Resources at a Glance

What is social networking?

What are some examples of educational blogs?

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Web 2.0 and learning

Web 1.0 plus Web 1.0 equals Web 2.0?The world of today is much different than that of our parents or grandparents. There are now a thousand ways to communicate (most of which involve some electronic tool) and a plethora of educational resources available for free (many of them are online). But the Web is different than it used to be too. Before Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Google, and YouTube the online world was largely read-only for the average person. Now, Web 2.0 technologies allow us, the users, to read and write on the Web – and usually free of charge. Not only that, but active participation in online communities is encouraged. What does this mean for the world of education? It means that the world is now open like never before (check out the book The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education by Curtis Bonk, 2009). People can now learn collaboratively in online environments, and they can do it at any time of the day or night. Blogs harness the power of Web 2.0 by allowing anyone to share their thoughts and observations with the world at any time. They give the world an ear and a voice. Web 2.0 is two-way communication. Learning in the world of Web 2.0 is collaborative learning. Beyond personal blogs, there are "dyad" blogs (paired blogging), team blogs, instructor blogs, and class blogs just to name a few. These types of blogs touch on who is doing the blogging. In the next section, we’ll explore what is being blogged. Make sure you take the time to view the videos in the "Resources at a Glance" box in the top right for a look at how social networks are changing the world.

Blogging activities (activities derived from Bonk & Zhang’s book Empowering Online Learning)

What can you do with educational blogs? The following is an incomplete list of some great ideas for activities that can be done using educational blogs:

  • Discussion groups – split learners into small groups (5-9) and provide discussion topics (focusing on student reflection on course concepts, interaction, perspective, and synthesis).
  • Workplace, internship, or job reflections – students use personal blogs to post reflections on learning experiences in the workplace, or discuss how educational content is (or is not) being applied at work (assign reflection partners to add perspective).
  • Field or lab observations – students post observations for feedback and for reflection and synthesis of key concepts learned through direct observations.
  • Personal reflections on learning – students post personal reflections on class concepts and give Web links to resources, pictures, videos, etc. related to class content. Students can write a summary article at the end of the course in which they reflect on key themes learned from specific posts or from their experiences blogging.
  • Course blog Web site – course resources or materials are shared with (and by) students. This may allow for more of a constructivist approach than a typical static syllabus or paper handout on class resources, objectives, and assignments.
  • Foreign language exchange – foreign language students can use blogs to communicate with students who are native speakers of the language being learned.
  • Team assignments – a blog is used to help students reflect and collaborate on team-based assignments.
  • Reading assignment summaries – students write brief synopses and/or critiques of reading assignments.
  • Case studies – case studies are provided by students and/or instructors for reflection and analysis, and to provide a chance for course concepts to be applied.
  • Adventure journals – students follow and post on blogs of individuals who are on adventurous expeditions related to course content (creating an engaging environment for students). For example, check out these adventure blogs:, and
  • Videoblogging (or "vlogging") – students and/or instructors create, post and comment on videos related to course content.
  • Storytelling – students write short stories as blog posts, or create a blog novelette (this can even be a fictional personal blog written in first person in which a plot is developed over time).
  • Frequently asked questions – instructors may use blog posts to provide (and field) frequently asked questions about the class, concepts, or assignments. With RSS, students could automatically have new questions and answers E-mailed to their inboxes.
  • News reporting – students blog on the latest news related to course content.
  • Class debate – a class blog can be created in which class debate and discussion is facilitated by reflection on debatable topics related to course content.

General hints for student success in blogging assignments

  • Provide examples of good and bad posts.
  • Assign due dates for assignment completion.
  • Make blogging groups small to avoid overkill (students probably won’t want to read 50 posts a week).
  • Follow the three-sentence rule: require at least three sentences for each post or comment. (This helps to get students to provide more in-depth responses) (Bonk & Zhang, 87).
  • Think about collaborating on blogging activities with outside groups (for instance, you could invite other classes or schools to participate, or students from other countries could be asked for feedback on posts. You could even seek expert input by finding a content expert who is willing to give feedback in blog posts or comments).
  • Assign reflection partners to increase motivation and reflection on perspectives. Having students reflect on each other’s work may encourage them to increase the quality of their own writing and reflection because of the added pressure of peer review.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Tired of talking about blogs and want to see some? Here are several select educational blogs for your reading enjoyment (from the Resources at a Glance section of this site):

As you can see, blogs can be used in a wide array of educational or instructional contexts. So what does a good blog post look like? That depends on your target audience. If the blog’s audience is students (i.e. in a class blog), you would want it to be interesting and to the point. Here’s a good example:

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A good student blog post might look like one of the following examples:

I agree with Barth that we just can’t see the inside of people’s minds. We totally are shut off from the world around us and from the brains of our very own friends. It’s kind of creepy when you think about it. We’re all completely unaware of what each other is thinking. It’s like this scene from the Matrix:

(short video clip from the Matrix)

Even though we can’t know what others are thinking though, we can sure act as if we did, and try to understand each other as well as we can. (Rather than shooting everyone like in the Matrix.)

Notice that the student stays on topic, uses media to enhance their point, dialogs with ideas in the reading, and synthesizes the concepts learned with ideas from his/her own world (movies and friends).

I was at the beach looking for seashells for our class project. I’ve found fifteen different varieties within ten yards of my house. One new variety I haven’t been able to find the name for. It’s small (the size of a nail clipping) but very strong for its size (I can’t break it without hitting it on something hard. All the ones I found were bright orange with a band of dark green. They have spikes around the opening that are kind of sharp (especially when you step on them). Here’s a picture of a handful of them:

(Picture of a handful of shells)

I’ve looked online here and here and can’t seem to identify what type of shells they are. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what they think the shells might be?

Here we find descriptive observation, use of media to help with description, and a call for outside collaboration to enhance learning.

It wasn’t the best of times, and it certainly wasn’t the worst of times. I laid on my bed with my arm under my head contemplating my own eternity. While this world and all of its joys, passions, and conflicts were passing away like mist, I believed there existed out there some other being capable of "unchange." The eternal, immortal, the always-existent. But what good was it to think about such a being if I didn’t know him? If he didn’t touch the mundane times in my life? I have determined to …

This example shows a deeply personal inner dialogue on an abstract topic. The blog is used as a literary/philosophical medium to express thoughts and emotions.

And what does a "bad" blog post look like? Here are some examples of bad blog posts:

I like to eat cheese. Today I ate cheese. Here is a cheese Web site.

This post shows no signs of thought or of analyis on a topic. While it does link to an outside resource, it does not offer any reflection on that resource, nor does it give the reader a useful introduction or context to the resource.

The wrld iz a great big plac and I like to think abowt it a lot. I fown a big websit other day an your never goin to figur out wat I saw thre. It was a huge elefant with big tuscs and stuff hanging out of the mouth. It waz crasy.

This post needs some very heavy editing. Encourage students to spell-check their posts before making them live, and to read them out loud to hear if they make sense when read.

What the @#%@! I can’t believe that our teacher Mrs. Suzy could be so stupid! At least she didn’t catch me cheating in class today. I think her teaching %!#$%!, and I don’t like sitting in front of her when she starts screaming (she spits on me)!!!

Profanity or use of mean language is inappropriate in any context, especially in the context of an instructional blog.

Check out this picture!

(Picture Here)

This post is much too short. While there may be situations in which students would only have to post images without reflective writing, this would probably be an exception to the rule. The ideal would be for students to post media and to reflect on that media.

What about an "ugly" blog post? Well, ugly blog posts aren’t really an issue (unless students begin posting inappropriate pictures or videos). But an ugly blog can be an issue. If your blog would have been "sweet" looking in 1997, you may need to update to a newer look. More importantly, if your blogging software is not letting people with disabilities view or listen to your content properly, you may want to use a different tool. If your blog won’t work without downloading plug-ins, or enabling javascript, or without a 19 inch monitor, you may want to look at changing your blogging platform. If all of your students can’t use it (including those with vision impairment), you need to find a blog that everyone can use. The ugliest blog is the unusable blog. (Video blogs may present problems in this regard. Here’s an article that addresses the usability of online video and gives some tips on making it more accessible.)

Now that you’ve seen how it’s done, it’s time to try it out. Below is a simulated blog posting tool. Write a short post (300-500 words) in the textbox in which you describe a possible teaching/learning activity that uses a blog (do not use references). When you are finished writing your post, click "Submit."

Now write a blog post below in which you identify two other social networking tools that might be used for teaching/learning, giving URLs to the tools as well as brief synopses (one sentence each) of how they can be used for teaching/learning. BE CAREFUL WITH WHAT YOU WRITE: This post will become viewable on the official Learning to Blog, Blogging to Learn blog after review (this may take a day or two). When you are finished, click "Submit" and then go to the next section of this site labeled "Try it".