A blog is an online journaling or communication tool to which new entries, or ‘posts’ are regularly added. In a teaching context, a blog can serve as a simple website showcasing student work or can take advantage of characteristics that are unique to the blog medium, such as comments, tags, categories. Blogs are built to display content in dynamic ways: they are perhaps most often displayed chronologically, but they can just as easily be organized and displayed based on author, month, category or tag. As a teaching tool, blogs can provide an alternative to the perhaps more formal term paper, can foster a sense of learning community, and provide a platform for project-based learning.
- Provide opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know and to make curatorial decisions about how to convey that information
- Give students the opportunity to write for new audiences. Blogs can be restricted to participants of the course or make public on the Web. Writing for a public audience, that may include parents, students at partner institutions, or experts in the field, is a very different experience than writing for an audience of one’s peers or writing specifically for the instructor.
- Foster a sense of learning community through project-based learning
- Tags are a characteristic feature of blogging platforms. These short, usually one word, descriptions of a post’s content can be used to organize materials on the website, but also as a way for students to concisely summarize topics, forge connections between their peers’ work and their own, and identify broader themes in the class. Using this information, you can generate a ‘tag cloud,’ which visualizes the relative popularity of each tag and can act as a navigational element to the blog posts.
- Blogs store information in a very modular and flexible way and can be used to host a wide variety of projects. For example, a blog can function as a simple archive or collection. The features you might look for in an online collection, such as galleries of images and descriptions or categorized lists of objects, are built into the blogging platform.
- Blog posts and pages contain an optional threaded commenting feature. Any content posted to a blog can be commented upon. Requiring students to comment upon each other’s posts is often an important part of a blogging assignment. Keep in mind however that students are unlikely to comment on their peer’s work voluntarily. If commenting is part of an assignment, it should be required and should contribute to their grade.
- A blog in its basic form is a way to share up-to-the-minute news stories. In a Journalism course, this may be perfectly appropriate. The same idea however can equally apply to student responses to recurring course events, such as lectures, readings, or chapters in a book.
- In constructing your assignments, think about what it is you want students to get from blogging and what you are going to value in terms of grading their writing. A blogging assignment can mushroom into a lot of text for you to read and grade. For this reason, some careful planning and a clear and concise rubric can make your life a lot easier when it comes time to grade blog posts.
The McGraw Commons course blogging platform, an instance of the WordPress blogging platform specifically for coursework, is easy to use, but might require some instruction. The McGraw Center makes available written documentation on the use of the system, but be prepared also to set aside 15-30 minutes of class time for instruction by a staff member from the McGraw Center.
Rubrics and resources
- 7 things you should know about blogs, Educause
- Using Blogging as a Learning Tool. The Innovative Instructor Blog, Center for Educational Resources, Johns Hopkins University
- University of Wisconsin – Stout, A Rubric for Evaluating Student Blogs
- University of Maryland, Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, General Blog Rubric
- Beyond George Street blog, College of Charleston, Blog Grading Rubric