What is a blog; what is the use in higher education?

I am teaching an intensive this week to doctoral level students and one of the questions on the one minute evaluation is "what is a blog?" so the short answer is--a personal or professional collection of notes and sundry other writings. Most are textual, although there are increasing blogs that include multimedia and graphics. What are the educational uses in higher education? The most obvious is the reflective pieces that we try to encourage (force?) students to provide in the thought that by writing about one's reactions to the world and events, we can develop a certain amount of introspection. It's like the old saw: you can lead a horse to water but cannot make him drink.
We can force students to develop these kinds of written pieces but cannot make them thoughtful or reflective. (Although we may be encouraging good fiction writing!)
There are increasing numbers of faculty using weblogs for educational purposes. The evidence for their effectiveness is what I have not seen. Have any of you? I am looking for beyond the anecdotal.

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Excerpt: Some interesting discussion going on over at Elizabeth Madigan's blog in What is a blog; what is the use in...
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Tracked: May 12, 2005 07:49 PM Weblogs in Education
Excerpt: Some interesting discussion going on over at Elizabeth Madigan's blog in What is a blog; what is the use in...
Weblog: Jeremy Smith's blog
Tracked: May 12, 2005 07:50 PM

Comments

I don't know if anyone has collected any non-anecdotal evidence about the effectiveness of blogs in higher education. I know that I've essentially done what you describe, though, and that some SAGES classes have done similar things with Blackboard discussion boards in terms of required weekly posts.

Last fall in my world literature course, my professor asked us to keep a reflective journal on the pieces we were reading, and I chose to turn that into a dedicated blog on my own domain so that it would be easy for me to post and easy for my professor to access. I'd hoped that she would take advantage of the medium and chose to make her comments electronically, but sadly, she did not. In return for my electronic efforts, I received print-outs of my blog entries with handwritten comments.

Posted by Nicole on May 12, 2005 01:54 PM

I have been following the literature on the use of blogs for educational purposes and have not been able to find any evidence of any educational benefits. Of course, this may not mean much since it is very hard to get measures of the direct educational benefits of anything!

The problem is that I can see lots of benefits for the blogger personally but only if it is done voluntarily. Hence requiring students in a class to keep a blog may not be of value. A threaded discussion board would serve that purpose better, I think. For the life of me, I cannot see any way that I can make blogs serve a useful course-based teaching purpose, but I strongly urge people to blog as means of exploring ideas.

Now wiki is different. I can se huge benefits for it and I am planning to use it this fall if the software is put in place.

Posted by Mano Singham on May 12, 2005 02:19 PM

Mano and Elizabeth:

In this entry, http://blog.case.edu/jms18/2005/05/11/articles_about_weblogs_in_higher_education, I linked to 105 Articles about Weblogs in Education. In there are some excellent ideas about leveraging blogging technology. Pointing out some of the better ones:

Blogging thoughts: personal publication as an online research tool
Blogs help personalize information sharing in online and in-person classes
Can blogs help students?
Scaffolding for the Struggling Student: Reading and Writing Blogs

And, then there is this graphic -- Some uses of blogs in education.

Posted by jms18 on May 12, 2005 07:37 PM

I've never really cared for threaded discussion boards. When I am on a discussion board, I feel like I don't "own" the content I am posting. I am just a passer-by whizzing along in a car shouting out the window.

When I post to my blog, however, I feel a better connection to the content I create; like I own it just a little bit more than if it appeared on a discussion board somewhere.

There's a reason blogs started a "craze" while discussion boards have existed for years and have always been ho-hum.

Posted by jms18 on May 12, 2005 07:40 PM

A portion of my Glennan Fellowship research this coming year will examine whether students who make more frequent use of blogging and other outside-class reflective activities see more rapid gains in empathy, perspective taking, written communication skills, and critical thinking. I have my hunches, of course, but I don't have the data to back them up yet.

Posted by Sandy Kristin Piderit on May 13, 2005 06:52 PM

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