Tuesday, January 13. 2009
Blogging by teachers and students is something I have been thinking about more the past month. Today I am doing a presentation at nearby Bloomfield College's Annual Faculty Technology Showcase entitled "Blogging as Pedagogic Practice Across the Curriculum."
Most discussion and research on blogs and teaching and learning in higher education focuses on them as another technological tool. In this session, I'm looking at blogging primarily as a way to address traditional writing practices.
Here are 2 quotes that I will use in my introduction.
"If print culture shaped the environment in which the Enlightenment blossomed and set the scene for the Industrial Revolution, participatory media might similarly shape the cognitive and social environments in which twenty-first century life will take place (a shift in the way our culture operates). For this reason, participatory media literacy is not another subject to be shoehorned into the curriculum as job training for knowledge workers."
Those of us striving to integrate participatory media literacy practices into our classes often face resistance. Other faculty might argue that we are turning away from the foundations of print literacy, or worse, pandering to our tech-obsessed students. Meanwhile, students might resist too, wondering why they have to learn to use a wiki in an anthropology class. The surprising-to-most-people-fact is that students would prefer less technology in the classroom - especially participatory technologies that force them to do something other than sit back and memorize material for a regurgitation exercise. We use social media in the classroom not because our students use it, but because we are afraid that social media might be using them - that they are using social media blindly, without recognition of the new challenges and opportunities they might create.Teachers are using college-wide blogging tools or free blogging services for different disciplines as a way to address e-portfolios, audience, publishing practices, copyright and plagiarism, authentic writing and writing in a digital age with hypertext.
It was only a few years ago that when I did a presentation on blogging I would have to explain that blog = Web + Log. In the early days, most blogs were in the personal “diary” genre, so educators did not take them very seriously. I think there are more public forum style blogs on a particular topic (politics, hobbies, disciplines...). And there are definitely more corporate and commercial blogs out there. The pros are taking over. Take a look at Technorati's top blogs and it is completely dominated by pros.
I saw this matrix back in 2003 on a blog post by Scott Leslie and it first set me thinking about blogs in education. He wrote:
"To help facilitate this discussion and my own thinking on it, I’ve worked up this matrix of some of the possible uses of blogs in education. A big caveat here - this matrix very much approaches the topic in the context of ‘formal’ education, and only really considers students, instructors and ‘the rest of the net’ as actors. Obviously one could add much to this - librarians, institutional RSS feeds … That’s why I titled it ‘Some’ uses of blogs in education. Even just considering this limited set of actors, I have definitely left much off."
I'll be curious how many in my audience are bloggers or blog readers. [Post-Presentation Update: Everyone had read a blog at least once. Two people write regularly on a blog. No one used a blog reader.] In the 2006 survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 39% of Internet users (57 million American adults) said they read blogs which was an increase of 27% from 2004. Then a study by Universal McCann (March 2008) determined that there are 184 million blogs worldwide and 26.4 million are in the United States. There are 346 million readers worldwide with 60.3 million being Americans and 77% of active Internet users reported that they read blogs.
- Who is your audience? think about both an ideal reader & your emerging audience needs
- Developing a voice
- Conventions, formality
- Citation, copyright
Blog writers need to be blog readers, so it's worth saying something about subscribing to blogs using RSS and services that aggregate your subscriptions in one place. Bloglines.com or Google Reader will allow you to pull blog posts that you have subscribed to and show you unread entries all in one place. You can browse their directories in different categories and see what is popular. All it takes to add a site is a click.
As examples of some student blogs, I can point you to a few of my students from last semester who were using blogs as a type of supplement to their design portfolio with the posts being reflections on course modules, and they were using their blogs as a tool for web design.
Another class blogging project that I can reference is one that I saw at a conference. It was called "Blogging for Dollars" and was done by Jonathan Goodman, a business professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He had students do blogs as a way of examining firsthand the growth of online advertising dollars. His students built individual blogs, chose subjects from horticulture to who is hotter, installed Google's AdSense advertising application and analytics program and trying to earn some ad dollars! Then, they analyzed who visited, when, and how they spent their time on the blog. It's not really a writing activity as much as a business lesson, but perhaps they learned that well-written posts drive traffic.
Some Colleges Blogging As Marketing using students as bloggers
Ball State University http://www.bsu.edu/reallife
St. Thomas (Minnesota) www.stthomas.edu/admis/undergraduate/blogs/
University of Vermont Admissons http://adms.blog.uvm.edu
University of Sydney http://blogs.usyd.edu.au/sydneylife/
http://archinect.com collects blogs by architecture students at schools all over the world.
I like having students look at Corporate Blogging too to get a sense of what "pros" are doing with blogs. Google has a number of blogs http://googleblog.blogspot.com/ and Sun Microsystem's offers blogs to "any Sun employee to write about anything" http://blogs.sun.com. Like other tech companies, Microsoft has several public product blogs, like this one for its Internet Explorer browser http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/
It's also interesting to see the "convergence journalism" happening at "old media" sites like the New York Times which has a number of bloggers. http://www.nytimes.com/ref/topnews/blog-index.html Back in the early days of blogging (5 years ago), many of those Times blogs would have carried versions of print materials, but most print publications have significant amounts of original material running on blogs as "web exclusives."
Finally, I would point students to some media blogs that use video, images, or audio either exclusively or as the major content of the blog. Ian Shive is a nature photographer who has a photoblog that supplements his website and is a great marketing tool. There are lots of photo blogs at Reuters too.
I'll end with a funny and clever blog that I've been reading for a few years called INDEXED that is a daily index card with a hand drawn chart, graph, diagram. This is one hat started as a little Blogger project and became a book.
Learning through Blogging: Graduate Student Experiences
By Robert Davison, City University of Hong Kong
Monday, January 12. 2009
This is my third installment about the roles bloggers might take on in doing their work. It's a question I ask of my students who are required to maintain a blog for a communications class.
In part 1 and part 2 of this topic I noted some of the jobs I saw myself doing here online, and I asked my students (who were all new to blogging) to think about the possibilities they saw emerging.What I ask is for them to think about the roles or jobs they see for bloggers. We are thinking about independent bloggers rather than corporate or commercial bloggers who may well have other people who assist with the blog.
For example, my students use Blogger, so Google is serving as their IT department in many ways. Someone blogging for a big blog like the Huffington Post has employees who maintain formats and redesign for them. Still, it's good for students to take all that into account and think about the roles that they may need to take on themselves to make the blog successful.
(themselves & others) based on their experiences and by studying "professional" and corporate bloggers.
These are the roles that students have typically written about (there's some further explanation in the earlier posts):
Reader - what writer doesn't read others in the field?
IT support - who will host your blog, fixes the bugs, updates the software?Writer - and what type? tech writer, reporter, author,
Librarians - maintaining organized sites and collecting links and information for others
Experts in a particular topic or field, (subject matter experts) blogs as testaments to their experience and know-how, so others may learn from them (whether that is teaching, bonsai, or fly-tying) and
Educator for those bloggers who want to "teach" even if they are not in education.Designer - once you get beyond the default templates, adding HTML, playing with the CSS, embedding video etc. It's a way into web design for some people. Minimally, you are your own art director.
Depending on whether you use images from other sources (as a photo editor) or if you do your own, blogs are generally visual, so you might be a graphic artist or photographer.
Editor is an obvious one, including proofreading the writing but also purging outdated & redundant information and giving updates.
Entertainer - there are blogs that aren't trying to change the world, and most of us try some "web cetera" once and awhile.
Marketer (what one student called a rainmaker) - whether you are selling yourself and you blog to gain readers or actually trying to drive traffic to your ads and links. You may develop into a
Partner in a business sense with other sites.
Reviewer - many blogs review products including technology, books, films, music...
Reader and researcher - I spend more time reading and researching for most posts than I do actually writing.
Compiler - filtering the best of what is out there and putting it together for others
Publisher -particularly if you develop a group blog with multiple contributors.
Activist - some bloggers take on causes. Some of the best of those lead bloggers to also become a
Discussion leader - especially if you can get good comments
Chris Shamburg commented on an earlier post that he thought Witness might be a new role (not the same as reporter) as we see more and more bloggers giving first hand accounts from places in the world amidst crisis and catastrophe.
Anything you want to add to the list?
Wednesday, December 17. 2008
I'm thinking about it...
Monday, December 1. 2008
Paul Boutin tells readers of his Wired article, "Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004" (October 2008) that blogging is dead. Keep in mind that Boutin works for a blog, Valleywag.com, which is an industry gossip blog.
Boutin points to Technorati's list of the top 100 blogs and the dominance of professional blogs with staffs of writers posting a few dozen times a day. These kinds of blog sites - Huffington Post, Engadget, TechCrunch - are new media machines. How can individual bloggers compete?
Some big name bloggers of "the past" - Scoble & Calacanis for example - have passed on blogging to take up Twitter. Why? I suspect that short attention spans and a lack of willingness to sit down and compose an intelligent post plays a part, but also because Twitter is faster than the blogosphere. For example, Twitter posts can be searched instantly without waiting for Google to index them.
Boutin is in on the fix:
Does Serendipity35 have to compete with Techcrunch or Engadget? No. We have a different (educational) niche in the tech world. Actually, do we even have to compete with other educational technology bloggers like Hargadon, Richardson, or Nussbaum-Beach? I don't think so, especially if I'm not interested in selling books, or putting myself out there as a speaker or workshop leader.
Technorati has an interest series of pages on The State of Blogging 2008. They catalog and track blogs and there have been a number of attempts to quantify the size of the Blogosphere. How many blogs are there? How many are active? How many people read them? The answers vary, but there is general agreement that blogs are a global phenomenon that is now mainstream and they aren't going away.
One study, from Universal McCann (March 2008), determined that there are 184 million blogs worldwide and 26.4 million are in the United States. Blog readers total 346 million worldwide with 60.3 million being Americans. Most impressive is that 77% of active Internet users report that they read blogs.
Wikipedia defines blogs (a contraction of the term "Web log") as "a Web site, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order." The blogosphere is the collective community of all blogs. Since all blogs are on the Internet by definition, they may be seen as interconnected and socially networked.
More from Technorati:But as the Blogosphere grows in size and influence, the lines between what is a blog and what is a mainstream media site become less clear. Larger blogs are taking on more characteristics of mainstream sites and mainstream sites are incorporating styles and formats from the Blogosphere. In fact, 95% of the top 100 US newspapers have reporter blogs. (see The Bivings Group)
Despite the fact that Serendipity35 gets a million hits a month, we only have an "authority" of 23 currently on Technorati. Very respectable, but not in that elite 50+ league. Those blogs are getting millions of hits - and many are making a good profit doing it too.
The majority of bloggers we surveyed currently have advertising on their blogs. Among those with advertising, the mean annual investment in their blog is $1,800, but it’s paying off. The mean annual revenue is $6,000 with $75K+ in revenue for those with 100,000 or more unique visitors per month. Note: median investment and revenue (which is listed below) is significantly lower. They are also earning CPMs on par with large publishers. Here at Serendipity35, we don't care much about CPMs. (By the way, CPM is used in advertising to represent cost per thousand - where M is the Roman numeral for 1000 - and in online advertising it relates to the cost per thousand page impressions. The more hits you get, the more the ad costs.) We think about what is going on in technology and how it might impact education and learning.
The blog is not dead. The theater is not dead. The novel is not dead. Mediums of communication change. Get used to it. Some will be replaced. The phone killed the telegraph. The cell phone killed pagers. Smart phones killed PDAs. Sites like Craig's List killed newspaper classified ads. Others will evolve or be replaced. Newspapers are moving online more and more. Some magazines are killing the print edition for online, or just shutting down the print version altogether. Television networks finally realized that they needed to offer online video instead of trying to take down all the content people were posting "illegally." Record companies, after years of getting hurt by downloads legal & illegal, still haven't fully gotten the message about the death of the CD. But they will. And blogs will continue to launch and continue to change. Maybe even I, anti-cell phone advocate, will some day post to this blog using a Google Phone - but don't count on it happening soon.
Monday, October 13. 2008
A few Saturdays back, I was at Miller Air Park fueling the Piper Archer airplane I had rented for a flight down to Cape May County airport. It was a busy morning for the airport and several planes were in pre-flight, being taxied to the northeast end of the runway, or were already cocked into the wind --holding-short of runway 24 doing their pre-takeoff run-up. Each pilot in turn completed the safety checklist, pivoted onto the runway, firewalled the throttle and lifted the aircraft into the smooth gray sky. In the 30 minutes or so that I had spent pre-flighting and fueling my own plane there were 7 departures but, except for a pre-solo student and instructor locked into the never ending left turns of take-off and landing pattern practice, no other aircraft arrived at MJX.
Ken and I are sometimes like the FBO staff at Miller Air Park. We send post after post off into the internet clouds and, every once in a while, we receive an arrival. A returned comment here and there lets us know that the posts we roll off our internet tarmac aren't falling off the edge of our flat earth. Ken builds almost all of the wordcraft we launch and I spend most of my time clearing turkey buzzards and deer off our virtual runway, but once in a while, I get to fly a post of my own. And on that Saturday morning in Whiting, NJ, I held the nose on the centerline and rotated that Piper into the air.
I climbed to 400 ft and turned left toward the coastline. Over my shoulder, as I approached 1000 ft, I could see the massive airship hangars of Lakehurst Naval Air Station and the abandoned, but standing, stall of the Hindenburg, unoccupied since May of 1937 when the dirigible burned at her mooring. When it departed Frankfurt, Germany on May 3rd that year, the crew that launched her expected a return, too. Though it was scheduled to fly back from North America to Europe with a full manifest of transatlantic passengers en route to the coronation of King George VI of England, its final destination remained in New Jersey.
Fifty years after the famous crash, long after it was branded a mystery and pursued only by academic enterprise, the actual cause of the craft's incineration was discovered. The paint that protected its outer skin from the harsh ocean crossing, burned like a magnesium fuse when lit by lightning over land.
I quickly flew through Atlantic City's airspace and continued inbound to the Sea Isle City VOR. My checkpoints, spaced on my chart at 10 minute intervals, rolled underneath my right wing at 8, then 7, minutes. I was ahead of schedule and soon I'd arrive at WWD 10 minutes before my flight plan had estimated.
Traffic was light at Cape May County. I radioed the airport's CTAF for the active runway and entered the downwind pattern for 28. There were no other aircraft in the pattern (or rolling on the ground) and I touched down just past the threshold markers and turned off at the first taxi-way. Not stopping to visit, I headed back to the east end of runway 28, throttled back up and, five minutes after I had first touched down, was airborne again and heading home.
I flew back to Miller through the same airspace that the Hindenburg traveled on its last day. I landed, safely, just a few miles from where the dirigible fell to the ground. It had only taken a couple of hours but I returned to the airport from which I'd departed -- a luxury the Hindenburg pilot never had.
Maybe fifty years from now, like the paint on an unburned scrap of the Hindenburg, some word, sentence or phrase from Serendipity35 (or some other internet archive) will drop out of the internet cloud and reveal some small unintended truth about the lives we lived today.
Monday, August 25. 2008
In 2008, the topic will be poverty. Bloggers who sign on will discuss that issue from the view of their own blog. Serendipity35 will try to cross poverty with learning and technology, for example.
Blog Action Day will be on October 15th. If you have a blog of any kind, you can sign up to participate.
It would also be a good classroom activity, whether you are a blogger or not, to look at he poverty resources and information that will be online that day on participating blogs.
An example is The Global Fund which combats AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria which have a crippling effect on the fight against poverty. Blog Action Day for this year encourages bloggers to donate their day's earnings to The Global Fund as their official Blog Action Day charity.
Some of the worldâ€™s most popular blogs (according to Technorati) have agreed to participate in Blog Action Day this year, including: TechCrunch.com, ReadWriteWeb.com, Mashable.com, SmashingMagazine.com, GigaOm.com, Jauhari.net, Problogger.net, CopyBlogger.com,DailyBlogTips.com, ZenHabits.net, Inhabitat.com, VentureBeat.com, Mentalfloss.com, PronetAdvertising.com, TorrentFreak.com
Friday, May 16. 2008
Earlier this month the Webby Awards were announced. There are lots of categories, but I'll just point you to a few blogs.
The Webby Awards is a contest for the best of the internet from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences and they announced the winners for dozens of categories covering blogs, websites and video.Here's a complete list of winners.
One thing I do like about their awards ceremony (in June) is that winners of the Webby Awards must restrict their acceptance speeches to five words.
Wednesday, May 7. 2008
And it's spring cleaning time, so I started going through my RSS feeds for blogs and deciding what to thin out. I have had to do this before. I have been a longtime user of Bloglines, but a few months ago I started adding a few feeds to my Google Reader since I use Gmail, Documents and their calendar (which now syncs with the Outlook calendar on my school office computer) every day. I'm starting to ignore my Bloglines feeds, and if you do that for a few days or weeks, the amount of UNREAD posts is frightening.
Using Google Reader means I need to snip away at my existing Bloglines feeds. But what to prune away?
Pruning #1 Right off are the blogs that post multiple short posts each day so that I can't keep up with reading. They must be part of this current interest in Twitter and other microblogs that I just don't get.
Have you tried Twitter? Users post all day with short bursts of "news" updates: "I'm having some soup; heading to a meeting; at the gym; just saw the new Porsche drive by." You can sign up with your mobile number and enter text either via the form on the site, or send text messages to the service. Depending on your privacy settings, the messages will be displayed right on their public page or just on your private page, visible only to you and your friends. I don't need to follow anyone that closely, and no one would want to follow me either.
#2 Then there are a few bloggers who have turned too commercial for me. There are two educators in particular that I have followed for a few years that I just dropped. Reason? Their posts have just become a series of tales about all the conferences and workshops they are doing. And their resource links are the same old wine in new bottles. They work hard at finding new ways to title the same talk on Web 2.0.
#3 If you want to have a blog, you have to blog. There were 7 blogs that haven't had a new post in more than a month. At least they don't pile up, but, alas, farewell.
Is Google Reader better than Bloglines? Each has some small advantages/differences. For Google Reader, for me, having in front of me when I open my Gmail is good. Subscribing and categorizing feeds in folders is equally easy. There are small things that matter (maybe just to me) like: in both I can email someone a blog post but in GR I can select my own subject line (in Bloglines, it creates an uneditable one for me. Choose either (or comment below with your own favorite reader) but if you read blogs on any regular basis, use a reader.
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