Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Getting Started (and inside) Blogger

Now that you have explored a bit of the weblog universe, hopefully now you are eager to try it for yourself. There are many different types of weblog authoring software and systems out there, but for this workshop we have chosen one with particular nice feaures:

  • It is free

  • It can be used on any computer

  • It is easy to use.

  • Anyone can instantly create a new blog. In seconds.

  • And it is free.

It's logo says "Push Button Publishing" which says that they aim to make this for anyone to use, not just computer geeks. And did we say it was free? (and by the way, it is owned and powered by the folks from Google, so there are some smart web people making this whole thing work).

Is that clear enough what software we shall use? Blogger is ideal for new bloggers and students for all the reasons we list above.

So let's go inside. Participants in our in-person workshops will be provided account access to three pre-made blogs that they can use for the workshops. These are:

Use the provided instructions to log into Blogger.

But anyone else who wants to play along can instantly and easily create their own Blogger account- just go to the main Blogger web site at and follow the 1-2-3 steps for Create Your Blog Now!

Note that in the creation process you have choice of some nicely designed and colorful blog templates. As you get deeper into blogging, you will likely being to see that you can also customize the templates to fit your needs. There is no need to do so, but take some time up front to be selective about the template you choose- make it fit your personality!

At this point you are ready to blog, isn't that easy enough?

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

BlogLooking (peeking at blogs)

So now that we have gone deeper into some definitions of weblogs, let's get your mouse and mind in action and look at a variety of blogs.

Try to pick a few that are aligned with either a topic your are most interested, or the type way where you have thought you could use a weblog, e.g.

"I am interested in weblogs about teaching science methods"

"I would like to see how other colleges use weblogs to organize their planning committees."

"I would like to find weblogs about 1800th century British poets"

"I am looking for a newsletter that is published as a weblog."

We will try to provide you some starting points with a variety of weblogs as well as some other sites you can use that maintain large collections of links to more weblogs. This is by no means comprehensive, just an opportunity to savor some variety across the world of blogs.

Try to look at at least 3 different blogs, and do not focus too much on any single blog, even if it is so funny or so zany you cannot believe it. Just look, read, and look.

Blogs about Technology

Education Blogs

Groups/Commitee Blogs

Humor Blogs

Activism/Political Blogs

Non-Mainstream News Blogs

Places that have collections of blogs

BlogEducating (blogs place in education)

While they have been around for a while, blogs are just now reaching an awareness level with educators, and we are just beginning to see a wide range of potential uses for blogs in the teaching and learning process.

Specific uses may include student publishing tools, electronic portfolios, class resources, project journaling, communication for organizations / committees / teams, alternatives to course management tools, knowledge management, assessment, just to name a few.

As part of British Columbia's BlogTalk- Discussion on the use of blogs in educcation, Scott Leslie provided an excellent "matrix" of potential uses of weblogs in education. The matrix features a coordinate system with dimensions of Student Blogs vs Faculty Blogs and actions of Reading Blogs vs Writing Blogs. Within each quadrant, he outlines examples on a continuium defined by the audience "For the Internet - For other students - for instructors - for self". View image of matrix or a MS Word version.

Blogs as Student Publishing Tools

Weblogs provide an interface for students to create web sites for project assignments, journaling, writing, problem-solving, that avoid having them to learn HTML, web publishing software, or waste time creating yet another overloaded PowerPoint. Blogs provide a way to extend their work to an audience not limited to their instructor or who was present in class that day. Blogs provide a built-in system for students to give and receive feedback from not only their teachers, but their peers.

Blogs as Electronic Portfolios

The original version of this BlogShop was for a group of faculty at Chandler-Gilbert Community College interested in systems for electronic portfolios. This was presented not necessarily to say that blogs were ideal as an eportfolio platform, more to say it was possible and to look carefully at the communication and publishing tools built in to web logs. We had a section of the blogshop that expounded (or at least tried to) on An Idea: Blogfolios.

In fact, Chandler-Gilbert has created their own eportfolio system that iincludes a blogging tool, and you should be able to find examples of both student (example) and faculty (example) use.

A number of teacher education students have taken to using blogs as a portfolio or as a journaling tool of their experience, such as Ryna Eby, Dialectic Journal, Lee Smith's Me v2.0, and Mrs Taylor's Weblog.

In the hands of a talented graphic designer, a blog can produce a stunning electronic portfolio.

Class/Course/Discipline Resources

As you look at more blog examples, hopefully you can see how a blog is a great tool for assembling internet resources for a speciific course or subject area. First of all, it provides the means not only to link to other sites, but to annotate them as to what is relevant about those sites.

But a blog has the capabilty of organizing resources into different categories, and it can add the use of a search tool.

Now isn't that better than just providing a static list of links?

See Bruce Landon's Weblog for Students (Psychology) or Archaeology Online. Also note that the subject oriented collection of websites at is actually run completely with weblog technology. Citizen Scientist is a "clearinghouse of ideas for bringing science into the classroom." Mrs Counter's Fourth Grade Class Weblog provides resources for this school in Maineville, Ohio. Tim Merritt's DV for Teachers provides a wealth of resources.

More examples to come...

BlogWondering (what the heck is a blog?)

Okay, we have thrown the word "blog" at you, and tried to be cute at saying it is a thing and an action. But we humans like things clearly defined, so let's dig into some definitions of "weblogs."

Pick one you like, write your own, or just live with a fuzzy definition. You will get a better sense of blogs once you begin looking at them and you will even be more attuned when you begin participating in the blog world.

Jill Walker (who has a weblog!) shares a defintion of a weblog, written for the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory:

A weblog, or *blog, is a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first (see temporal ordering). Typically, weblogs are published by individuals and their style is personal and informal. Weblogs first appeared in the mid-1990s, becoming popular as simple and free publishing tools became available towards the turn of the century. Since anybody with a net connection can publish their own weblog, there is great variety in the quality, content, and ambition of weblogs, and a weblog may have anywhere from a handful to tens of thousands of daily readers.

Examples of the *genre exist on a continuum from *confessional, online *diaries to logs tracking specific topics or activities through links and commentary. Though weblogs are primarily textual, experimentation with sound, *images, and videos has resulted in related genres such as photoblogs, videoblogs, and audioblogs (see intermediality; media and narrative).

Most weblogs use links generously, allowing readers to follow conversations between weblogs by following links between entries on related topics. Readers may start at any point of a weblog, seeing the most recent entry first, or arriving at an older post via a search engine or a link from another site, often another weblog. Once at a weblog, readers can read on in various orders: chronologically, thematically, by following links between entries or by searching for keywords. Weblogs also generally include a blogroll, which is a list of links to other weblogs the author recommends. Many weblogs allow readers to enter their own comments to individual posts.

Weblogs are serial and cumulative, and readers tend to read small amounts at a time, returning hours, days, or weeks later to read entries written since their last visit. This serial or episodic structure is similar to that found in *epistolary novels or *diaries, but unlike these a weblog is open-ended, finishing only when the writer tires of writing (see narrative structure).

Many weblog entries are shaped as brief, independent narratives, and some are explicitly or implicitly fictional, though the standard genre expectation is non-fiction. Some weblogs create a larger frame for the micro-narratives of individual posts by using a consistent rule to constrain their structure or themes (see Oulipo), thus, Francis Strand connects his stories of life in Sweden by ending each with a Swedish word and its translation. Other weblogs connect frequent but dissimilar entries by making a larger narrative explicit: Flight Risk is about an heiress's escape from her family, The Date Project documents a young man's search for a girlfriend, and Julie Powell narrates her life as she works her way through Julia Child's cookbook.

You can find no shortage of various definitions for "weblogs"- here is a gaggle of them, er, rather a "google" of defintions (a search gfrom Google).

But before you get too far clicking and defining, let's just refer to blogging as a personal, chronological organized publishing system for the web.

Some of the key characteristics of a blog might be:

  • It is a person's viewpoint (usually) that is key. A blog is opinion, commentary, diary, reflection, but it nearly always represents the voice of an individula or a group of people.

  • Blogs are quite often text dominant, but can include most any other type of media. However, the emphasis is primarly in the written word, so it is a prime vehicle for practicing and demonstrating writing.

  • Blogs are chronologically organized, e.g. newest writings are first (but not always), and older items can be archived automatically by the system.

  • Blog tools provides an easy interface to create and edit content (no HTML skills are required, although they come in handy). Most blogging toolsallow you to compose via a web interface, so it can be done from anywhere.

  • Usually a blog offers a great deal of flexibility on the formatting, and choosing features to use or ignore, so one can be very free to individualize (or stay simple and use the built in templates out of the box). Some of the better blogging tools will produce web sites that run on modern HTML/XHTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) producing content that adheres to web standards, meets accessibility requirements, and just plain looks like a web page created in this century.

  • Blogs are open to the public to read. In its technology, blogs do not provide password protection or private areas; to achieve this you would have to directory permissions on a web server.
  • Blogs are quite often a hub for electronically connecting to related blogs, and they feature comment tools so site visitors can provide their thoughts on your writings.

We could go on, but this is probably getting boring to read.

For more about blogs/weblogs in general we refer you to:

General Info

about Blogs, history of blogs...

George Siemens (elearnspace blog) has written one of the better overviews of blogs, resources, tools, etc:

The Art of Blogging - Part 1

The Art of Blogging - Part 2

Dave Winer, one of the original developers and promoters of weblogs, writes on the Harvard Law blog site What makes a weblog a weblog? providing a list of key features as well as functions. Dave is rather strongly opinionated (just read his blog) and has written his own version of The History of Weblogs.

Sébastien Paquet writes profoundly on "Personal knowledge publishing and its uses in research" which sounds pretty academic, but is quite enlightening not only in discussion weblog history, but what is unique about blogging as a communication activity.

What We're Doing When We Blog by Meg Hourihan (megnut) a well written introduction to what weblogs can do and a nice down to earth description of weblog features.

Jay Cross's Blog Page provides a comprehensive guide to "what is a blog" as well as a 5 minute streaming Breeze audio guide to blogs.

Russ Liptom blogs that "a weblog is just a web site organized by time."

From d2r, a rather comprehensive introduction to weblogs.

Weblogs? is part of a great collection of resources from Middlebury College.

An Incomplete Annotated History of Weblogs provides annecdotes for the timeline minded.

From "rebecca's pocket" by Rebcca Blood, a weblog history a well written narrative history, her site is well worth exploring for more resources. She has also written a great book, The Weblog Handbook.

Blogs in Education

Some seeds for ideas how blogs might be of value in teaching and learning...

EdBlogger Praxis is a resource site that features daily updates of how educators are using blogs.

Thoughts about weblogs in education was written by Dan Mitchell at De Anza College.

Blogs and Education by Jim Flowers.

The Year of the Blog: Weblogs in the Writing Classroom by Barclay Barrious is a beautifully designed blog, but better than, an excellent resource with details on blogging tools and tutorials plus thoughts on blogs as writing tools and using blogs to host class content.

Blogging in Higher education contains a good list of educators and schools into blogging as well as the home of the EduBlog WebRing.

Weblogs in Education: Bringing the World to the Liberal Arts Classroom an article by Sarah Lohnes in NITLE News.

Weblogg-ed: Using Weblogs in Education is Will Richardson's massive, link heavy blog. Will is doing some amazing work in using weblogs are a teaching tool and a school web site hub for the k-12 system. See also his FAQ on using weblogs in education and some annecdotes that try to answer "why webblogs?".

Blogs: A Disruptive Technology Coming of Age? an article from Syllabus Magazine.

Weblogging: Another Kind of Website by Chris Ashley, this article was written for the fall 2001 edition of Berkeley Computing and Communications.

EduBlog Insights by Anne Davis at Georgia State University's Instructional Technology Center.

The Subtle Knife: Blog*Diss: Blogs and Academics has more good resources.

Weblogs in Education - Edublogs has even more and more resources.

CarvingCode: Weblog Presentation for faculty by Randy Brown at Sinclair Community College.

A Beginner's Guide to Blogs by learning object expert David Wiley offers a nice concise entrance into the blog world.

Blogging Across the Curriculum by Pattie Belle Hastinsg at Quinnipiac University, based upon her first experiences in using Blogger as a student tool for design projects.

Resources About Blog Tools

Weblogs Compendium tools list

Blogroots tools

Year of the Blog: blog tools and how-tos

Save these for reference, you could be weeks reading them all ;-)

BlogWelcome (blog = a noun + a verb)

Okay, this is a trendier title than "introduction". In this first step of the "blogShop" we welcome the un-initiated into the virtues of weblogs, and try to entice you to click a bit farther.

Perhaps you have heard colleagues talking about "blogs." Maybe your middle school age child spends a lot of time "blogging." Or you may have read about them as a new internet fad/phenomena.

If you are still foggy about blogs ("blog fog?"), do not worry. And if you are really lost, just let's say you are looking at a blog right now? Is that clearer than mud?

Blog The Noun

Yes, this is a blog, short for "weblog." Just a web page. That's all. No fuss. We will get to the definitions later.

It is nothing more than another among the 99 trillion other web pages. But beneath this blog is something unique, as well as the simple tools I have used to write here, plus some really nifty ways that blogs can communicate with each other and people who might be interested in it.

So think of a blog as a web site that can be easily published.

Without knowing HTML.

Without being a techie geek.

Blog the Verb

But you might also say, "I blogged on that issue today" which likely means that you have just written about a particular topic or issue on your own weblog. Or you can blog about content on another web site, meaning you have written some commentary about information you have found elsewhere on the internet.

So the act of writing to your blog is called "blogging." You "blog" to your "blog."

A noun and a verb. In the next section we dig a little bit deeper into what a weblog is.

Monday, July 12, 2004

The Shop is Open

Well, I just came here to stake a claim on this blogger-space. The plan is to develop an online workshop geared for teachers to learn how to effectively use for their own blogs or to help them understand it to in turn, teach their students. It is more likely these days, that the students can teach the teachers!

I have already created a BlogShop in (and for) MovableType. Given that it is bone simple easy for anyone to create a free Blog here, I felt it was time to dive in, learn a bit about the publishing tools, and.... well this is the first step of the journey.

Nice! Just used the spell check tool. It works like a charm.