Using Blogs to Integrate Technology in the Classroom

For those of you living in a cave, let me first give you a pretty good description of a blog from the Happy Developer blog:

"A blog is a user-generated website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse chronological order. Blogs often provide commentary or news on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual although some focus on photographs (photoblog), sketchblog, videos (vlog), or audio (podcasting), and are part of a wider network of social media."

While I am a software engineer and not a teacher, I do know there some teachers and school districts who are pretty apprehensive about bringing blogging into the classroom. This is the same for higher education institutions.

However, there are schools doing it with success. Take Colorado Christian University who have instituted blogging at their school. You can see them at http://www.ccu.edu/blogs/ or another cool thing to check out is 21Classes Cooperative Learning at http://www.21classes.com/ .  I discovered these folks not too long ago. According to their website:

"21Classes is a product provided by 21Publish Inc. 21Publish provides products for the multi-user blogging and publishing needs of classrooms, businesses, communities, clubs, schools & universities, and non-profit organizations. A unique, 2-layer system makes it easy to customize and manage a multi-user blog system with an unlimited number of members.

The 21Publish web-based service is designed to be simple and effective, yet an abundance of features gives users the means to customize their blog communities according to their needs in terms of community features, design, user functions, and privacy. The service provides a centralized hub from which to build, manage, and deploy both small and large networks of blogs. As an on-demand solution, you can easily scale the service according to your needs — 21Publish can grow with you from just a few blogs to many thousands of blogs.

21Publish was founded in 2004 and maintains operations in the United States and Europe serving customers like Amnesty International, McGraw-Hill, British publisher Emap, and thousands of small- & medium-sized communities"

Another good read is an article by David Parry from the University of Albany at http://blogsforlearning.msu.edu/articles/view.php?id=6.  In his article, he discusses both the resistance to using Web 2.0 techniques in institutions of learning as well as the lack of knowledge that these concerns are rooted and firmly founded in. According to Davids abstract:

"Although in the past fews years there has been a marked growth in the number of higher education classrooms that utilize an on-line writing component, adapting the teaching of writing to digital spaces has met with resistance on the part of both students and professors. While there are many hurdles to address in navigating technological changes in writing practices, I would like to suggest that part of the problem has been a lack of understanding about the ways that information is disseminated and archived in these spaces. We need to begin by framing the approach in a new way to contextualize writing better, and, more importantly, to make classroom blogging (and even more broadly writing in digital spaces) more productive for the students and professors. In particular, I want to show how the technology of RSS is crucial both from a theoretical and a practical standpoint to any digital writing, but especially to any blogging classroom."

In his article David discusses both his pedagogical philosophy as it relates to learning as well as industry information distribution techniques such as RSS (Really Simple Syndication). David give a really good metaphor in his attempt to explain RSS.

"For those who are not familiar with RSS, allow me a brief explanation. Although there are more in depth resources available to explain RSS (see references at the end of this article), I am going to offer a short explanation to aim at the concept behind what RSS does. When I am asked by people, regardless of their level of network literacy, what RSS is, I try to explain it by analogy to a newspaper. Imagine that you could have a newspaper delivered to your house that had only the content you wanted. That is, let's say you want the sports section from Chicago Tribune, the education section from the New York Times, the editorial page from the Guardian, and international headline news from the BBC. Now lets say this newspaper would be compiled for you and presented to you whenever you requested, and, what is more, would only give you the information that has changed since last you asked. But, even better what if you could also add into this “newspaper” your best friend's blog on cooking, a travel blog from Asia, updates from the Chronicle of Higher Ed . . .or pretty much any website you want. This allows you to monitor all of the content that you select from the web without having to visit all of the sites. What RSS does is “syndicate” all of the content you want, and send you everything you have asked for. (RSS stands for either “Rich Site Summary,“ or ”Really Simple Syndication.“) Any site you have seen with the following Feed Icon XML Icon RSS Icon is offering these summaries, or syndication; all you have to do is subscribe. I am not going to go into the details of how you get the subscriptions, or what programs you need to do this (you can even do this all on-line so you do not need a separate program), but you can check the end of this article for a few resources that will help you set up the syndication. There are a lot of resources out there to handle these feeds, and each has advantages and disadvantages, so it is worth some time and effort to try out many of these to find out which works for your particular educational situation."

Check out Davids article as well as the other references. Tell me what you think at the The Happy Developer

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Tags: blogging, development, education, software, web2.0

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