Education Web Logs

8/1/2003 By: Carol Holzberg

If Parisian avant-garde writer and novelist Anais Nin had lived to see the Internet, she most certainly would have penned her famous diaries in Web Log format. Web Logs [also "weblogs", or, more commonly, "blogs"] offer an exciting personal way to express opinions, communicate ideas, and share interesting links. Thanks to free blog publishing software that masks the programming code underlying Web Log creation, virtually anyone can "blog" or practice "blogging," that is, create a Web Log and update it with daily postings. Integrating blogging activities into language arts curriculum in a meaningful way, however, does require planning. For assistance in creating model curriculum complete with blogging projects, visit the following Web sites:

What are weblogs?
Interesting definitions of what Web Logs are and how they came to be pepper the Web. Budding bloggers in search of a jargon-free introduction to Web Logs should consult articles by David Winer, veteran blogger, former contributing editor at Wired, and currently editor of Weblogs at Harvard Law. He penned an oft-quoted definition of blogs in May 2002, as editor and manager of Scripting News one of the Internet's longest running and oldest Web logs. It's been updated as What makes a weblog a weblog?. Donna Wentworth, co-editor of Weblogs at Harvard Law [http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/about], offers a parallel view: "A Weblog, or blog, is a website updated frequently with links, commentary and anything else you like. New items go on top and older items flow down the page. Blogs can be political journals, news digests, and/or personal diaries; they can focus on one narrow subject or range across a universe of topics."

Weblogs: a history and perspective
For interesting background on the blog phenomenon and a "professional" view of this distinctive new form of writing, visit rebecca's pocket, the Web site of Rebecca Blood, author of Weblog Handbook, Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog. Blood's comment that the "format of the typical Weblog, providing only a very short space in which to write an entry, encourages pithiness on the part of the writer" is reason enough for educators to consider integrating blogging into classroom writing activities. Another blog site offering a historical perspective is Salon.com's Fear of Links.

Weblogs at Harvard Law
Recognizing the importance of blogging as a channel of communication for faculty, administration, students, alumni, and staff, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at the Harvard Law School established the Blogs at Harvard Initiative and saddled it with the responsibility of teaching Harvard faculty and students how to create and post daily blog dispatches. Visit the Web site to learn about this Ivy League initiative and discover how Harvard uses blogging technology to evangelize the personal accomplishments of members of the Harvard community

Welcome to Blogroots
At this site you'll find reviews of blogging tools and services, plus the latest news and happenings in the world of weblogging. As a bonus, follow the links to chapters and tutorials featured in the popular text We Blog: Publishing Online with Weblogs.

China Weblog
Several blogs serve as models of first-rate journalism by non-professional reporters. The short frequently updated entries make interesting reading. They also provide a first-person ethnographic look at life in other parts of the world. As students learn to deconstruct the elements of a well-written blog, they become more adept at focusing on a particular subject, articulating a point of view, and shaping public opinion. For a well-written personalized account of life in Beijing at the height of the SARS epidemic, visit this site and enjoy the pictures while you read the friendly, open, and richly descriptive writing style.

Conflict in Iraq: Mideast Journal
Eric Lunquist, respected technology journalist and editor of eWeek suggests in Incoming: Information Overload in Real Time that "Weblogs once the province of people with too much time on their hands, now provide a personal portal to the thoughts and experiences of combatants and civilians" as he writes in]. The debate over "Weblogs as journalism" scores a point for the affirmative thanks to Jay Price, veteran staff writer for North Carolina's News and Observer. His real-time daily blogs about life in the Middle East during the military campaign in Iraq [February 20-April 4, 2003] are as informative as they are personal.

The September 11 Digital Archive
Billed as a joint project by the American Social History Project at the City University of New York Graduate Center and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, this effort to construct a permanent record of the events and reactions to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon creates a rich permanent record of the variety of opinions and perspectives on the events of the day. Blog contributions are organized by type [e.g., personal, corporate, media] and content [e.g. Stories, Essays & Reflections, Discussions and Memorial], making it easier for visitors to locate topics of interest.

Windows Media Player 9 Series Blogging Plug-in
Windows XP Home and Professional users can spice up their personal Web journal entries with information about music currently in play with Media Player 9, thanks to a free Blogging Plug-in available from Microsoft. The applet adds information about the artist, song and album name to the Windows Media Player 9 series title bar, which blogging clients such as LiveJournal™, w.bloggar, and PowerBlog can then read and add to your next blogging entry.

blog <styles>
Tired of the same-old, same-old blog look? Interested in spicing up the appearance of your personalized content? Go to this site to download a colorized template sure to grab and hold a visitor's attention. You'll find templates for 2- and 3-column Web styles in multiple colors and even a template for a photoblog [Weblog devoted entirely to pictures]. Templates at this site work with popular Weblog personal publishing software such as Movable Type and Blogger™, both of which are free for personal use.

Edublogs
Blogging offers several writing incentives with its emphasis on content, the possibility of speedy feedback, the option of working with both words and images, and the ability to link one post to another. Because they know they're going to have an audience, students who expect to publish their writing on the Web often produce higher quality work than students who write only for the teacher or for others in the class. Here are some resources, directories, and discussions related to Weblogs in education plus several examples of Weblogs in actual classroom settings:
Weblogs in Edu
Why Blog in the Classroom?
Serious Instructional Technology and
Weblogs and Discourse
You might also want to check out Sarah Lohnes' links as many focus on blogs in education. And Intel appreciates how Weblog technology has the educational potential "to motivate students, build online collaboration, and enhance learning opportunities", as it reports in How Educators Are Using Weblogs, on its Intel Innovator site.

Blogpatrol
Special tools for monitoring traffic at your blog site are free here for downloading. Resources track the total number of hits to your blog site, in addition to the number of unique visitors per day, the Web browsers and operating systems used by visitors to your Blog, and the top 20 search engine keywords used to find your site. You can also view a graph of the last 10 days of activity. Other blogger tools of interest include backBlog, a feedback system enabling readers to send you feedback for the blog posts you write. The basic version of backBlog is free.

BLOGideas!
When students approach you for blog writing ideas they can use to get started, point them in the direction of BLOGideas, a source of constantly changing topics "meant to spark a thought, remind you of your past, or give you an excuse to vent." For an interesting perspective on how Weblogs may be used for political activism, visit Don't Buy Exxon Mobil Esso, a Weblog providing live coverage of the latest action for Greenpeace's Stop Exxon campaign.

Recommended offline reading:

Rebecca Blood, Weblog Handbook, Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog [Perseus Publishing, July 2002, ISBN 073820756]

Paul Bausch, Matthew Haughey, and Meg Hourihan, We Blog: Publishing Online with Weblogs, [John Wiley & Sons, 2002, ISBN: 0764549626]

Email: Carol S. Holzberg

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