Which assignment is better, writing a paper or posting a blog?

In my assigned role as devil's advocate, I'd like to see the reasons why a teacher would want to have students write a blog to illustrate what they have learned on a topic (large or small) vs writing the traditional paper with sources cited, artwork on the cover, and eraser marks as needed. What would be the advantages of assigning a blog be created? What would be the pitfalls? What would be necessary in order for all participants to be able to post a blog equally with their peers (if, for example they don't have a computer at home!)? Then, when you have considered the advantages, the superintendent tells you they won't let you do it unless you can supply research information that these advantages exist and are beneficial to students!

Tags: advantages, blogging, commons, creative, instruction, of, technology, use

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Ah, I guess "looking over" the comments implied more than just "sampling" to me. I misunderstood. By the way, I only saw one that said they didn't like commenting on other blogs--can you find those two quotes you saw and link them for me?

Sometimes getting people to collaborate is partly an issue of removing barriers. One of my blogger friends was stumped as to why he wasn't getting more comments on his blog. Turns out he didn't realize that his settings required people to register and sign in before commenting--a huge barrier for a blog. Making it easy to comment and collaborate isn't the only thing you need to do, but it's certainly one of the requirements.

Thinking about spam, I just went to look at stats for my own blog. I'm not exactly in the big leagues; I'm basically a C-list blogger. I average 200-250 views a day, with 800-900 subscribers. So I have nice numbers, but I'm not drawing a huge amount of traffic. In a little less than 3 years, I've gotten 967 comments and approved 944. I don't moderate all comments, but the spam filter sends me some in the gray area to approve or delete. Assume I maybe deleted half the ones in the gray area; that means I've had about one comment a month to review.
Christy,

You are slowly but surely convincing me that I should look into blogging.

My website varies in its views during the school year, but last year totalled 1.5 million views for the year. It may be a little less this year since I was sick in June and July and couldn't collect the stats. I add content monthly and send out a newsletter about the new content each month. Out of the 200 on the mailing list, about 60 actually link on the newsletter. Some just like to hear that I'm still around! The newsletter that mentioned my pneumonia and possible heart surgery prompted a lot of concerned emails back.

My email now comes through gmail to my outlook inbox, and I am getting far less spam than I did when my email was on an isp. I'm now on wireless, finally able to see youtubes, and had to give up my old email address.

I did a sampling of the blog comments because I am also working on some new pages under geography on my website. Plus I needed my afternoon nap!

I will add to the opening page to invite people to collaborate for me. We have a page that offers to host websites, and we rarely get any response. The page attracts little attention. I'm not sure what we are doing wrong.

But, the good side of the email for the day is a message from one of my young men in Ghana. He gave me the names of all the students in his school along with their ages. I will print up My Own Books for each of them, and send a package to their village with some other school supplies that I pick up when shopping. I did the same for one village in Ghana in the beginning of the summer, and recently sent them a laptop so they can get online and pull the village up by its bootstraps. In the first package I'd sent a digital camera, but they couldn't use it on the Internet Cafe computers which is the only access they have. Now, with the laptop, they will still have to go to the Internet Cafe for connectivity, but they can use the laptop instead of having to install software on the Cafe's computers. You can read about the Ghana project on http://www.educationalsynthesis.org/projects/Ghana
I suspect that may be the case, but I'd love to see Anne conduct and publish some research on it to see what the difference would be.

Personally, I hate collaborating on writing via email. It's cumbersome and looks too much like the process on the left in the image below (from Wikinomics). I do most of my collaboration for my job on Google Docs; it's so much easier to know that everyone has the most updated copy at all times, and I can see immediately what others have changed. The process with Google Docs looks like the wiki process on the right below; so much simpler. Blogs work much the same way; there's a lot less friction in the process than there would be with email. I probably wouldn't do blogs if the writing was going to go through multiple rounds of revision (like the courses I write, which is one of the reasons we use Google Docs).

Christy, I like it. The illustration on the left looks like my brain!
Indigo,

I have been using email for some 25 years now, and it rarely becomes morass and impossible to follow unless people trail the discussion behind their every post. I realize that in some venues this is a requirement, but on email lists it just clogs the network On an individual exchange between 2 people (or more if you are ccing it. it is useful to keep track of what has been said in a communication exchange.
What do you think about conducting some research to confirm your hypothesis that email or a forum would be better than blogs? You seem pretty firm in your conviction. I'd love to see what results you got if you channeled that passion into getting evidence.
Indigo,

I am a huge fan of email, and know a variety of methods to keep down the chaos. First of all, as mail comes in, I make an initial pass through it, discard those which by subject I know will not be of interest (or a thread I am no longer interested in). Then I read the remainder. Some remain in my inmail box to be replied to or otherwise acted on. If the post is part of one of the projects I work on, then I may move the email to a folder. If an email is a suggestion for additions to the website, I save the email to the proper part of the website to be dealt with later. One thing that is perhaps easier in email is forwarding information from one source to another. I have a circle of friends and family who share jokes, cartoons and other light-hearted fare. While there are a few among my email contacts who will mention they have a blog, most seem to be dedicated emailers.
Indigo,

Email has been part of my day for 25 years. It was either learn to manage it, or sink under the weight. To me, email does not make a mess to be sorted out. Linking to an assortment of blogs to keep up with things, would boggle my mind. I have no idea how to make the millions of blogs out there shrink to a useful number.
Part of the deal with Web 2.0 is that you have to give up the idea that you will be able to read it all. You can't; it's not humanly possible. So one of the skills that both teachers and students need is figuring out how to filter through the wealth of information to find things that are relevant.

As Indigo said, you don't start with millions. You start with a handful of blogs. Find some people with blogs that you like and trust on this site (or at least people you find interesting, even if you disagree with them). Use a feed reader like Google Reader to subscribe to them (Google Reader in Plain English is a good intro to that tool). Subscribe to 5 blogs to start. When you're comfortable reading 5 regularly, subscribe to 10 or 20. Increase it in baby steps as you're comfortable. Teachers who will use blogs with students have to also be very familiar with reading blogs, and that familiarity requires practice.

With students, I'd start with having them just subscribe to blogs for their teacher and classmates, plus the classmates at another school if it's a collaborative project. Depending on the age and the project, that might be it; I might never expect them to subscribe to any more blogs than that.

On the other hand, especially with older students, I might have them subscribe to more blogs. As a teacher, one of the roles you may play is that of curator; you filter through all the content out there to bring some of the best to your students' attention. So perhaps a teacher would provide a list of 10 external blogs for students to read in addition to those of their classmates. I could see this being very relevant for a high school government class: follow a few blogs of politicians or commentators on both sides to help prompt discussion in class.

I've developed some activities in graduate courses where participants do research and find two or three resources to share with the class. Links are collected in a table on a class wiki, and usually I have participants annotate each others' links (which forces them to look at what others have contributed). I'm sure you could do a similar activity with younger students as a way of teaching them online research skills, and it would give you a valuable list of blogs.
Anne, Are you familiar with Bloglines.com and RSS feed? Bloglines is free and it allows you to enter the addresses of blogs you would like to read. The blogs are PUSHED in to you.

For instance, I know you are interested in History so you might enjoy reading The Library of Congress' blog. You open a Bloglines account and add this blog's 'feed'. Maybe you'd enjoy a blog that tries new recipes or reviews new books---When you are looking for something to read, you go to Bloglines and see if there is anything that strikes your fancy.

You can sort the blogs by subject matter. Try it out, it'll bring the blogosphere you your fingertips.
This isn't a formal study, but Brain of the Blogger is an interesting post from Drs. Fernette and Brock Eide about the possible benefits of blogging. I thought it might be interesting to those of you in this discussion. (As a side note, I wish they had better citations for the research they cite in their post; you have to dig in the comments to find links for some of it.)
Indigo,

The is in reply to your last post about the role of various forms of technology. I agree with you that there are lots of forms of communication so that people can find the ones they like best. I am fond of forums, but only limit myself to one or two at a time since they tend to be time-consuming. I keep up with a number of email list.

But, I am not sure how one would keep up with a variety of blogs. Would you store the URLs in your favorite in a separate folder for blogs?

ISTE has been doing that for a very long time. Virginia has its own branch of ISTE, VSTE, which puts on the very best educational conferences in the state for teachers. I've presented at VSTE conferences over the years, but am now feeling a little old and out of date to be delivering new ideas to teachers. A couple of us oldsters considered a presentation at the Denver ISTE conference coming up, but I think we are all feeling a bit old to do this anymore. I've had a bad year for health, and worried that promising so far in advance could turn into a problem if I couldn't make it after all.

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