Sue Waters Blog

What Are Your Thoughts on Educational Blogging?

| 45 Comments

I’m doing a presentation next week for Alec Couros‘ s EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education course and as part of it I’ve need to organise some required reading one week prior to the presentation.

I’ve been asked to focus on educational blogging and building personal learning networks so I’m hoping you can help as I want to:

  1. Demonstrate how conversations in blog comments provides greater knowledge gain for all involved, because each individual sees a different perspective of the task – giving everyone greater “food for thought!”
  2. Model personal learning networks in action!

About The course

EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education course is an open access graduate course from the Faculty of Education, University of Regina for both registered and non-registered students.

Participants are all teachers, or principals, and most are new to using social media.

Can you share your thoughts on the following:

  1. What are the benefits of blogging with students and/or yourself?
  2. What are some of the challenge of student blogging and how do you avoid them?
  3. Can you recommend any ‘must read’ articles on student blogging?
  4. What questions would you most like me to answer if you attended a presentation by me on educational blogging and building personal learning networks?

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!

Author: Sue Waters

Edublogs Support Manager @suewaters on Twitter

45 Comments

  1. Hi Sue

    I can only really answer numbers 1 and 4, so here goes.

    1. For me, blogging is a process of evaluation – assimilation – reflection – consolidation through reconstruction.

    Much of what I blog about doesn’t come directly from my field. Most of my sources of information come from technology resources or the zanier side of the web.

    So this process helps me to take relevant nuggets from the vast flow of information that is constantly being created, evaluate and assimilate them into what’s meaningful practice for me and then consolidate them by reconstructing and sharing them in a way that is relevant to my profession.

    I’ve found this process hugely beneficial to my own personal and professional development. With out this final stage of reconstructing information and turning it into knowledge that is useable by others in my professional community, much of the information that I read or see on the web would just pass straight through me. It’s a way of reflecting on and trapping a little of what we encounter.

    4. I think the question i would ask is about coping with the volume of information that is out there so that you get what’s really good and useful to you without being overloaded. How to do it?

    Best

    Nik Peachey

    • @Nik Peachey

      This is where I have to apologies up front to everyone as I’m probably going to overwhelm any one who has subscribed to notify by comment but with a wide range of responses I have individual responses/questions for many of the commenters. — so SOZ in advance everyone.

      “Much of the information that I read or see on the web would just pass straight through me” — I totally agree. The whole process of writing up and reflecting means you really take in that information and in effect own it (if that makes sense). It’s an important part of the learning process.

      Love your question – ‘information overload’ and it is a common question I’m asked. It helps to be really organised, and also know when it is ok to let go. Using folders in Google Reader also helps me — do you want a link to how I use folders?

  2. second attempt: one of the problems of dialogue via blog is that I have commented no end of times on other people’s blogs only to get an error message and the loss of everything I wrote!

    I write a blog for my students on the topic of the module I teach – they do not join in very much being busy, working mature students, but they do read it because it offers additional learning resources.

    I used a blog as a learning journal for my PGCE studies and engaged in some interesting debates using that medium with my mentor.

    I recently wrote a guide on blogging for students and staff on a programme where students’ short blogs in Blackboard are a required part of their assessment. It wasn’t going too well, hence the need for a guide. Interestingly I researched the guide by asking Twitter colleagues to share their ideas tips and reources. Below is one of the articles I was recommended.

    Yang, S.-H. (2009). Using Blogs to Enhance Critical Reflection and Community of Practice. Educational Technology & Society,
    12 (2), 11–21.

    My question is the one I continually ask myself – how can blogging be better integrated with assessment? My students submit assignments electronically via Blackboard, but I’d love to have them do it by blog! ANy examples out there??

    • @Jane Challinor, ‘loss of everything I wrote’ try hitting the back arrow as the often works and brings up your original comment. Alternatively some people will copy the comment before hitting send just in case.

      It is quite common for people to take time to appreciate what’s involved in really reflective blogging. If you are able to have them blog in an open environment you will probably see greater improvements. Blogging for a global audience as opposed to your peers can be very motivating.

      Assessment and blogging is a common question. I’ve seen a range of different approaches. One is that you place a requirement for them to publish a specific number of posts, of a specified standard and they are required to interact in comments.

    • @Jane Challinor,

      re: losing blog comments and other form entries. If you’re using Firefox there’s an excellent extension that has saved me more than once! Lazarus: Form Recovery 2.0.4

    • have students use slideshare for powerpoints, graphs/charts/documents, you tube for videos, dipity for timelines, blogger for blogs, glogster for fun assignments, wikispaces for wikis, and then have them create links to all of these multimedia assignments in your blog comments.

  3. 1. What are the benefits of blogging with students and/or yourself?

    This is in the context of using blogs in “composition” classes… and typically almost as an eportfolio with instructor access via RSS feeds.

    For the student?
    Experiencing more clearly writing as a process of constructing and further clarifying meaning. i.e. they can produce an article on a blog, invite input (from both peers and instructor) and then go back to review, reflect, revise the work. Iterations of the same assignment are easier to support, catalog and review.

    Making more transparent a student’s development. This is typically realized through a review of their work AND comments from peers / instructors / themselves over a period of time to see if (a) comments show a pattern (i.e. a pattern of oversights or strengths in one’s writing) (b) the manner of their writing (i.e. vocabulary, sentence structure, paragraph structure, etc.) has changed. (c) a realization of such development.

    Providing continuity to support development. The work put on a blog for one course (one which is part of a series of courses that make up a program of study – each building on the other – i.e. composition) can be carried over into the next for further development. A new teacher / instructor / peer (as well as those of the past) can access this work and see progression, thus provide more meaningful and immediate feedback to a student especially at the beginning of a subsequent course.

    2. What are some of the challenge of student blogging and how do you avoid them?

    Many challenges? Logistical demands on an instructor to provide more frequent and meaningful feedback on a student’s work .. especially when revisions are encouraged. This can be managed more effectively by encouraging peer review and commenting plus scheduled periods when reviews from an instructor can be expected. Rubrics also provide student / peer support on what and how to review.

    3. Can you recommend any ‘must read’ articles on student blogging?

    Educause. (, n.d). Making the Case for Blogging. Educause Learning Initiative. Retrieved January 5, 2009, from http://www.educause.edu/ELI/ELIDiscoveryToolGuidetoBloggin/MakingtheCaseforBlogging/13567.

    Educause. (n.d.). ELI Discovery Tool: Guide to Blogging | EDUCAUSE. Educause Learning Initiative. Retrieved January 5, 2009, from http://www.educause.edu/eli/GuideToBlogging/13552.

    Graham. (n.d.). BLOG-EFL. BLOG -EFL: Observations on the use of Web 2.0 tools for English Language Teaching & Learning. Retrieved November 13, 2008, from http://blog-efl.blogspot.com/.

    Various. (n.d.). Using Blogs in Education :: Blog. Leeds Blogs – Community blogs. Retrieved November 13, 2008, from https://elgg.leeds.ac.uk/edublog/weblog/.

    4. What questions would you most like me to answer if you attended a presentation by me on educational blogging and building personal learning networks?

    Issues of private versus public. How are students, instructors and administrators dealing with who “owns” the blog work when it is usually made within a “closed garden” (controlled) environment but can be easily and rapidly moved into a “public” environment? Issues of how to give comments, how to moderate comments by students become important.. especially when they may influence future work / review / development by a student in subsequent weeks / months.

    • @Jim Buckingham, what you describe are the benefits of blogging are really what I would love to see happen. Where students in school, college or University have a blog that follows them through their years of study. So both they and you see that progression of their journey.

      Some are starting to do this but it does take a bit of time initially to coordinate it well.

      Definitely there is greater expectation then on the instructor to provide feedback which can be time consuming. There is also a need to know when you need to be supplying the feedback and when you need to be encouraging them to interact with each other to share thoughts.

      Thanks for all those great articles.

      You’ve taken a different slant to ‘private versus public’ then I’m normally asked. Most ask ‘Should you make the blogs private or public and why?’

      Ownership issues are important and often not considered. In terms of a private blog, ownership becomes even more important because there may be confidential aspects that need to be considered.

      Personally I would rather use public blogs and educate students on what is and isn’t appropriate to say online.

  4. 1. What are the benefits of blogging with students and/or yourself? ANSWER: The benefits are countless. First this method of writing reaches this age group. They’re more interested in blog customization than designing their traditional papers. Blogging also reaches out to other parts of the world. My students in rural Wisconsin are blogging with students on the other side of the planet.

    2. What are some of the challenge of student blogging and how do you avoid them? ANSWER: My biggest challenge right now is that my students are treating their blog like it’s their cell phone. Not that they’re using it 200 times a day, but rather the majority do not want to apply conventions. They’re also forgetting the idea that anyone, including their parents can see their blog. Just last night I see 2-3 students that dropped the F bomb in their non-capitalized sentences. Eck!

    3. Can you recommend any ‘must read’ articles on student blogging? ANSWER: I’m still looking myself.

    4. What questions would you most like me to answer if you attended a presentation by me on educational blogging and building personal learning networks? ANSWER: How do you get students to dig deeper into conversation? Right now my kids are pretty tame – not much intellectual discussion going on. Some feel blogging is lame, but they’re not getting at the heart of it.

    • @Jessica Brogley, Yes there is a lot of work that needs to happen up front when blogging with students. Educators will often gradually move them from a class blog to their own individual blog once the students start appreciating those differences and are showing they can be responsible.

      When they first start out they are less likely to dig deep into the conversation. With the right amount of nuturing it will happen. You’ll often see a big difference from starting and at 6 months. If you haven’t checked out Jan Smith’s class blog and how she approaches student blogging I strongly recommend you do.

      I would also get involved with the Student blogging challenge as it will help.

  5. I would recommend these articles:

    20 reasons why students should blog « On an e-journey with generation Y
    http://murcha.wordpress.com/2008/03/14/20-reasons-why-students-should-blog/

    Student Blogging Guidelines by Kim Cofino http://www.techlearning.com/blogs/23336

    Five Borrowed Tips for Helping Students Become Better Bloggers | BlogWalker
    http://blogwalker.edublogs.org/2009/09/12/five-borrowed-tips-for-helping-students-become-better-bloggers/

    And one for teachers as bloggers:
    Blogs as Learning Spaces by David Truss
    http://pairadimes.davidtruss.com/blogs-as-learning-spaces/

  6. What are some of the challenge of student blogging and how do you avoid them?

    i have my students find technology in education related blogs. they are to find a blog post and respond to the author with a reply or participate in the discussion already happening in the post blog discussions. some bloggers choose to moderate all comments being left. so the problem that gets relayed back to me is that my students freak out when their comments don’t appear right away. in fact, some bloggers take a week or more to finally approve comments, if at all. i really like this activity because it gives my students a chance to gain viewpoints that may differ from my own, but i really don’t like that some bloggers choose to be public with a blog and then fail to live up to their end of the experience. to solve this issue for my students, they can now paste their comments on their own blog and then link to the blog they are referring to. not ideal, but it works.

    • @sean lancaster, I really like the idea of your students interacting and asking the questions.

      As I mentioned on a comment on your blog it can be challenging though to get responses back. I’m sure they will soon learn the people more likely to respond and those that don’t. You can usually tell by how the blogger interacts with other commenters.

  7. Hi Sue.
    Here is what I think.
    1. What are the benefits of blogging with students and/or yourself?
    first of all you get students in touch with new media and social media. I had this problem last year that most of my students were not familiar with the basic terms RSS and blogs. So sometimes you do some real pioneer work.
    second it enables them to use internet technologies in a productive way and presents the opportunities for collaborative work and seemless cooperation for projects. the best moment we experienced that to students used the blogging technology in a private blog to coordinate their efforts when writing the final paper.

    2. What are some of the challenge of student blogging and how do you avoid them?
    The challenge was to make them commenting and get them acquainted with the new media. Second the biggest challenge is the grading of comments and inputs on the blog. We used to gave a participation grade for commenting and blogging and defined criteria for blog entries and the stucturing of all their submitted blog posts.
    Third, we had some problems about defining common rules for tagging, commenting etc. We sent them a little guide about that, which included the grading framework. This helped the students and us a lot in the end.

    3. Can you recommend any ‘must read’ articles on student blogging?
    unfortunately not, but I am very interested in that :-)

    4. What questions would you most like me to answer if you attended a presentation by me on educational blogging and building personal learning networks?
    How you enable students to participate regularly? How do you grade students and how do you ensure comparability among all submitted entries and posts and at the same time respect the individuality and the speciality of every sumission?
    How do you moderate the blog and is a moderation necessary?

    It would be great, if you share your essence after your presentation.
    Best,
    Manuel

    • @Manuel, Thanks Manuel and yes I will definitely share the presentation.

      Are we able to check out the guide that you gave the students. Would be good to see what guidelines you gave them. Tagging conventions are always hard :)

      Regarding your questions about participating — educators that seem to have the most success are really good at inspriring their students to want to participate. Normally they will use a mixture of set posts the students have to write plus they encourage them to also post on topics of their own choice.

      The more successful educators using student blogging take the approach of not moderating comments or posts. They feel this disrupts the process and isn’t motivating. Instead the closely monitor all comments and posts using tools like Google Reader and edit afterwards if required — let me know if you want instructions on how to this.

  8. Sue,
    I think that blogging allows for authentic reflection and feedback. I put together a presentation last year called “The Blogging Cycle” that focuses on reflection first, then commenting, then blogging, then repeating. You can view it here. Feel free to use any parts you’d like, or use it to show what not to do! ;-)

  9. Hi Sue,

    What are the benefits of blogging with students and/or yourself?

    For myself, it is a reflective space where I can put some thoughts together. It is also a spot where I can throw ideas out to see if they get a response, and sometimes a space to have a rant about something to get it off my chest.

    What are some of the challenge of student blogging and how do you avoid them?

    One of the major challenges is to get students interested in blogging. Telling them that it is a good way of reflecting and engaging in dialogue tends, in my experience, to put them off – reflection appears to be a dirty word in most students’ lexicons!
    I think you need to provide the ability to allow students to keep a post private or shared just between them and their tutor (in fact, you should let them have fine grained control over the visibility of everything, ideally). Also, maintaining the momentum seems to be a major hurdle. Some people never seem to find the exercise worthwhile.

    Can you recommend any ‘must read’ articles on student blogging?

    *looks guilty* Erm, nope, sorry!

    What questions would you most like me to answer if you attended a presentation by me on educational blogging and building personal learning networks?

    How useful is the process of making decisions when building a personal network? Is something lost if you follow somebody else’s list of ‘must follows’? Do you keep things purely on a subject domain basis, or allow yourself social chatter too? Why? Are there any special rules of etiquette associated with having a personal learning network? Does immediacy of communication add to a channel’s usefulness in a PLN? Conversely, does asynchronicity add to usefulness? Do voice or video improve the effectiveness of a PLN? If so, do they improve it for everyone?

    • @Pat Parslow, Yes I don’t think any one who isn’t already blogging would necessary be able to relate to what reflecting really means or the conversations that happen in comments. The better approach is to guide them to the point where they start to experience that aspect.

      Good questions:

      1. How useful is the process of making decisions when building a personal network?

      Definitely I think you do need to make some decisions but then be willing to adjust your views with time. For example, with twitter my early rule was I would only follow 200 people. Well that rule went.

      But then other decisions remain. Rules like you can only be one person online, be consistent, try always to use same usernames and avatars so you are always easily identifiable.

      2. Is something lost if you follow somebody else’s list of ‘must follows’?

      I’m not a fan of lists. Building your PLN is all about making personal connections. We are all individuals and each will relate to others differently. Also many of the lists are often well knowns which doesn’t necessarily mean they are in the position/or may want to connect with more people.

      The most important people are those that want to connect with you (but that is my personal opinion).

      3. Do you keep things purely on a subject domain basis, or allow yourself social chatter too?

      LOL you are asking the person who is famous for the chocolate social chatter 8-) Who else can write a post about Can addictions scare readers in August and still be getting comments on it?

      Being able to relate to some one as a person is an important part of building your PLN. It is no different than f2f interactions. In a lunch room do you just ask for help? Or do you take time to first get to know the person. The key is knowing the correct balance and making sure it is appropriate.

      4. Are there any special rules of etiquette associated with having a personal learning network?

      So many rules unfortunately. Probably the most important is realising that you need to build relationships with people before pestering them too much for help — common mistake of newbies (done it myself).

      5. Does immediacy of communication add to a channel’s usefulness in a PLN? Conversely, does asynchronicity add to usefulness?

      For me both synchronous and asynchronous is important. For example I could not be reflecting on the questions you are asking here if they were raised in a synchronous environment. You are more likely to get a more comprehensive answer by me responding asynchronously. It also gives you the opportunity to come back to clarify in more detail.

      While the synchronous means you can get to know the person on a deeper level.

      6. Do voice or video improve the effectiveness of a PLN? If so, do they improve it for everyone?

      Anything that means that people can build a better image of who you are as a person means that they can relate to you better. The more people can relate to who you are as a person they more likely they are to want to connect with you, help you and become an important part of your network.

      Voice gives them a mental image of how you sound while video gives them a greater glimpse of who you are.

      Really excellent questions — thanks!

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  11. Here’s an answer for #3.

    Brown, J., & Duguid, P. (2002). The Social Life of Information.

    Richardson, W. (2008). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms.

    Rosenberg, S. (2009). Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters.

  12. We’ve had a class blog now for four years at http://glenview9.wordpress.com

    My 7, 8 and 9 year old students love to see their work published on the web, love watching the page views count up and they get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment on one of their posts.

    When we started back in 2005 I published everything, now I don’t. I still put up posts of my own, but most of the time children draft, write, proof and publish their own work. I have a browser shortcut on the desktop that is dedicated to our blog. Our password and user details are remembered in it so that children don’t have access to to the account except in class.

    If they have something they’d like to add and they’re not at school they send it to me in an email or publish it on our wiki (for which they do have a password and username) and I then paste it into a new post.

    I can’t begin to tell you how motivated they are to write and publish their stories, news, photos and videos. what more reason could you want?

    • @teachernz, I totally agree “What more reason could you want – when you see how motivated they are to write and publish their stories, news, photos and videos”

      Thanks for sharing the link to your class blog so others can check out how inspiring it is for your students. Also love your tips on managing your class blog.

  13. Hi Sue, everyone,

    What I see happening here is a perfect example of a Personal Learning Network in action! By subscribing to this blog I am notified of the event and invited to make comments and answer the questions provided.

    Of course Sue’s PLN is a well established one with a huge following – this in itself adds to the growth of the PLN even further. The strategy that Sue is using could be emulated by anyone who is a dedicated blogger.

    I have added to my personal learning today by visiting the blog and reading the comments. There is now a wealth of shared practices, favourite blog articles, and answers to the carefully thought out questions provided by Sue.

    Thanks for the sharing!

    • @Lesley Edwards , thanks for those links they are all excellent articles. They are all bloggers on my list of must read on student blogging. Each of them always shows a different but excellent perspective.

      @Michael Walker, thanks for sharing your presentation. That is a really good presentation packed with lots of ideas on how blogs can be used. I would encourage everyone to include it on their must read list.

      @David Peter, thanks for the links to the articles.

      @Coach Carole, thanks Carole. Yes I am lucky that I have a well established PLN.

      Off course I am feeling sorry for spamming them with all the comments (if they have subscribed by email) but trouble in this situation is that most of them had such great questions that you couldn’t do a response justice by answering collectively.

  14. Hi Sue!

    Just posted a blog on my blog site about blogging for cash and prizes. (Was that a bit convoluted? Sorry) There is another site, http://www.sitesketch101.com/, that is offering a contest by tweeting their various articles (http://www.sitesketch101.com/twitter-contest). They also have a great deal of info for the beginning blogger. Apologies if this is advertising a competitor. Just thought it might be good for the students to know. Never too much knowledge, right?

    • @Gregory Stringer, No it is all fine.

      Since you’ve mentioned ‘competitors’ it is perhaps important for me to clarify for everyone to ensure full disclosure (for those unaware) and to clarify my comment policy.

      I work for both Edublogs and Blogs.mu. I post on numerous blogs including The Edublogger which is a blog set up by Edublogs. I’m well known for helping educators use technology (not just Edublogs but with a wide range of blogging platforms and Web 2.0 tools).

      In terms of comments readers are free to leave comments about anything. I don’t edit comments here or on my other blogs; and it is not uncommon for readers to leave links to other blogging platforms which I have absolutely no issue with.

      The only comments I will delete are those that are obviously written by spammers (except for the one time I allowed the chocolate spammer to leave a comment because they used my chocolate weakness against me 8-) ).

      Site Sketch 101 is interesting and I’m sure others will find useful information on the site.

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  22. What are the benefits of blogging with students and/or yourself?

    Being a little bit out of the technological loop – I originally was a little squeamish about blogging. I was quite skeptical on a few issues relating to blogging – such as privacy, security, student participation – however, reading about and taking part in my university class I am beginning to understand it and its benefits.
    So far I can tell it allows all students to have a voice and share it with the world. It allows students to have global connections to their work and it allows students to connect with relevant and meaningful information ih their world.

    What are some of the challenge of student blogging and how do you avoid them?
    I am going to begin a blog for two of my classes at school.
    I am worried about making sure I am preparing my students with enough background info to ensure safety, privacy issues are not an issue as well as I am concerned with making sure that appropriate comments are made! This is the tough one!

    Can you recommend any ‘must read’ articles on student blogging?
    I can’t recommend any but there are many comments above with great recommendations! Thanks

    What questions would you most like me to answer if you attended a presentation by me on educational blogging and building personal learning networks?
    What are the ten mpost important things to address with students before engaging in this process! I can read many articles but you have a hands on experience that I look up to!!!!

    • @Andrea Ward, key is just start off slowly.

      As Jan said during the presentation she takes 2 months to get her students to the point of having their own blogs. During that time she spends a lot of time teaching them about what is and isn’t appropriate to say online. They also are gradually introduced to commenting online.

      The 10 most important things — mmmm hard one.

      Any one help with this question?

      What are the 10 most important things to address with students before engaging in student blogging?

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  24. Hey Sue,

    I got some great help on my header from my Photoshop professor. Still some tweaking yet to be done, but it looks a bit better, I think (hope!). Stop by my site and see what you think if/when you get a chance, won’t you? Would very much appreciate whatever input/advice/critique you could offer.

    Thank you so much for all you’ve already done!

    http://gregorystringer.edublogs.org

    • @Gregory Stringer, well it definitely grabs your attention — especially the last image of the girl on the right.

      Some now chuckling I want to know what each of the images represents :)

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  26. Sue,

    If you’re curious as to the representation of the pics in the header graphic on my site, simply read the sub-title at the top of the page, Wha’s up with Grannelle (about).

    http://gregorystringer.edublogs.org/about/

    It explains all, and no, there is nothing (intended, at least) naughty about them. Okay, maybe the “sheila” (sp?) is , but only a bit! The credited site is listed for all of them.

  27. Definitely in that top 10 list of most important things has to be reading the blogs of others. Perhaps someone could find good examples, as well as bad examples, as well as mediocre examples, so students would have a yardstick against which to measure.

  28. Hello Sue,
    I like educational blogging and it had made learn something each time I visited any edu blog. Because blogs are interactive, they are a really good source of learning, writing, reading and observing. If I got a chance to attend your presentation I would love to ask about your inspiration which have made you to start an educational blog

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