Blogs originated as a tool used to log chronological postings of personal commentary on the web, or a web log, and used almost like a journal or diary. In recent years, blogging has moved away from focusing on personal commentary to being focused on content-specific information postings or editorials that are widely accepted as mainstream publication for all types of information. At one time, some knowledge of HTML was necessary to be able to produce a quality blog. Now, through the use of newer publishing technology (many for free), blogging is as easy to use as email.
How to Use Blogging
The following are some of the ways this teaching approach is used to engage students:
- Reflecting about class content, discussions, current events, or reading assigned cases studies
- Exploring potential career choices through interacting with career focused blogs or through reflecting on their own career experiences in volunteer, workstudy and internships experiences
- Widely disseminating information by using RSS feeds which make blogs available through newsreaders
- Sharing private journal entries viewable only by login access for writing assignments to be graded by an instructor or for closed discussion only open to other participants in a course
- Creating opportunity for discussion that goes beyond course work to include experiences, culture, politics, etc.
- Creating and sharing personal expression through dialogue, used to meet course requirements, sometimes in the place of a discussion board
- Starting conversations and discussions in the traditional classroom instructors can post a course content blog entry before class then ask if anyone saw an interesting or insightful comment, or discuss any questions that were asked repeatedly.
- Providing an online forum for informal study groups where students can discuss ideas from class, share resources, and ask questions
- Requiring students to set up and regularly post entries to their own blog, focusing on content recently covered in the course
- Scaffolding for other course projects, allowing students to post draft segments that will eventually be turned in as a cohesive product or project
Impact on Learning
Using blogging in instruction can impact learning through:
- Providing a high level of autonomy
- Creating a sense of community through interaction with peers and broader community
- Students learn from each other as well as the instructor
- Often leads quickly to open discussions because it is easy to create and maintain
- Creates a person-centered discussion, as opposed to the topic-centered discussion of the learning management system
- Improves student scores when used in combination with labs to post results from experiments
- Students become more invested in their work
- Encourages higher levels of reasoning including analyzing, evaluating, and creating
Best practice for assessing student blogs would be to provide students with a rubric that clearly states the criteria used to evaluate their work. Often considered items include criteria such as thoughtful responses, good writing, original ideas, taking advantage of the technology (linking, video, audio) where appropriate, and, of course, posting the blogs on time.
Blogging in Canvas
In Canvas, instructors can set up Canvas Assignments to accept blog postings by the URL of the online assignment. Students can submit blog posts via URL and their work will essentially be captured in Canvas at the time they submitted it, allowing for easy enforcement of assignment deadlines. Instructors will see a preview of the student’s blog in the SpeedGrader view for that assignment and it can be graded without having to link out to the blog itself.
You can learn more about adding details to a Canvas Assignment from the Canvas Community at https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-2637 and about using SpeedGrader at https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-2928.
Sites at Penn State provides free blogging services to all members of the University community.
Other popular free blogging services include:
- Blogger: Google’s free blog hosting site
- Edublogs: The largest education blogging platform on the web
- Tumblr: A microblogging platform and social networking website owned by Yahoo!
- Edmodo: Good for making password protected groups of blogs
Many web 2.0 tools such as podcasts, videos, MP3 files, and other widgets can be embedded into blog posts.
Things to Consider
For successful implementation of blogging, you should consider the following strategies:
- Talk to students about what they think makes for a good blog post, both at the start of the semester and after they have been writing posts for a few weeks. Be sure to provide feedback early on while students are getting used to blogging. This does not need to be an actual grade.
- Display posts on the projector during class, and refer to posts as you cover course content. If you are teaching an online course, include the snippets of posts in your lecture review or wrapup, especially if you notice common themes in your students’ posts or comments.
- Encourage students to be creative and include video or music or other media that relates to the topic in their blog posts. If you are teaching a traditional course, play select clips in class.
- Highlight particularly good blogs in class and/or on the class blog, announcements, or discussion.
“7 Things You Should Know About Blogs.” Educause Learning Initiative (2005). https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7006.pdf
“Blogs and Discussion Boards.” Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University. http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guidessubpages/blogs/
McClurken, Jeff and Julie Meloni “‘How are you going to grade this?’: Evaluating Classroom Blogs.” ProfHacker, The Chronicle of Higher Education. Last modified on June 21, 2010. http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/howareyougoingto-gradethisevaluatingclassroomblogs/24935
Orlando, John. “Blogging to Improve Student Learning: Tips and Tools for Getting Started.” Faculty Focus. Last modified on June 7, 2010. http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/blogging-to-improve-student-learning-tips-and-tools-for-getting-started/