We all know that a blog is a powerful tool that allows people to broadcast their ideas, thoughts and opinions online daily, weekly or even monthly. In fact, we are more likely to read blog posts on a variety of topics today than traditional news and media magazine outlets. According to Wordpress, more than 409 million online users are consuming approximately 22.7 billion blog pages each month. I myself currently subscribe to dozens of blogs on a variety of topics, especially those regarding Design and EdTech.
In many schools, blogging is a classic platform for displaying K-12 student learning which is accessible to local school and global community members. However, a recent search of international school blogging systems reveals poorly utilized or mismanaged blogs that are little more than shells, or what I refer to as 'zombie' blogs. These are blogs that might have one or all of the following afflictions:
Why has this apparent atrophy of such an essential platform occurred?
Lack of Hype
One possibility is that as we live in an age of rapid technological advancements the 'classics' are often deemed irrelevant in favor of new apps and platforms for no other reason than...well...age. Business Professors Rahul Kapoor (Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania) and Ron Adner (Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College) studied emerging technologies in various industries and the probability of their adoption. They explain that adopting new technologies without considering the effect on the overall 'ecosystem' is a common mistake, "...you see quite often overly optimistic, aggressive expectations about new technologies. Some people refer to it as the 'hype cycle'."
"You see quite often overly optimistic, aggressive expectations about new technologies. Some people refer to it as the 'hype cycle'."
They go on to explain that best approach when adopting new technologies is to "...look at both the new technology ecosystem and the old technology ecosystem. It's really bringing these two ecosystems together as an analytical framework that can generate a lot more valuable insights, in our view."
In the Education industry, the ecosystem is anything that supports the learning; the educator, the classroom, even the tools. Does the new technology truly replace the ecosystem support of a blog? Perhaps combining this new technology with the blogging platform is the best solution through embedding. Embedding in this case, is when you add another technology tool 'inside' of another. Blogs have a feature that is labeled either 'embed code' or 'html' which allow you to insert another piece of software via coded instructions. Here are a few examples:For more tools see this excellent list from Edublogs.
Lack of Training
Another possibility is that since blogs are considered ‘old’ technology, no new materials for training are being created. It seems as if it is assumed that everyone already knows how to use blogs - but do they know how to use them fully?
Here are a few resources to get you off on the right track:
What is a Blog? video by Edublogs
2. Blog Anatomy Outline by Jennifer Simon (click on image to download)
3. How to Start a Blog by Wordpress (click image below to go to site)
Wordpress Blog Tutorials
Lack of Purpose
Or perhaps the issue lies in not fully understanding how blogs enrich student learning. The blog structure is an excellent tool for enabling Connectivist learning. Let's take a closer look.
What is Connectivism?
Connectivism is a learning theory for the digital age created by Stephan Downes and George Siemens in which knowledge is obtained through a network outside of the learner via technologies that facilitate the collection and organization of information.
Connectivism is a learning theory for the digital age created by Stephan Downes and George Siemens in which knowledge is obtained through a network outside of the learner via technologies that facilitate the collection and storage of information.
Connectivism features 8 Principles that can guide you in helping your learners:
In the image below Madeleine Brookes, Educational Technology Coordinator and Co-Founder of Learning 2, illustrates the connection between these principles and blogging features:
How Does Connectivism Work?
With teacher guidance regarding the 8 principles, students decide upon a topic and then Aggregate, Remix, Repurpose, and Feed Forward (ARRFF) this information in the form of new ideas and thoughts which they then share with a global audience via blog posts; and (hopefully) elicit feedback sparking a new pass through the four phases listed again in more detail below:
Presented with these ideas and resources, would you still give up on that 'zombie' blog or would you take action and give it new life? Please leave a comment and/or share this post with others.
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