-to-day activities. Blogging can and should reverse this flow. The process of reading online, engaging a community, and reflecting it online is a process of bringing life into learning.

As Richardson comments, “This [the blogging process] just seems to me to be closer to the way we learn outside of school, and I don’t see those things happening anywhere in traditional education.” And he asks: “Could blogging be the needle that sews together what is now a lot of learning in isolation with no real connection among the disciplines? I mean ultimately, aren’t we trying to teach our kids how to learn, and isn’t that [what] blogging is all about?” (Stephen Downes 2004)

Transforming Learning Experience
But here’s the thing…the fact that I am “clickable” or find-able to this extent gives me tremendous opportunities to connect to other people, many of whom may have much to teach me. I am truly humbled by the powerful learning that I have done within the network of people that I’ve become a part of, and it would not have happened had I not had a way to engage in these conversations. I’ve said this many times…blogging has transformed my learning. Our students who are not “clickable,” whose content is not being shared and distributed using the tools of the Read/Write Web, who are not engaging in potentially global conversations about the ideas and topics in which they take an interest, who are not learning how to build their own networks of trusted sources and teachers are, I think, missing a huge opportunity. Without question, I come to this because of what has transpired in my own life, and I recognize full well that what’s happened to me in this blog will not happen to everyone who decides to participate. But not taking part, not sharing in this way leaves little opportunity to find the deeply personal learning experiences that have transformed so many of us in this community, regardless of where their names land on a Google search.
Which is why, more and more, I think that educators have to understand and use these tools. As teachers, I don’t think it’s enough to simply repackage old stuff and “publish” it in a new way. Unless we experience the learning that comes with being a part of the network, unless we are willing to take the time to embrace and use these technologies in our own practice, I’m not sure we can adequately teach our students how to leverage these tools for their own learning.
Will Richardson

Active Knowledge Construction, Incremental Improvement und Self-directed learning
“The continuous use of weblogs as online learning logs enhances the effectiveness of learning, by increasing student’s on-going involvement in knowledge construction and sense-making, by providing opportunities for students to interact and share learning experiences, and by making students individually accountable for their learning. “
(Wagner, Du 2005)

“The research of Ferdig & Trammel (2004), drawing on educational theories of Vygotski (1978), is also significant in assessing the educational value of blogs. They argue that the discursive nature of knowledge construction is best addressed by the immediacy and commentary based system of blogging. They observe that there will be a natural tendency for reflection and analysis on the part of the student, given feedback systems are integral to the blogging interface, but also note that the contextualisation of learning through hypertext links to other materials encourages revisiting and revising of learned concepts, enriching the learning experience.

Compared to asynchronous discussion forums such as newsgroups and bulletin boards, Ferdig & Trammel (2004) contend that blogs are more successful in promoting interactivity that is conversational; a mode of interaction more conducive to improved student and teacher relationships, active learning, higher order thinking, and greater flexibility in teaching and learning more generally. “(Williams/Jacobs 2004)

“Weblogs are densely interlinked. This anchors blogs in the public arena, as part of a communal discourse. Posts to a blog can be very short and unpretentious. The threshold for publishing a single post is very low. This allows single, small, insignificant ideas to be expressed and formulated. Sometimes these thoughts are left as they are. A paragraph is enough and there is no more needed. Other times, the ideas grow. Someone links their site to the first post, comments on it, and a
conversation grows forth. The initial post, or follow-ups, are linked to a web site or a newspaper article or something else. Links are like roots, tendrils, reaching out between fragments, creating a context for bits and pieces that at first glance may seem to be unconnected fragments.”
(Mortensen & Walker 2002)

„Blogging accelerates inquiry by linking us to a wide range of resources and thus the greater conversation within our discipline as apprentices and experts, and it provides a place for the class to engage in discussion, in reflection and in learning construction outside of class. Class never ends. Learning spills into the hallway, out the door and across the campus often in a much more leisurely, thoughtful way than it has in the past.

Hyperlinking allows a student to connect statements made three weeks ago to things she’s thinking today, bringing to light the development of ideas, of skills, of practices, and grounding them in the rest of her life. Hyperlinking allows associative, non-linear ways of organizing ideas, helping students make new connections. The mix of media invites in multiple literacies–all of which can be explored, examined, compared, and connected around the clock. Students can see their own points of reference and how they intersect with those of their classmates and teacher. I know of no other way to make the learning outcomes this rich, this real, this lasting“ (Ganley 2006)

“Almost all of them download music from peer to peernetworks, circumventing the music industry, and studies have shown that most young people don’t think there’s anything wrong in that, despite the threats of the music industry. What if it is the same ethics that is at the root of the increasing problems with plagiarism? Like the music industry, with their clumsy attempts at locking the system by imposing technical and legal limitations on copying music, we teachers have generally attempted to fix the problem by increasing punishments, setting up technical barriers (like and insisting on students using traditional citation techniques to cite web sources. While I certainly don’t condone plagiarism, it does seem to me that we might also explore the possibility that there might be some merit in a promiscuous sharing of content.” (Walker)

“One advantage of using weblogs is that they come with a built in code of conduct that has grown from this very collaborative spirit. You read a lot when you blog, and you use other peoples’ words all the time, and instead of writing out a citation in a form that many students find very complex, you link to the website where you found the words. This is a writing environment that can help students learn how to connect to the ideas of others while being explicit about the connections they are making. At the same time, it is important to help blogging students to understand that while the links they are making in their weblogs constitute a good citation practice in this genre, in other genres, such as the conventional term paper, the explicit connections must be made in other ways, not by linking, but by using conventional citation techniques.” (Mortenson/Walker 2002)

“One defining characteristic of academic writing is the rigorous and formal citation practice. On the surface, weblogs seem like popular rather than academic non-fiction in that references are random and range from linking through written descriptions to casual mentions of sources. They however frequently refer as explicitly as do academic texts, though more simply by linking to a book’s page at Amazon or to the web page referred to. Weblogs are written in order to share experiences rather than just display them, and for that the readers need to be able to find the books, music or web sites mentioned. Where academic writing is structured by the rules of the causal argument, a weblog is structured by time and the impulses of the day, documenting rather than structuring the trail of thought.” (Mortenson/Walker 2002)

There’s no doubt that my own reading skills and habits have changed drastically since I started consuming so much more online content. And the biggest difference is that I am more of an active reader online than when reading in print. And for me, the biggest reason my reading has changed is because of blogging. I now read with an intent to write, and my writing (or blogging) is an attempt to synthesize and connect ideas, not simply summarize or paraphrase what I’ve been reading (if I even get to that.) I have many memories when I was teaching my Honors Expository Comp kids of their frustrations not with the writing…they all could do that pretty well…but the reading and the connecting. They found it so hard to take information from disparate sources and connect them some way into a coherent few paragraphs. And I would argue it was because, like so many other things we ask them to do in school, it was a contrived exercise. Pick a topic (abortion) create a thesis (keep it legal), find support, blah, blah, blah.
In this bloggy world, however, if you’re reading and writing regularly about something that you are truly passionate about, that synthesis becomes almost second nature. You are always making connections and writing your own narrative,
Will Richardson

Collaborative Learning
Watching my students write tutorials for each other – or walkthroughs, if you
like – it occurred to me that this is a kind of learning that embraces the collaborative possibilities of the internet. Instead of struggling to understand the details and rigors of traditional academic citation practices, or copying and pasting with blind abandon, or worse, buying their papers, these students were sharing freely and generously. They were creating content and learning the pleasures of a gift economy where writing a careful tutorial that is useful for others earns you goodwill, recognition and a good chance of others returning the favor. (Walker)

“Writing in a weblog one is forced to confront one’s own writing and opinions and to
see them reflected in the words of others. The discussions are much more open and also more permanent than discussions in a seminar room or at a conference. A blog is a permanent archive (as long as the writer preserves the archives and the server remains online) and it is searchable. What you write in your blog can be quoted and discussed in any forum.” (Mortenson/Walker 2002)

“Weblogs link to external sources as well as to other weblogs. Extensive discussions take place between blogs, with links referring to previous comments in the conversation. These dialogues, or perhaps better, polylogues, can seem complicated in that the structure is associative and idiosyncratic rather than hierarchical and externally ordered, and yet the constant links between the blogs make the discussion easy to follow – and more interestingly, easy to continue.

A post in a blog will often form a chain of thought with other posts and other fragments, but can stand alone as well.
(Mortenson/Walker 2002)

The social network of blogging
“Weblogs tend to come together in clusters as they link to each other. A reader of your site may link to you; you see the link in your referral stats and start reading their blog. You find it interesting, and link back to it. The readers of your blog, some of who keep their own blogs, start reading the other blog, and some of them also link to it. And so it continues. Our weblogs belong to such a loose cluster, as before mentioned, ‘the Scandinavian flavoured cluster’. In part the cluster has grown forth as described here, through gradual linking. It has also developed through personal and professional contacts; many of us knew each other from conferences before starting to write weblogs.”
(Mortenson/Walker 2002)

Assessment and self-assessment
„The results of our study confirmed our hypotheses, and indicated that a web based learning log can be a predictor of learning performance, and possibly a better predictor than traditional coursework measures.“
„Weblogs are public, and hence all course participants can benchmark their work against that of others. It is noteworthy that instructor and student judgment of weblogs was highly consistent. After the first week, student teams were asked to rank the top 5 weblogs. Their assessment for the best weblog was the same as the instructors, and further, the six weblogs that received the most student votes were also the six weblogs rated highest by the instructor (although rankings were slightly different). (Wagner/Du 2005)

Good Practice
Here are some of my experiences with what works with students and what doesn’t:

  • concrete tasks, in classroom
  • set up tasks where students have to link to each other
  • insist on feedback to other students
  • teacher must model good blogging: link good or interesting posts from main course weblog
  • encourage feedback and editing of posts
  • set tasks that require reading and linking to other weblogs.
  • Ethical issues do need to be thought through – what happens if we make students participate in the public sphere? What are the consquences to them and what are our responsibilities to other people they might (no, will) offend? Probably we should insist students blog pseudonymously. (Walker.

“weblogs have the intrinsic potential to revolutionise the organisational structure of traditional education.”
Peter Baumgartner, et al (2004)

Personal Learning Environment
“Firstly – as can be seen from the last diagram –, weblogs are the only tools, which are mainly oriented to the subjective world of the learner. This means they are not an obvious contradiction to the objective (the teacher) and social environment (the teaching organisation). In this respect weblogs are a kind of partisan software: They can be introduced step by step into a traditional teaching organisation without provoking an immediate clash of cultures. (Imagine by contrast the introduction of a Wiki as the official working system for a special field of studies and you know what we mean. There will be immediate protest by the central computer service department, which rightly fears all kind of security risks.)
Secondly, there is another special feature of weblogs other tools do not possess. Weblogs have the inherent tendency to cross the boundaries of the teaching environment as they organise the discussion across a network of linked websites. In contrast all the other tools we mentioned are confined to one centralised server, which is owned by one organisation.
Peter Baumgartner, et al (2004)


Downes, Stephen (2004) Educational Blogging. Educause September/October 2004

Baumgartner, P., I. Bergner und L. Pullich (2004). Weblogs in Education – A Means for Organisational Change. In: Multimedia Applications in Education Conference (MApEC) Proceedings 2004. L. Zimmermann. Graz : 155-166.

Bartlett-Bragg A. (2006) Reflections on pedagogy: Understanding adult learners’ experiences of weblogs, BlogTalk Reloaded, 2006
Watch her talk at google video: „Reflections on pedagogy: Understanding adult learners“

Du Helen S / Christian Wagner (2005) Learning with Weblogs: An Empirical Investigation Department of Information Systems. City University of Hong Kong

Ganley, Barbara (Aug.6 2006) Creativity and Community in a Web 2.0 Classroom – Not As Easy As It Sounds?

Stuart Glogoff (2005) Instructional Blogging:Promoting Interactivity, Student-Centered Learning, and Peer Input innovate (journal of online education), Volume 1, Issue 5, Juni/Juli 2005

O’Donnell, Marcus (12.5.2005) Blogging as pedagogic practice: artefact and ecology

Richardson, Will: Weblogg-ed: the read/write web in the classroom

Walker, Jill (2005) Weblogs: Learning in Public. Dept of Humanistic Informatics, University of Bergen, Norway. Published in On the Horizon, Vol 13, Issue 2, 2005. Pages 112-118.

Click to access Weblogs-learninginpublic.pdf

Walker, Jill / Mortensen, Torill (2002) Blogging Thoughts: Personal Publication as an Online Research Tool. With Torill Mortensen. In Researching ICTs in Context, ed. Andrew Morrison, InterMedia Report, 3/2002, Oslo 2002

Williams, Jeremy B / Joanne Jacobs (2004) Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 2004, 20(2), 232-247. AJET 20 Queensland University of Technology

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