eLearning: Driving Instructional Design with Emerging Technologies

Presentation by James Matheson and Tony Whittingham

In this workshop you will: a). Obtain information on the pedagogical application of blogs (1) to enable you to identify areas for their potential use in your own teaching and learning areas. b). Develop an awareness of the skills required for developing ‘classroom’ blogs (2). c) Identify through discussion, the potential and limitations of blogs (3) in a classroom. 1. How Are Blogs Used in Teaching and Learning. In Stephen Downes article “Educational Blogging”(4) he highlights the use of blogs by students as a ‘personal publishing tool’, however some teachers are using blogs to organize class seminars and to record the progress and contributions of students in collaborative projects (5). Used in this way, the blogs become “group/project blogs”—that is, individual blogs authored by a group of people.


Mireille Guay, a Canadian teacher notes: The conversation possible on the weblog is also an amazing tool to develop our community of learners. The students get to know each other better by visiting and reading blogs from other students. They discover, in a non-threatening way, their similarities and differences. The student who usually talks very loud in the classroom and the student who is very timid have the same writing space to voice their opinion. It puts students in a situation of equity.” 2. Creating a Teacher’s Blog. The two major options for teachers creating blogs are either a WWW hosting service (e.g. Blog.com, WordPress.org) or an application downloaded and installed on their own or campus server (e.g. MoveableType). a) Hosting services (6). A hosting service is a Web site that will give you access to everything you need in order to create a blog. It will offer a form for you to input your entries, some tools that allow you to create a template for your blog, and access to some built-in accessories. Your blog is hosted on the hosting service (hence the name), and the URL will typically reflect the hosting service’s URL. The best-known (and one of the earliest) hosting service is Blogger (http://www.blogger.com). b) Installed Applications. A remotely installed application is a piece of software (7) that you obtain from the provider and install on your own Web site. These systems are similar to Web-based applications such as ColdFusion (8)or Hypermail (9) . Because of this, the number of users is much lower, but those who do use them tend (arguably) to be more dedicated and more knowledgeable than those who

use hosting services. Installed applications are also more suitable for institutional use, since access can be controlled.

3. Getting started - How are blogs being used in work and education. a) Blogs in the Workplace. An example of a company blog (10) used to keep customers and staff informed of the development of new products and services. b) Blog - Website Differences An example of the increasing use by companies (11) to use blogs to complement their static brochure/commerce websites with dynamic blog information. CLICK ON THE BLOG LINK IN THE WEBSITE’S MENU. c) How can blogs benefit teaching ? Go to this excellent example of the use of a blog to support teaching. (12) Note the following: 3.1 THE TEACHER’S BLOG. 1. The ‘Archive’ enables access to all posts in the blog and provides a view of the subject’s management. 2. Blog authoring is restricted to the teacher. In the student blogs authoring is available to all ‘contributors’ i.e. students with a Blogger blog. 3. The teacher has added links to WWW resources in the sidebar. 4. The teacher has added links to student blogs for Discussion Groups and Projects.


3.2 STUDENT DISCUSSION GROUPS AND PROJECTS BLOGS. 1. Each member of the group has responded to an email invitation to join the group from the blog’s orginator. The students are registered in the blog as contibutors with authoring privileges. Refer to the ‘Members’ option. 2. The contibutor’s name provides a link to a profile which in turn can link to the student’s individual blog. 3. Note the posts and comments from all students in the group.

4. Blogs and RSS Feeds RSS (13)stands for Rich Site Summary or Real Simple Syndication. Blogs (and an ever-growing number of other sites) generate a behind-the-scenes code in a language similar to HTML (14) called XML (15). This code, usually referred to as a “feed reader”(16) makes it possible for teachers to “subscribe” to the content that is created on students’ blogs so they no longer have to visit the blog itself to get it. As is true with traditional syndication (17), the content comes to you instead of you going to get it, hence “Real Simple Syndication.” Finding the time to click through students’ sites and keep abreast of any changes on a regular basis would be nearly impossible. But what if you only had to go to

one place to read all of the new content on all of those sites? Wouldn’t be so difficult, would it? Well, that’s exactly what RSS feeds allows you to do by using a type of software called an “aggregator”(18)or feed collector. The aggregator checks the students’ feeds that the teacher subscribes to, usually every hour, and it collects all the new content from those sites. Then, when the teacher is ready, she/he can open up your aggregator to read the individual student blogs. 5. Teachers Using Blogs In a recent TAFE workshop teachers identified the following strengths of blogs for use in the Teaching and learning: 1. Blogs are free and easy to create….maintenance may be an issue. 2. Use of templates simplifies design. 3. Content can be entered from anywhere at anytime. 4. Content may be accessed from anywhere at anytime. 5. Posts provide students with an opportunity to practice writing skills . 6. ‘Old’ posts can be archived and can be retrieved from a calendar. 7. A blog may have multiple authors. 8. Anyone can contribute comments about posts. Comments may be moderated before they are displayed. 9. Blog posts can be monitored using RSS feed aggregators.


10. Organisation of blog content can be achieved by creating and assigning categories to posted content. Specific content can then be retrieved by specifying a category. 11. A blog environment for the Teaching and learning may include a) Teacher blog, b) Student blog, c) Project blog, d) Group blog.

The following diagram illustrates a classroom multiblog application:
STUDENT BLOG * Progress * Requests * Reflections * Resources links * Observations * Portfolio of work (ePortfolio/Blogfolio) PROJECT BLOG * Progress reports * Problems * Issues * Solutions * Roles GROUP BLOG Discussion forum for: * Topics * Issues * Challenges * Solutions * Problems

TEACHER BLOG * Class/subject/project schedule * Guidelines * Updates * Resources links * Motivation messages * Notification of events * etc.

6. World Wide Web References. 1. http://archive.nmc.org/projects/dkc/sts_4.shtml 2. http://educational.blogs.com/edbloggerpraxis/

3. http://www.smh.com.au/news/livewire/reading-allabout-it/2005/11/23/1132421675682.html 4. http://www.educause.edu/pub/er/erm04/erm0450.asp?bhc p=1 5. http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/?q=node/233 6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_hosting 7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software 8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coldfusion 9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypermail 10. http://autodesk.blogs.com/between_the_lines/ 11. http://www.lincolnsign.com/ 12. http://democracymatters.blogspot.com/ 13. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rss 14. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Html 15. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xml 16. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_Feed_Reader 17. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS_Feed_Reader 18. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggregator