Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Educational Pros and Cons of Blogs

In the CommonCraft video (LeFever, 2009) I noticed the sentence “As blogs became popular, they gave everyone an audience for their own version of news.” For me, the word “audience” sums up a key feature of blogs; that they are primarily the thoughts of one person and completely under his/her control. As such, they are less collaborative than say, a wiki or a ning. That being said, I believe they do have a place in education. Blogs allow more informal writing than a web page, which is a more formal representation of an author’s thoughts (Comeau, M., 2006). But while observers of a web page can only receive its content, a blog allows readers to interact with the author. Blogs changed the “Read” Web into the “Read/Write” Web. They changed the Web from a consumer environment to a producer environment.
The educational uses of blogs are tantalizing. Blogs are technically easy to start and cheap, or free, to maintain (Lindsay, S., 2009). The expensive factor of a blog is the need to continue writing to it. Because they have an ongoing, temporal nature, it is possible for students to begin a writing project and yet leave it in a condition of incompleteness for a short while (Comeau, M., 2006). The down side of this characteristic is that the audience of a blog expects continuing, timely updates in order to hold their interest and gain their reading loyalty. Blogging is a great way to get feedback about your own writing (McGovern, 2004). Blogging takes you from writing to publishing, editing and revision of your own work. Blogs are a good way to inform others and become informed yourself.
Blogging can help a student focus on the writing task at hand and give meaning and motivation to it (Illya, 2009). Blogs are an attractive way to get students to practice their writing skills and improve them. The personal nature of a blog helps to create a sense of ownership for students as well. Because blogs are so public, they can tend to cause students to be more careful with their writing, especially if their reason for writing is sufficiently demanding (Travis, 2009).
On the negative side, blogging might be intimidating for an unskilled writer because of the potentially global audience. Conversely, blogging might be an outlet for a shy, quiet student who doesn’t like the pressure of an audience around himself. It also might be a challenge to keep students writing to their blogs if the writing prompts they are responding to aren’t sufficiently motivating or personally relevant. If the students are not held accountable for the quality of their writing (i.e. they aren’t continuously graded on it or corrections aren’t made) then the writing conventions may become more casual and sloppy with time (Travis, 2009). Because blogs are an asynchronous writing tool, they may lose a sense of urgency due to the time delay between an original post and responses to it. Lastly, depending on the topics covered, an inherent lack of confidentiality may cause some limitations on the classroom use of blogs. Last, but certainly not least, I can’t envision how a teacher could make corrections to a student’s written work posted on a blog. Perhaps a strategy I recently heard about from a writing teacher would suffice; tell the student you have found X spelling errors, Y punctuation errors, and Z grammar errors on their post, and then have the student re-post with the corrections made (or not!).


Comeau, M. (October 11, 2006) “Blog Pros And Cons” Retrieved from: on November 10, 2009.
“Illya”. (2009) “The pros and cons of blogs.” Retrieved from: on November 10,2009.
LeFever, L. (2009) “Blogs in Plain English.” CommonCraft videos. Retrieved from on November 10, 2009)
Lindsay, S. “Blogging - Pros and Cons.” Retrieved from: on November 10, 2009)
McGovern, G. (August 23, 2004) “Blogs and blogging: advantages and disadvantages.” Retrieved from: on November 10, 2009.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Much of my learning in Week 4 of my EDU 651 Ashford U. course has been about reflecting upon various accounts we have set up in Ning, Facbook and PBWiki. I have chosen to blog today about what nings mean to me. Be sure to visit my ning in the links to the right to learn more about "ninging."

Ning Pros and Cons

To begin with an analogy, a ning is like a fraternity house where there are common living areas but also each resident has his own customized bedroom which he can decorate (or not) to his heart’s content. He can use any theme or props to develop his bedroom culture and he can invite or restrict any and all visitors. At the same time, he can go into the common areas and engage people there (or not) subject to the general culture of the house.
Nings seem to be about this interplay between public and private spaces and interactions. Nings enhance dialogue with their threads and interest forums. Nings hold on to individual contributions even if they are not embraced by other participants. They seem more naturally true to an actual conversation that two or more people might have. Whereas a vocal conversation must be held within the minds of the participants, nings keep track of conversations textually and graphically and hold them up for all to see and recall. They can even link different conversations and synthesize new thoughts from them. The inherent structure of a ning is conversation. Content flows out of the contributions that the conversation brings about.
People seem to like the autonomy that nings provide. I can build a personal network of conversation about the topics that are most important to me, yet have the structure and organizing support of a generalized ning above and around me. I’m tied to a general audience by common ideas and preferences, but I can also create my own thought and social space. Nings also allows you to design your group (forum) any way you want with features that usually differ from other groups. Ning facilitates unrestricted movement off of and onto the site to other locations like blogs or wikis. You can even export these features to other outside websites (slideshows) and make portals (badges) that direct potential members to your ning from outside the site. Ning tools and apps are like those of a fine woodworker: exacting, elegant, and well thought –out. Ning’s goal seems to be to expand its social network off their site and out into the Web. They want Ning = Web in the user’s mind.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Much of this week has been spent on learning about wikis. We learned that the maturation of the read-write Web has made it possible for students to collaborate in building knowledge, not just read about it. One of the up-and-coming Web applications is the wiki. It allows students to not only express their understanding of knowledge, but to also interact with and critique the knowledge of others. Through our reading and practice it became obvious that the technical aspect of creating a wiki is quite easy but the theoretical underpinnings, teaching of, and student use of a wiki are greater challenges.

In the second chapter of Using Wikis for Online Collaboration we were exposed to the planning, designing, facilitating and managing of a wiki. I learned about the pitfalls of planning and designing a wiki and facilitating student use of one. It seems that a lot of the concern about student use has to do with the social interactions that are part and parcel of working in a group. Collaboration may be difficult for some students who are used to individualized projects, and the delicate negotiations of group work structure and responsibility are a challenge. Management of a wiki also presents the challenge of helping students sufficiently to complete the assignment but also enough freedom to be creative and interactive with their group.

We also learned about the learning domains of wikis: Knowledge Construction, Critical Thinking, and Contextual Application. These are based on Bloom's Taxonomy of learning: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, and require a different wiki format for each type.

As part of our coursework we were asked to post essays about possible problems with wiki design and execution as well as a synopsis of three different types of wiki projects, one in each of the learning domains. After choosing one of these projects, we will develop it into a teachable unit in future class assignments.

Lastly, we were asked to create a personal blog, a wiki, and a twitter account. The blog and twitter account are to be made interactive, with the blog receiving "tweets" from twitter.

West, J.A. and West, M.L. Using Wikis for Online Collaboration. John Wiley and Sons, San Francisco. (2009).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hi Everybody,

This is my blog for EDU 651, an Ashford University technology course. Please check my links to my Twitter page and my wiki.

Thanks, Brad