What Is It?


A blog, or web log, is a web site that is built in pieces over time. Posts are listed in reverse chronological order and usually readers can opt to subscribe to a blog's RSS feed. Blogs can contain images, RSS feeds from other sources, videos, and audio files. Authors also usually provide links to resources posts are tagged for easy searching. Another important feature of blogs is the opportunity for readers to post comments and start up a conversation with the author and other readers. This sharing, reflecting, and interacting aspect of blogs is also one reason why blogs are popular choices for educators. The New York Times website has a post in Technology titled "Blogs 101", that provides links to a variety of blogs to acquaint readers with what blogs are and how they are used.

Lee Lefever and Commoncraft provide their explanation of blogs in the following YouTube video:

How is it Used?


Blogs are being used by educators for a wide range of ages and subjects. Blogs can have one author or multiple authors, depending on their purpose. An instructor might use a blog to construct a class portal where students can find announcements, information for assignments, and even participate in discussion. On the other hand, students might have individual blogs which function more like a portfolio where they can post their work and get instructor feedback. For group work, students might be posting the results of experiments they are carrying out, or developing an annotated bibliography for course related readings, or providing peer review for written work. Usually permissions enable you to choose who has access to the blog for posting and viewing access can be restricted as well.

For some examples, take a look at the Edublog award winning blogs . Whether and how you use a blog with your classes will depend on your specific learning objectives. One of the key findings from four pilot studies of blog use in higher education as reported in Ruth Reynard's Jan. 11, 2005 Campus Technology article, Blogs in Higher Ed: Personal Voice as Part of Learning was that "blogging must be integrated early in the course design and must be clearly connected to the course outcomes before it can become anything more than just an extra task for the students" This article also presents other recommendations that will be of interest to instructors.

How Can I get Started?


Today, according to Will Richardson (2009, p. 19), "two new blogs are being created every second". Consequently, blogs can be found on almost any topic and can be published pretty much by anyone with an Internet connection and the desire to do so. Free blog hosting services are available such as Edublog, Blogger and Wordpress, but open source applications are also available that can be installed on a local server.

Before asking students to participate in authoring a blog, either individually or as a group, it is highly recommended that the instructor becomes a blogger first. Alan A. Lew, a Geography professor at Northern Arizona University, has a blog where he writes about Web 2.0 Teaching Tools. Ted Panitz, a professor of Mathematics and Engineering as Cape Cod Community College, maintains a "Teaching and Learning Blog." Bill Ferriter, in his article "Learning with Blogs and Wikis" (February 2009 issue of Educational Leadership), has some great advice for getting started with blogs - both as a writer and reader.

A Blogging Tutorial


The following is a tutorial on how to get started with Blogger. A PDF version is also available: Introduction to Blogging.pdf.

I. Getting started:
1. Go to: https://www.blogger.com/start.
2. Click on the orange arrow that says “Create your blog now”.
3. Follow the prompts to set up your account and click “Continue”.
4. On the next page, give your blog a title and select a URL for your blog (something that will be relevant to your class and easy to remember!).
5. Next, choose from the 12 template options. (Note: you can always modify these later on with your own images.) Click “Continue”.
6. You should now see a screen that says: “Your blog has been created!” Click on the orange arrow that says: “Start posting”.

II. Posting to the blog:
1. Once you’ve set up your blog, you can begin posting. After following the instructions above, you will see a screen showing a blank text box. (Make sure you’re in the Compose tab, not the HTML tab.) If you’re not sure about which tab you’re in, look towards the top right corner of the screen.
2. Now give your blog entry a title.
3. Next type something in the text field. Then click on the orange “Publish post” button. Don’t worry if you see a mistake; you can go back and edit your post at any time.
4. To format the text, use the tool bar at the top. Change the font type and style to your liking. You can also try using the bullet/numbering feature for making lists.
5. Check your spelling by clicking on the “ABC √” icon at the top of the text box.
6. To preview your page, click on the Preview link to the right of the page.
7. If you’ve already clicked “Publish post”, click on “View Blog” to see your page.

III. Editing the main page:
1. To customize your blog page, click on “Customize” at the top right corner of your screen.
2. Next click on “Edit” in the Header area. You can give your blog a description or change the display name that people see when they visit your blog.
3. You may also want to edit the section called “About Me” to the left of the screen.
4. If you want to add different features to your blog page, click on “Add a Page Element” and choose from the various options available to you (videos, newsreels, etc.).
5. On this screen, you can also change your template by clicking on “Pick New Template” at the top.
6. Clicking on “Fonts and Colors” at the top of the screen will allow you to customize the template even further.

IV. Uploading an image:
1. To import an image into one of your posts, go to Dashboard > “+ New Post”. When the new post box appears, click on the image icon on the tool bar (if you’re not sure which one this is, drag your cursor over the icons to see their display names).
2. At the next prompt, browse for your .jpg image. Choose a layout and Image Size and then click the orange “Upload image” button.
3. Blogger will tell you it’s loading the image. Once it’s finished, you see it appear right in the text box.

V. Uploading a video clip:
1. To upload a video clip, click on the video icon (it looks like a film strip).
2. At the next prompt, Browse for your video file on your desktop or folder. Note that videos must be in the following formats: AVI, MPEG, or Real.
3. Give your video a title, check the box that says you agree to the Terms & Conditions of video material, and then click on the orange “Upload Video” button.
4. Note: an easy way to import YouTube videos into your blog is to copy and paste the “embed” link (located to the right of every YouTube video) into the “Edit HTML” view of your post.

VI. Hyperlinking to an external site:
1. To hyperlink a website to your blog, highlight the text you want to become “active”, then click on the globe/paperclip icon on the tool bar.
2. At the next prompt, copy the URL of the website you want to hyperlink and click OK.
3. You should now see your text highlighted and underlined. Next click on “Publish Post” button to test it out.
4. *NOTE: You can always delete a post by going to the Posting tab, then clicking on the “Edit posts” tab. Here you will see a list of all of your posts. To delete one, check the box to the left of the post’s title and then click on the blue “Delete” to the far right.

VII. *Optional - HTML language:
1. If you are curious about HTML language and want to give it a try, these codes are helpful to know about (*NOTE: must be working under the “Edit HTML” tab to use these):
a. Bold tags = <b>sample text</b>
b. Italic tags = <i>sample text</i>
c. Underline tags = <u>sample text</u>
d. Hyperlink = <a href=“http://www.website.com”>sample display text</a>
Maeve Ryan © UConn Journalism Software Training Boot Camp

Related Technologies and Resources


The Instructional Resource Center at the University of Connecticut Please has started a blog "newsletter".
Google Blog Search
Listing of Educational Blogs
Over Two-Hundred Education & Science Blogs (Richard Hake, PDF full article)
Over Two-Hundred Education Science Blogs_ed.htm (Selected links from article above)

References

Reynard, Ruth. (2005). Blogs in Higher Ed: Personal Voice as Part of Learning. Campus Technology (http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2005/01/Blogs-in-Higher-Ed-Personal-Voice-as-Part-of-Learning.aspx?Page=1 )

Richardson, Will. (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.