Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Blogs and the classroom, I'm for it. How about you?

As the title says, I am all for using blogs as a tool for teaching a class.  Let's talk about a few of my reasons for using a blog for each of the courses I teach.

The Digitized Lives of Students

Back in the days when I went to school or college, my day was chopped up into fairly large time blocks:  study for 2 hrs, go to class for 3 hrs, meet friends for a meal for 1 hr, workout for 2 hrs, etc.   If I wanted to call someone, I would go to my dorm room or apartment and make the call from a phone connected to the wall.  I would also hope the person I was calling was home and, if not, that they owned an 'answering machine'.  Library time to look up information or find a book was scheduled and included going to the library.  So, I roughly had 6 daily items the divided my day.

Today, the world is being divided into smaller and smaller chunks.  No longer do I need to schedule a time to call you, I just call your personal cellular phone that you have with you.  Or, I text the question to you.  Or, an email.  Similarly, rarely do I go to the library to get my information or research a topic.  I use my phone, tablet or computer to connect to the internet and find that ONE piece of information I needed right now.

A student engaged in 'studying' (more on the idea of studying in a day or two) might easily be reading an article on their computer, get an email and quickly glance at it.  Next, the student might get a text, respond, and then look something up on google to, yet again, respond to the text.  Finally, they get back to reading the article, which represents the studying.  All of these can happen in less than 1 minute.  That's right, 1 minute is all it takes to interact with the world.  How long would that have taken 20 years ago??

All of the above is meant to let you see that students want their information and interaction with the information to come in small chunks and to be portable.  A blog accomplishes this task in spades!  In fact, if you microblog, you are really digitizing the information stream to your students.  Each post you make in a course blog is likely about a single topic or idea, which is what a digitized world requires...single packets of information are used, directed and shared at a time, this time as blog posts.

Instant Gratification

Relying on the same logic as above, the short bursts of information you can give out on a blog provide instant feedback to questions posed by students, to changes in schedule, or even correcting typos/errors in assignments and directions.  The student is immediately notified of the blog post if they follow your blog and you have verification that the information was provided to the whole class in a timely manner.

You Can Remove Some Barriers

There are many barriers to learning and a few can be overcome without a lot of work.  When blogging, you can choose to use a school site or, better yet, use one of the free content management systems like Blogger or Wordpress.  In these free sites, students do not have some sort of login to accomplish before accessing the site, unlike the blogs that are part of the learning management systems (LMS).

The comment system of a blog may be used to ensure student interaction.  If necessary, you could have your students comment in a way that they are incognito.  The fear of posting and making a mistake disappears and the students should be more likely to respond.

Information is Displayed Chronologically

Sure, web pages and LMS sites let you post links, etc.  But the chronological nature of a blog post creates a flow to the course that students seem to favor.


Yes, a blog is easier to post to than a traditional web page due to two factors:  a web based content management system and apps for mobile devices.  Most of the free hosting services give you excellent and simple interfaces to utilize in both the design and upkeep of your blog.  Some hosting services even have apps for your tablet or phone that allow you to post-it-anytime freedom.  Both of these make it more likely that you, the author of the content, will spend the time to post something rather than blow it off.  And, the more you post, the more information is at your student's fingertips.


those are my reasons for using a blog to manage the content of each class I teach.  In my next post, I will give you an example of how my blogs are set up and some strategies I've used.  Till then...

what do you think about blogs for course content management?  Do you use a blog and, if so, why?  Please, comment below and get the discussion started!!

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