Blogs can be used to enable activities that are possible only with blogging but also to perform educational uses that could well be served by other means. The demands of this day and age forces us to have a clear understanding of: a) educational uses of blogs and b) the technical and educational benefits of blogging as compared with other similar technologies such as websites and discussion forum.
About a year ago, in an attempt to explore the educational benefits that could be attained through blogging (for my course work), I checked out some links for blogs and evaluated the individual sites listed below. I used the information provided under “Some uses of Blogs in Education” and “Weblogs in Education: Instructional Uses of Weblogs”. I chose the blog set up by the “New York City Writing Project” for my short paper. I found it interesting and different from the other blogs because of the following reasons:
Though the blog site was not as well-organized and information packed as the “Nice blog about Renaissance,” it provided everybody’s perspective on certain issues faced on a daily basis. The participants (both students and teachers) had shared the knowledge that they came across and it was a perpetual process. For example, they discussed how to incorporate the 3-D text banners. The sharing of information covered various ranges of topics such as yoga, swimming, photography, baking. At the same time some life changing experiences like facing the challenges that are posed with someone’s death had also been shared. Simultaneously, serious teaching took place in the form of a nonfiction unit (covering geography, climate, religion, economy, food, music, art, and clothing of Indonesia). Such effort also extended to the inclusion of experience in Kellada in Andhra Pradesh, India; poem, and books among other things. Education took all different forms to entertain diverse interests with endless possibilites !
The most compelling reason for me to choose that site, however, was that that was a group in transition and was the best example of how the interactive features could be applied to grow together as a community. Lehman College is not a huge institution. Still, they had recognized the need for integration of technology. The faculties themselves were learning to use this tool. They were still tinkering with the technology, trying to upload images, maps, etc. When their individual links were accessed, I saw that they were at different levels of skills. One link did not work. I assumed that he was still trying to figure it out, while another faculty just managed to land to the launching page with a header “It worked!”. The students were going through the same process.
That blogging site of NYCWP, though still in its inception, was connected to other blogging communities, and resources. There were also links available to the main home page for the New York City Writing Project. So, if the students needed to access the course materials, they could easily do that. Therefore, the need for a well-organized institution-based curriculum site and a discussion forum had not been ignored. That was an experimental writing blog that was being used to provide informational resources and at the same time it was serving as a complement to the reading / instructional material. Moreover, the students and teachers had a (common) vested interest in refining its content through participation in a forum like setting and responding to each other’s blog. There was no better way than that to ensure teacher facilitated learner-based education.
A year later, today when I accessed their page, it was more colorful, more organized, and filled with a lot of pertinent information that could benefit the teachers, students and the community alike. In my assessment, the participants have reached the peak of their learning curve. Even the quick navigation of the site gave a more professional look. The site of NYCWP of today is easy to navigate, rich with useful content and highly equipped with interactive features. A perfect example of interactive learning tool.
If you are really interested in finding out more about how blogs can be used as excellent educational tools, use the links that I have provided again below. A very popular blog for children ( K – 12 ) is : “Secret Life of Bees”
The link for the blog for New York City Writing Project used to be : http://www.nycwp.org/membersBlogs but it has changed to http://my.nycwp.net/
I had to use the search engine to look them up today, since it had been a year already and their domain name had changed.
Some Resources :
http://crofsblogs.typepad.com/english/Ask the English Teacher
http://www.edtechpost.ca/gems/matrix2.gifA matrix of potential uses in Education
http://mustangblog.typepad.com/educationalweblogs/instructional_uses_of_weblogs/index.htmlContains description of educational uses of blogs and links to educational blogs
http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_blogging_data.pdfStats about blogging
http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/exploring/harlem/artsedge.htmlNice blog about Renaissance