Content Delivery in the ‘Blogosphere’
The interest in new media for teaching and learning has highlighted the potential of innovative software and hardware for education. This has included laptops, handhelds, wireless systems and Web-based learning environments. Most recently, however, this interest has focused on blogs and blogging.
Weblogs, or blogs, are Web pages often likened to online personal journals. They are noted for being the “unedited, published voice of the people” (Winer 2003). Winer provides a more technical definition, suggesting that a Weblog is “a hierarchy of text, images, media objects and data, arranged chronologically, that can be viewed in an HTML browser.” Blogging is writing your thoughts into your blog, and the “blogosphere,” a term coined by William Quick (2001), is the “intellectual cyberspace” that bloggers (i.e., those who blog) occupy.
While a few educators have already started using blogs in the classroom, more have focused on the potential of blogging in teaching and learning (Shachtman 2002; Embrey 2002). For instance, some claim that blogs may further democratize the Internet, addressing some of the concerns under girding the digital divide (Carroll 2003). In this article, we will describe the pedagogy behind blogs. We will address the reasons why blogs should be used as one of many teaching and learning tools, as well as describe the potential benefits of blogs for educators. Drawing on our own research and teaching, we will conclude with specific strategies for using blogs in the classroom.
The Pedagogy Behind Blogs
Current educational research and theory have demonstrated the importance of social interaction in teaching and learning. Drawing on Vygotsky’s educational theory (1978), educators highlight the “knowledge construction” processes of the learner and suggest that “meaning making” develops through the social process of language use over time. As such, knowledge construction is discursive, relational and conversational in nature. Therefore, as students appropriate and transform knowledge, they must have authentic opportunities for publication of knowledge.
Through publication, teachers “can infer the process by which students transform meanings and strategies appropriated within the social domain, making those strategies their own” (Gavelek and Raphael 1996). It makes material accessible for subsequent reflection and analysis, allowing students to revisit and revise their artifacts; thus, enriching the learning experience (Krajcik et al. 1994; Olson 1994). Publication also offers the opportunity for feedback, which, in turn, scaffolds a learner in his or her quest for knowledge construction.
Blogs are useful teaching and learning tools because they provide a space for students to reflect and publish their thoughts and understandings. And because blogs can be commented on, they provide opportunities for feedback and potential scaffolding of new ideas. Blogs also feature hyperlinks, which help students begin to understand the relational and contextual basis of knowledge, knowledge construction and meaning making.