Blogging – Not ‘IF’ but When and Where. UPEI presentation

These are the notes for a presentation at the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) on the 4th of September, 2007 as part of the Let’s Talk Teaching day. In short, the presentation will try to explain that we need to move beyond the question about whether blogging is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘useful’ that is not ‘should I use blogs in my classroom?’ and move on to the question ‘what is the most effective use of the blog in my classroom?’. I’ll start by covering the position currently held by the audio, what we/I think blogging is, how participatory knowledge production is the new black, and then converge on the more practical matters of how one get into ‘this blogging thing.’ I encourage everyone to comment both before and after the presentation… It might help someone to do a better job 😛

Some introductory questions.

  • introduction – who am I?
  • What are we trying to do today?
  • What is a blog?
  • How many people here read? write? use blogs?

The case against blogging
The above link is from a classic article written in the Chronicle of Higher Education in the summer of 2005… Just about the same time as I started blogging full time with this blog. Here’s an excerpt.

A candidate’s blog is more accessible to the search committee than most forms of scholarly output. It can be hard to lay your hands on an obscure journal or book chapter, but the applicant’s blog comes up on any computer. Several members of our search committee found the sheer volume of blog entries daunting enough to quit after reading a few. Others persisted into what turned out, in some cases, to be the dank, dark depths of the blogger’s tormented soul; in other cases, the far limits of techno-geekdom; and in one case, a cat better off left in the bag.

The pertinent question for bloggers is simply, Why? What is the purpose of broadcasting one’s unfiltered thoughts to the whole wired world? It’s not hard to imagine legitimate, constructive applications for such a forum. But it’s also not hard to find examples of the worst kinds of uses.

  • How can blogs be used as part of the research process?
  • What would an interesting academic blog in your field look like?

One person’s journey.

  • How do I blog?
  • For my personal blog, blogging is the one place where I get to finish my sentences. Now… my sentences are often long, and perhaps too often meandering… but it does give me a chance to get thoughts out that otherwise wouldn’t make it to the public discourse. It gives ideas that I’ve had, or that I’ve noticed, a chance to circulate through the online network that I currently work with. They come back, and comment… and my thinking gets better.

    For my community blog ( is more of a question of participating in a community effort. This is an audio blog, that we use as part of our webcasting. The whole comes together to create the content, to publish it and, more importantly, to ‘syndicate’ it out across the internet.

    The only video blogging that I do is on youtube. I use youtube for my personal learning objects that I want to store for later use. I’m not really sure that anyone is reading that as a feed…

  • RSS
  • fresh RSS

    What is RSS?

    Important: it’s not necessary to understand much about RSS to get a lot out of it. In fact, marketing studies such as this one are showing that of all the Internet users currently taking advantage of RSS feeds as part of their Internet usage, only about 25% are even aware that they are using RSS feeds! You may already be using RSS feeds without knowing it — but a little knowledge about RSS will take you a long way toward getting maximum benefit out of this simple technology. Our goal here is to introduce enough about RSS so that you can use it to make your work, life, and research more efficient.

  • Emergent Communities
  • Blogging for me is about community. Communities tend to form around different bloggers or different topics of shared interest. By going to a website like touchgraph you can get a quick sense of what kinds of things are happening in any given community.

  • The Long Tail
  • An article published in Wired magazine in October 2004 detailed the concept of the long tail. The concept is based on one of the critical differences between meatspace and the internet. The ‘real world’ is bounded by space. The ‘internet’, for the most part, is not.
    long tail
    Are we not, as academics, always serving the long tail?

take a breath… question?

Teaching and Blogging

  • Blogging into a class from students.
  • Here’s a class on ‘Open Education’ a master’s course at the University of Indiana. The key reason for this use is that the participants retain their own content. It becomes part of their ‘portfolio’ of work. It’s an inversion of the regular ‘send the paper in and forget about it’ model that is the defacto standard in more of education. This model means that the content of the conversation lives on. It can become parts of conversations going on anywhere.

  • Blogging into a class from ‘experts’
  • Feedbook
    Here’s a simple example of what an edtech feedbook might look like if I was teaching a course. It includes my blog (optional, of course, if you don’t have one… just don’t include it.) This gives an opportunity for the classroom curriculum to be current, to be surprising, and, in many cases, for students to find resources that the teachers weren’t aware of. This also gives the students a reading list that they can take with them through their careers.

  • Blogging out from the classroom by the professor
  • There are bunches of ways in which blogging can be useful coming from a professor. Anything from announcements for classes…

  • Aggregating by concept
  • This is a webpage that is aggregating information related to snowclones. This means that any content that is posted to technorati on the somewhat new and obscure field of snowclones will show up on this site. It also takes the blogs of people who work on snowclones as well as any ‘’ account tagged with the word ‘snowclone’. In this particular case, in aggregates the comments from a moodle forum that the presentation was using as well.

Are there ways in which this can fit into your practice?

Where does someone begin?

  • Finding Blogs
  • There are several ways to get started with finding blogs that would fit with your position on the long tail. Technorati is the main place that people usually go to find blog posts. Another effective way is to find a trusted node. Once you find one blog that fits your tastes, take a look at what they read.

  • Netvibes
  • It’s very difficult to post this here… because i can’t give you access to my netvibes account.
    link to a short tour of my netvibes account.

  • Blog software
  • I use two different kinds of software for my blogs. For my personal blog I use wordpress and my community blog uses drupal. We also use elgg for our communities of students at and There are also a cagillion blogging services… I recommend

    Does anyone want to try a specific topic or genre?

    How do some others blog
    science blogging

    Art theory
    Huge list of academic bloggers
    Science bloggers
    Science Bloggers conference

    Recap – 8 slides to sum up


    Blogging, like ‘academic writing’ is a vague label that really doesn’t do justice to the complexities of the subject it is meant to cover. Blogging is appropriate any time that people need to be kept ‘up to date’ with a topic, a person, images, videos… It should not be seen as a yes/no decision, but as a tool which, like everything else, works better when used appropriately. 🙂

    Author: dave

    I run this site... among other things.

    6 thoughts on “Blogging – Not ‘IF’ but When and Where. UPEI presentation”

    1. Under ‘finding blogs’…

      One of the things I liked about Bloglines is that it recommended blogs similar to the ones you already subscribe to.

      So I recommended people write a blog about their own interests, then subscribe to it in Bloglines.

    2. A great presentation/blog, Dave! I liked your visuals and the embedded slideshow as well.

      I have a few more thoughts about blogging for educational purposes – not if, but when, where and why, as well.

      I used blogs with my high school students for the last three years in a variety of ways. As an English teacher, I am always looking for ways for my students to produce writing in authentic situations. Most of us are reluctant writers to begin with, so writing purposefully for a real audience makes a big difference in motivation and effort on the part of students. For the most part, traditional samples of writing would have an audience of one (the teacher), maybe two (if the student actually proof-read it!). With a blogging environment, the audience can be larger than just the members of the class. However, I have found that my students would *prefer* to write for an anonymous audience over their own peers – so powerful is the social force of peer groups in the teenage years! What I also discovered consistently over the three year period, was that the quality of writing improved greatly both between samples handed in for only my eyes and over time.

      This was due, I believe, to a number of factors. First of all, the students were exposed to the quality of writing by the rest of the students. Suddenly the bar was raised. They could see for themselves what was good and mediocre (and just plain awful) writing. The students who perceived themselves as not quite doing a great job put a good deal more effort and care into their writing. I almost couldn’t believe the quality I was witnessing from some of those students! As well, they were also aware that they themselves now had an audience. This also motivated them to perform at their best.

      Last year, I asked the headmaster of our school to read my students’ blog posts – at times in response to his weekly address – and he agreed. The very fact that the students were aware that the headmaster was going to read their blog posts also motivated them to really dig deep and write critically and thoughtfully. I was very impressed with much of what they had to say.

      So when we talk about using online social spaces – such as blog or wikis – for communicating for educational purposes, I would have to say a very compelling reason is because of authentic audience.

      I am very impressed with the new Qu̩bec Education Plan that has now been completed in its mandate to provide a new curricula for the students of Quebec in the 21st Century. It explicitly states that the notion of text is no longer bound by words on a page (be it webpage or hard copy) but we now read other texts for meaning Рvisual texts, audio texts, multimedia texts. Literacy is now about making meaning from all available texts. Most blogging and wiki environments permit these texts (as you have shown on this blog post with your visuals and slideshow) to habitate all in one location in order to foster meaning-making for its audiences. Our students exist in a world where they are saturated with these texts. They have themselves become the producers also of these texts. I believe it is fundamentally important that we give them opportunities to produce content in meaningful, yet appropriate ways. This is another very important reason we educators should be using these tools and environments within the scope of our instruction.

      I have also been blogging myself – though certainly not daily – for the last two years as well. I took it on as a way to prime the pump for my own thesis writing for a graduate degree. The discipline of blog writing has given me back much more than that. I have connected with educators I had no idea were out there. In fact, I am still surprised when someone says they are following my blog! The notion of an authentic audience who reads what I write is a powerful motivator; however, with it comes a responsibility of care for what I write and about whom. I work very hard not to betray the trust of my friends and colleagues as I write. It is very important to play nice and play fair when you are putting your thoughts “out there” on the Internet. This is about digital ethics – something I don’t believe we teach enough to our students. As they become producers of content, it gives them an opportunity to experience ownership of ideas – perhaps through this, it will give them a sense of the importance of copyright and avoiding plagiarism.

      Thanks for giving me a chance, Dave, to thrash through some of my ideas and beliefs about the uses of blogging in education!

    3. Thank you for your blog/presentation. This is a great way to present information, it has given me tons of ideas to add to my own classroom. I am still trying to figure out how to get my students to blog in a meaningful way, you have just opened up the floodgates… thank you

    4. Thanks for the mini-shout out to the OpenEd class … just wanted to note that while I am taking the class as an Indiana Independent Study option, it is “officially” being offered and faciliated by Utah State’s Dr. David Wiley … attribution where attribution is due 🙂

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