Monday, June 20, 2005

What makes a blog of value?

Why blog? Thousands of pieces on "why blogging" have been written. A greater contribution might be made by considering how to make a blog a valuable one.

What makes a blog of value? One might also ask why do we read. We do so to be informed and stimulated. This implies that the author is writing about something that they are knowledgeable about, poses opinions and ideas that shake up the standard thinking from time to time, communicates clearly, and is effective at keeping a discussion going once it starts. This also implies a group that needs to share and inform each other. This makes blogs valuable to all, from community groups to classroom groups. Blogs also are valuable for their global system of syndication, an almost instantaneous form of distribution that will be addressed later.

Those writing characteristics are important to good teaching in the classroom, and to effectively teaching writing as well. Blogs have the potential to play an important role in teaching the reading and writing process. But the publicly available nature of blogs needs modifying for classroom use. Teachers and their students need a more protected way to learn to write and to blog; they need some privacy and mechanisms for controlling who can read and comment on the blogs. Computer programmers have been creating blogging systems that meet such requirements for classroom use, systems that keep the teacher in control of approving written pieces before they appear in the student blog. The link above to BlogMeister leads to a site and blog model designed by a North Carolina educator with classroom teachers in mind.

In the classic blog format, blogs vary in the degree of connectedness of their postings. Some stay close to their overall theme and others are extreme ramblings related to the spark of the moment. But blogs have value because they can be re-invented. Instead of a series of disconnected thoughts in diary style spread out over time, they can also represent a coherent essay. Each heading in the blog can represent a different heading in an composition. The headings are put in order by the date, so editing the date changes their place in the sequence. The essay you are reading has been duplicated as a blog to demonstrate this. By turning on the comments feature, writers can gather comments about each section of their composition. These comments can be further edited within the section or posting itself, creating a kind of continuous modification system until such time that the sections of the composition might be copied to a word processor or web page for further publication, whether in a magazine, refereed journal, or web site. The blog might remain as the "live" publication with the journal or web publication just a snapshot in time in the life of the blog. The web page could then updated from the blog as frequently as the author chose. I've coined the term partner blog for this concept in paring a blog with other forms of sharing. The blog might also be closed down once the journal article was published, a one-shot blog approach that somehow seems out-of-date with the 21st century.

For those with more developed writing skills and those with sufficient experience to have something to share, blogs start out with an inherent advantage over many forms of information distribution. Their easy to post and comment qualities allow fast response to thinking, events and news. Because good blog posters add their information daily or even more often, blogs are one of the most current forms of information available, faster than all other news sources. Further, some blog search systems update their indexing data daily. This means the information you search for in blog sites has the added value of being as current as the last few minutes.

2 Comments:

Blogger Josh Lynch said...

The value of a blog site can be seen in its ability to teach writing skills within the classroom. When students are able to write about topics that interest them on a personal level then they are writing meaningfully with a purpose. Whether that purpose is used to inform, persuade, argue, etc...; it is purposeful writing that can elicit a response. This in turn also validates the use of a blog site to assist with the instruction of writing within a classroom community.
Also, with the use of a blog site the teacher could set up a writing community where there are writing conferences going on between the teacher and his students. Fellow students could also be used to peer edit and review pieces of writing.
Never having used this format within the classroom to assist in writing skills I am just speaking on theory. However, it would be interesting to "play" with this theory and see it turn into a valuable reality.

6/29/2005 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Greg Franklin said...

The value of a blog is only limited by creativity. I think there more ways to use a blog than can be listed. One of the greatest values to having students use this resource is practice and improvement in written work. Having students write papers, while serving a purpose, can often be very humdrum. Writing using a blog gives this process a new flare and engages students in a new way. Students are also becoming an acronym and symbol generation. With instant messenger so popular among young people, so is the style of writing that pays little or no attention to spelling and/or grammar. Blogs can encourage students to adhere to an acceptable writing process, while being engaged in an online environment. With these two thoughts in mind, the possibilities are endless..

7/06/2005 07:44:00 PM  

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