Past, Present and Future

Past

In the past, travel blogs were the most popular form of blogs found on the Internet (Magnini, 2012; Banyai & Glover, 2012).  Maintaining a travel blog continues to be a popular method of recording and sharing experiences about places and people. For example, travelers may want to record where they have been, where they are going, and share notes on their experiences. The article by Ekdale et al (2010) discusses the rise of blogging at the terrorism events of September 11th, 2001, due to the growing demand for news and reviews of events as they are unfolding made possible largely through access to mobile technologies. Blogs have been used for well over a decade as a tool to support learning.

Present

Currently, there have been significant advances in using blogs for educational purposes (Meinecke, 2013). Blogs are currently being used by students of all ages and backgrounds. Some students use blogs to share ideas, while other students may use blogs to reflect upon ideas that they may be researching. Teachers may use blogs to organize and focus information to present to students.

Future

In the future, blogs will continue to be used where there is a need for reflection or to provide access to “real time” or current information (Banyai, 2012; Ekdale, Namkoong &  Perlmutter, 2010).  Blogs will also be used to promote and market products and services, regardless of industry (Magnini, Crotts, & Zahrer, 2012).  There will probably be many new ways that blogs could be used in the future, especially where there is a need to share and present information to a wide audience.

References:

Banyai, M. and Glover, T. (2012).  Evaluating Research Methods on Travel Blogs. Journal of Travel Research. 51(1), 267-277 doi: 10.1177/0047287511410323

Meinecke, A., Smith, K., and Lehmann-Willenbrock, N. (2013). Developing Students As Global Learners: ”Groups in Our World” Blog. Small Group Research. 44(2), 428-245. doi: 10.1177/1046496413487020

Magnini, V., Kara, D., Crotts, J. and Zehrer, A. (2012).  Culture and service-related positive disconfirmations: An application of travel blog analysis. Journal of Vacation Marketing. 18(1), 251- 257.  doi: 10.1177/1356766712449371

Ekdale, B., Namkoong, K., Fung T. and Perlmutter, D. (2010). Why blog? (then and now): exploring the motivations for blogging by popular American political bloggers. New Media Society, 12(1), 217-234. doi: 10.1177/1461444809341440

– James Cantafio

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Advantages and Disadvantages

As an easy tool for instructors to use and often being able to be used for free, blogs can be an option to be utilized as a teaching tool. It is valuable to understand the advantages and disadvantages in using blogs to decide if it may be an appropriate tool for your teaching situation.

Advantages

There are many advantages for using blogs within education:

Accessibility – This is usually the biggest advantage reported by students. Students are able to access the blog at any time or any place. Blogs can be easily accessed through most any devices, including smartphones and tablets. Allowing students the freedom to discuss questions or post comments at any time throughout the course is beneficial. Students are able to potentially be more involved in the discussions because of the accessibility of blogs.

Collaboration – Blogs enable students to work collaboratively, being able to communicate with the instructor or other students in the class. Students can reflect on other students’ comments and respond with their own input. Collaboration enables students to be exposed to different views from other students, thinking of items that they may not have thought of themselves. Discussing topics collaboratively brings about different opinions or thoughts resulting in a thought provoking discussion. For a class such as mathematics, collaboration allows students to be able to correct each other’s mistakes. Students can learn the proper way to solve problems without having to struggle trying to figure them out on their own.

Ease of Use – Blogs are easy to use and familiar to most users. Most users may already be experienced in using the tool. Students would likely require little instruction prior to using blogs. In having students use a tool that they do not need extensive training to use, students may be more eager and receptive to use the technology.

Engaging/Enjoyable – Blogs could engage students to better learn the material. Students are more apt to engage in course work if they find the learning enjoyable. In using a technology that student may find enjoyable, students could learn without actually realizing it.

Encouragement – Blogs can allow students to discuss topics while offering encouragement to the other students. This can be especially true within a course such as mathematics or science. Students can work together on the problems, providing encouragement to each other.

Develop skills – Students are able to build upon their writing skills by getting in the habit of writing. Research and digital skills are also developed through the use of blogs. These skills will help students with their future educational endeavors.

Disadvantages

Although there are number advantages to using blogs within the classroom, there are in fact a few disadvantages to consider.

Public potentially able to see your blog – It is a concern that your blog could potentially be seen publicly. Although in most cases this can be overcome by the features of the blog. Most blogs, including WordPress which we are using, have settings to limit who can and cannot see the blog. Instructors would need to be aware of these settings and ensure the proper privacy configurations are in place. Often students are minors so it is imperative that no personal information or posts are shared outside the class.

Time consuming – Although it is easy to setup a blog, it can be often time consuming to keep up to date. Instructors must keep posting intriguing information in order to keep the student’s interested. To monitor the conversations and add information when needed takes effort. Since students would likely be blogging after school hours, it is a time commitment to instructors to be available after hours.

Students competing for conversation – Students can sometimes compete with each other for posting entries. This will not provide valuable discussion within the blog. Students can divert from the subject causing the discussion to go off topic.

Computer/device requirement– It may not be feasible for all students to have access to a computer device. Although this may be less of an issue because of computers being commonly owned, it still should be a consideration and possible a disadvantage.

References:

Hossain, M. M., & Quinn, R. J. (2012).  Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Blogging Activity in a College Euclidean Geometry Course. International Journal of Computer Technology and Electronics Engineering, 2(6), 1-8.
-Pam Perry

Accessing Blogs

Blogs are easily accessed from any web browser.  There are many different platforms to create blogs.  WordPress, Wix and Weebly are just a few examples of free blogging platforms to easily create a blog for teaching and learning.  Students and teachers are able to access the blog by going to the blog webpage.  It is possible to limit who can see the blog through settings (ie: only students in the class) or it can be visible to everyone.

I will focus on WordPress to explain in greater detail how students are able to access the blog and the simple steps for teachers in creating a blog.

The general steps to creating a blog in any platform is described (shown as underlined) with a specific example to illustrate the task in WordPress.

How Students Access the Blog

Students can access the blog through any web browser.

The blog is easily accessible to students by going to https://mdde610.wordpress.com in any web browser. Students are able leave comments to the posts by entering their comment in the “Leave a Reply” area:

comment

How Can Students Post Content

Students are able to post content in the blog by going to the page they would like to post content and choosing the icon the post.

In WordPress, students can click on the “Add Post” icon, choose the type of content (ie: text, image, etc),  and then create the content.  Finally, by clicking on “Publish Post” the content will be added to the page.

newpost

How Do Teachers Create a Blog

Teachers can sign up for an account on the blog website to create a blog.

To start creating a blog in WordPress, click on the “Get Started” icon on the main page.

get_started

Enter in the required information, such as email address, username, password and the url for the blog. Click “Create Blog” and your blog is now all ready to add information.

setup_info

How Teachers Access the Blog

Teachers are able to log into the blog to add content or make any required changes.

Once the blog is created, teachers will want to add content to the blog.  Teachers have the ability to log into the site by using the Sign In area on the https://mdde610.wordpress.com homepage.

sign_in

Enter in the information that you specified when you setup the blog. You will now be in the Administration area for your blogs. Click on My Blog along the top of the screen and the available blogs will be listed. To administer the MDDE 610 Group 1 blog, click on the blog name.

group1

This will open a new window, displaying your blog. To enter into the Administration area, click on the Blog name (in our case, it is MDDE 610 Group 1), and then choose Dashboard.

dashboard

Once in the Dashboard area, it is possible to manage your blog. Introduction videos are included to give a brief overview of the program.

dashboard2

 

 

-Pam Perry

What is a Blog?

What is a blog?

A Blog or Web Log is, “a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer (www.merriam-webster.com).  A blog is “a web page consisting of a series of entries, or posts, listed in reverse-chronological order” (Ekdale, Fung, & Perlmutter, 2010, p.218).

Why blog?

According to Ekdale et al (2010), people blog to:

  • document one’s life and experiences
  • provide opinion or commentary
  • express emotions in writing
  • articulate ideas in writing
  • form and maintain community forums for discussion

Types of Blogs

Blogs have been used for a number of different purposes:

  • Personal – Some people record their thoughts and ideas in a blog.
  • Travel – Instead of writing a paper journal, some travelers record their journey using a blog to keep track of where they have been, to reflect upon what they have seen, or where they would like to visit next.
  • Political – journalists, writers, and students have used blogs to argue, debate, present different points of views, and exchange political ideas and different points of view.
  • Education – teachers and students are now using blogs as a teaching aid or learning tool.
  • Other – there are blogs about cooking, how to be a mother, how to buy a car, hobbies, famous people, sports, etc.

Popular Free Blog Websites

There are a number of free blog sites that anyone can sign up for free: http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/best-free-blogging-sites/#!zftCg

Getting Started

All you have to do is have access to a computer and the Internet to create an account and start making posts to your blog. If you have questions, there are help support features, such as video tutorials, text instructions, and contact e-mails that you can access to show you how to establish and maintain a blog.

Education and Blogs

As discussed in Meinecke et al (2013), “blogs and similar forms of online discussion groups are becoming increasingly popular as an educational technology for teaching and learning” (Meinecke, Smith, and Lehmann-Willenbrock, 2013, p.429).  Within the educational context, blogs can be used to:

  • Reflect upon concepts and theories discussed in class
  • Promote discussion between groups of students, and students and teacher
  • Organize and archive information related to a specific topic or project
  • Teach learning content

References:

Ekdale, B., Namkoong, K., Fung T. and Perlmutter, D. (2010). Why blog? (then and now): exploring the motivations for blogging by popular American political bloggers. New Media Society, 12(1), 217-234. doi: 10.1177/1461444809341440

Meinecke, A., Smith, K., and Lehmann-Willenbrock, N. (2013). Developing Students As Global Learners: ”Groups in Our World” Blog. Small Group Research. 44(2), 428-245. doi: 10.1177/1046496413487020

– James Cantafio

Roles and Users

Although there is not one common structure of roles for the development of a blog, there are some fundamental communication principles which influence the flow of information. As with every website, a blog typically has a specific topic or group of topics which it covers. As a result followers, or readers may begin to regularly check in on the blog for more information should the blog prove to be useful and informative.

Unlike other social media, a Blog remains primarily broadcast in nature. This can be in the form of One to Many,  or Many to Many. In either case a limited number of authors or contributors are granted access rights to be able to write articles which are posted in the blog, and the content is then received by the intended audience.  This is only mitigated somewhat through the availability of readers to post comments on Blog posts. In this manner the reader’s thoughts can be shared, however it is not a two way conversation unless those comments are follow up on within future posts.

One to many diagram, vs a Many to Many Social Media network.

One to Many vs Many to Many
Source: (Karthik, 2011)

In the image to the left, we see how the content of a blog – or website for that matter – is often generated by a user or group of users, this messaging is then received by several individual readers or consumers. In the image to the right, more closely represents networks such as Facebook, and Twitter, where individual consumers also have the ability to broadcast their information to their own set of consumers.

Given that Blogs are also recognized as residing in a public sphere, meaning that, the posts which are made to a blog are available for the public to view. The implications of this means that not only can an article viewed by the intended audience, but it may also find new audiences and readers not previously considered by the author(s). Readers therefore may not have a direct connection with the author, as such are not necessarily allies. It has been seen that readers, or consumers can become quite vocal in their distaste for blog postings (Greig, 2014). 

The general roles that one might identify as it relates to the participants within a blog or community page.

Blog Author:  An individual who writes articles/blog posts for public consumption.

Blog Contributor: An Author who writes articles for a blog for which they are not the owner.

Blog Editor/Administrator: An individual who manages a blog. Sometimes this means having final publishing rights for the articles that are written or drafted. An Editor may also curate articles from a variety of sources to one larger blog about a specific topic.

Blog Followers/Readers: These are the individual readers of the blog.  A Follower has added the blog to their RSS or News Feed to be kept up to date on the newest articles being posted from the blog. They may read posts, comment on posts or share posts with their social networks.

Power Users/Influencers: These are often the individuals that are most vocal followers of a blog, commenting frequently and engaging in regular dialog with the authors. These individuals may gain enough visibility that they may influence the direction of future posts.

References:

Greig, A. (2014) Student turns cruel anonymous messages about her selfies into powerful art project.  The Daily Mail. Retrieved March 15, 2014 from dailymail.co.uk website: Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2550162/Student-turns-cruel-anonymous-messages-powerful-art-project.html#ixzz2w5NXoDl6
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebookhttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2550162/Student-turns-cruel-anonymous-messages-powerful-art-project.html

Karthik S (2011). 5 specific instances of social communication and how brands can deal with them. Beast of Traal . Retrieved March 15, 2014 from Beast of Traal website: http://itwofs.com/beastoftraal/2011/09/28/5-specific-instances-of-social-communication-and-how-brands-can-deal-with-them

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– Heather Farmer