Blogs (Weblogs)

What are weblogs or blogs?

At its simplest, “A blog (portmanteau of web log) is a website where entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order. “Blog” can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.” (Wikipedia) The term weblog, or blog, was coined by Jorn Barger in 1997 and refers to a simple webpage consisting of brief paragraphs of opinion, information, personal diary entries, or links, called posts, arranged chronologically with the most recent first, in the style of an online journal (Doctorow et al., 2002).

Blogging allows you to easily create a webpage with your own ideas and information. Other characteristics of weblogs include archives, a unique URL for each post (called a permalink), an RSS feed to syndicate the blog’s content, dated and time-stamped entries, the capability of the software to allow readers’ comments, and use of templates to assist in page design and layout. (See Parts of a Blog.)

One who blogs is a “blogger.”

Why are blogs so popular?

Blogs have been around a long time, but because of the new technologies that make it easier for anyone to publish on the World Wide Web, they have really taken off. You no longer have to have a webserver or know HTML to create a professional looking webpage that anyone can access. There are dozens of free weblog hosting sites available, and in less than 5 minutes you can sign up for an account and be blogging.

Another thing that makes blogs popular is that they can be used in so many ways, from personal diaries to online portfolios to announcements to commentaries on politics and world events. They can be written, edited, and updated from any computer with Internet access at any time of the day or night. Through the ability to comment, readers of blogs can interact with the author, and with hot links, they can point to related sites and ideas. They are usually in reverse chronological order, newest posts first, which makes it easily organized and encourages people to visit again to see what is new. Blogs have become an accepted form of communication and a way to express and explore ideas. They give writers a public voice.

What is the downside to blogs and blogging?

The very things that make them popular also make blogs unpopular. The fact that anyone can publish anything instantly to the web can be both good news and bad news. Just because you CAN publish something doesn’t mean you should. There have even been some legal battles involving bloggers who publish information they shouldn’t and corporations have reprimanded or even fired bloggers for negative or blatantly untrue things they have posted to their personal blogs.

Many schools and districts block all blog sites even though many of them contain good, reliable information mostly because of the potential for abuse. Unfortunately many schools and districts also prohibit teachers and students from creating blogs. There are, however, safe blogging sites and procedures, and in many schools and districts where blogs and blogging were once prohibited, they are now embraced because teachers have shown how they benefit students in so many ways.

Another downside is that blogging takes time. Even if you post only a short paragraph each day or each week, it is an additional responsibility and an important one if you are going to maintain readers’ interest and keep them coming back.

It’s very important that you read and respond to others’ comments; when users see that you are are actively participating in the blog, they’ll be more apt to post more comments and respond to others as well.

Using Blogs in the School

How are blogs being used in school?

There are two primary ways to use blogs in your school : you (and your students and teachers) can read them or you (and your students and teachers) can write them. Here are a few ways blogs are being use:

• Personal and professional reflections and opinions
• News and announcements for the school community
• Homepage for the school library media program
• Collections of links for specific topics, assignments or teachers
• Book reviews
• Book club news
• Photographic essays and/or collections
• Access to podcasts
• Disseminating slideshows and videos
• Assignments (students can use comments to post their work)
• Trivia questions (where students can answer or register their guesses through comments)
• New title listings
• Documenting a remodeling or construction project’s progress
• Organizing information literacy tools
• Information specifically for students
• Information specifically for teachers
• Information about the library media program specifically for parents
• Information for the library media staff and volunteers
• Highlighting a particular section of the collection
• Announcing and documenting special events
• Encouraging collaboration and cooperation
• Publishing links, directions, resources and follow-up for workshops
• Providing reading practice
• Tying library media center resources to school and local events
• Teach about blogs, web publishing, netiquette, webpage design

Reading Blogs for Professional Development

There are literally millions of blogs now available and you can find blogs for almost any topic, profession, hobby or interest. (Note: Rules for evaluating websites definitely apply to blogs!) Blogs are a great source of professional development and collegial inspiration.

There are search engines designed to help you find both the blogs that may be of interest to you as well as information that what you want in blogs including Blog Search EngineBlogDigger, and BlogScope. Like any reference tool, some blog search engines are better for some kinds of information than others. LisZen searches library and information science blogs.

According to Alice Yucht, there are three kinds of professional blogs: Personal / Point-of-View – reports of events and impressions; Practice / Purposeful – links to useful info and new resources; Philosophical / Polemical – explorations and discussions of big ideas.

Many blogs are being written by school library media specialists and district library coordinators and others who want to share information and ideas with you. You can be interacting with dozens of professional colleagues! They may even inspire you to begin your own blogs!

Great Blogs to Explore

There are many lists of great library blogs and bloggers available. You’re sure to find some to inspire you among there:

  • 2 Cents Worth by David Warlick: “Teaching and Learning in the New Information Landscape”
  • AASL Blog Official blog of the American Association of School Librarians
  • Active Learning Kristin Fontichiaro’s Blog About Learning, Teaching, Making Things, and Libraries
  • The Adventures of Library Girl showcases the work of Jennifer LaGarde “where she proves you don’t have to be super hero to be a teacher librarian, but having a cape sure helps.”
  • Always Learning Kim Cofino’s reflections on “teaching and learning as the 21st Century Literacy Specialist at the International School Bangkok in Thailand.”
  • The Audacious Librarian describes the work of K. C. Boyd in here busy Chicago high school library.
  • Awful Library Books looks at titles in our collections that really shouldn’t be there!
  • Bibliotech Me! is where Michelle Lutala shares her ideas about school libraries for the 21st century.
  • The Busy Librarian is Matthew Winner’s blog about books, authors and technology.
  • The Daring Librarian is Gwyneth Jones’ library blog where she writes about all sorts of library and geeky things!
  • E-Literate Librarian is where Tamara Cox writes about her “experiences as a former librarian, edtech geek and instructional technologist.”
  • Expect the Miraculous is what school librarian Andy Plemmons writes about in his Barrow Elementary School library blog.
  • Information Wants to Be Free by Merideth Farkas, librarian, writer, teacher and tech geek.
  • Jane Lofton’s Adventures in Libraryland “A teacher librarian chronicles her adventures in a high school library and as an active volunteer in school library associations.”
  • Kathy Schrock’s Kaffeeklatsch The latest in technology from library media and technology guru, Kathy Schrock.
  • Learning Through Innovative Strategies is Sue Gorman’s collection of tech ideas and integration strategies.
  • Librarian in Black offers ideas and resources for any library or librarian.
  • Librarian’s Quest “A place where students, educators and parents can exchange and express views about the best of books, new technologies and libraries.”
  • Librarians Matter An Australian librarian blogs here. “Musing, enthusing, libraries, emerging technologies, balancing, being mum.”
  • The Library Voice a blog by Shannon Miller is full of ideas and tips for any school library.
  • LucaCept Intercepting the web by Jenny Luca: “I’m fascinated by Web 2.0 applications and their potential in educational settings.”
  • Mighty Little Librarian, Tiffany Whitehead, writes about her school library and professional activities.
  • Ms. O Reads Books Thoughts of a school librarian.
  • Not Too Distant Future – Carolyn Foote, a Texas media specialist, comments here
  • Renovated Learning describes Diana Rendina’s efforts to transform a middle school library into a vibrant makerspace.
  • School Library Journal’s Breaking News Top news stories for school library media professionals.
  • Stephen’s Lighthouse A blog for all librarians by Stephen Abram.
  • Swiss Army Librarian“or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk”
  • Technology is Loose in the Library is where Cathy Knutson describes creative ways to integrate technology and books.
  • Techy Teacher Librarian offers ideas for using new tech tools
  • True Adventures of a High School Librarian is Nikki Robertson’s blog about digital tools, collaboration and activities in her active high school library.
  • Venn Librarian Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.
  • Wanderings Random thoughts about libraries, information literacy and information technology.
 

Writing Blogs

In addition to leaving comments on someone else’s blog, you can create your own blog! Once you’ve read blogs for a while, you will want to create your own. Most free blogging software sites will let you have multiple blogs, so you might want to start one that is similar to a daily journal, or one that shares family information so others across the country can check in to see what’s happening at your house! You might want to jump right in and start with a blog for your library media center. Students and teachers can create blogs, too!

You can add “tags” or keywords to blogs. That will help you organize, sort and find information.

Blogging Tools

  • Blogger Ranked as the most popular by school library media specialists, you can create your own free blog with this hosted tool and be online today. A variety of settings, templates and features are available. You can even email your posts to the blog. Blogger is now part of the Google family of web applications.
  • EduBlogs A free blogging tool for teachers and students. “Create, manage and moderate blogs for all your students with a minimum of fuss.” Over 90 themes available, too. “All posts are automatically spell-checked, auto-saved (so you never lose that post you’ve been working on for hours) come with a complete feature rich editor (with optional plain text view), allow for simple uploading of images and other files, are podcast ready and have automatic YouTube, Google Video and more video insertion devices… and that’s just a selection.”
  • Twitter A popular microbloggling tool. You are limited to 140 characters when you post, and you follow the posts of others who are of interest to you. They may also recommend followers and soon you have started to develop your own personal learning network!
  • WordPress (the hosted version) free with over 60 themes available and statistics provided.
  • Blogmeister Another full-featured hosted blogging system designed specifically for students and teachers. You can create a blog with individual student sub-blogs. Free, but you must request a school registration code. You can find class blogs by others on the site, too.
  • 21Classes launch a class homepage and create individual blogs for students. Each student receives 1 MB of space with the free edition. Teachers have access to a central console to manage student accounts and content.
  • ClassChatter – ClassChatter is a safe, secure, and private blogging platform for students and teachers. It can be used to create individual student blogs, group blogs, and assignment blogs. ClassChatter is free of advertising and includes an email-like communication option.
  • Easyblog Blogging tool designed for classroom use.
  • Edmodo a microblgging tool designed for education. Gives students and teachers “the ability to share notes, links, and files to foster communication inside and outside of the classroom. Teachers also have the ability to post alerts, assignments, and events to share with their students.”
  • Kidblog– Safe and simple blogs for your students.
  • LiveJournal A free, open-source hosted blogging system.
  • MovableType
  • Ning Nings can be used as blogs and have bloggin pages and much more. See more information under social networking tools.
  • OnSugar Very easy to use hosted blogging tool with built-in quiz and poll generators..
  • Penzu A very easy to use personal journal site. You can share or not. Add photos or not. Good place for personal and professional reflections.
  • Tumblr This “micro-blogging” site upgraded their service this year. Students can post their work to individual or group “Tumblrs.” A student can also share their password with a small number of students who can leave comments. Share text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos.
  • TypePad

Tutorials on Blogging

  • Atomic Learning A comprehensive workshop designed to acquaint you with blogs, how they can be used, and how to set up your own blog using Blogger. Some lessons are free.
  • Blog Basics Learn all about blogs and how to start one of your own. There’s a quiz, too!
  • Blogging Tips for Beginners Pinterest ideas for you!
  • Blogger Tour An overview of one of the oldest and most popular blogging tools and how to create your own blogs.
  • Blogging Basics for the Classroom From TeachersFirst, a step-by-step guide to blogs, ideas for blogs in education, and help in creating your own blog. Charts are available for the major free educational blogging tools.
  • Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts: Web 2.0 Tools You Can Use A slideshow answering the questions what, why and how to use these tools in a library setting.
  • Moving Forward: Blogs Resources related to K-12 blogging, including articles on blogs by educators, good examples of blogs in classrooms, by teachers, by administrators and, of course, by library media specialists. Also, how to set up a blog using one of many different tools–most free.
  • Twitter and Twitter Tools A Pinterest board full of ideas and resources about Twitter.

Blogging in the School & Library

Rubrics for Blogs

NoteRubistar is an excellent web-based source of rubrics for any project or topic. Search by the specific type of rubric you want, or make your own!Another good source of ready-made rubrics is iRubric. If you can’t find what you want, you can create your own or modify an existing one. iRubrics can be embedded in webpages or wikis, too.

You might also want to explore Project Based Learning Checklists from 4Teachers.org. To make a project checklist for your students, choose the grade level for the type of project you want your students to do. You can choose from writing, presentation, multimedia or science projects. Then choose from a list of project guidelines and add your own if you’d like,

To help your or your students evaluate blogs:

  • Blog Rubric (Grades 6-8)(pdf) From Scholastic, to be used by students when evaluating the bogs of others.
  • Evaluating Weblogs (pdf) Assessment rubric for information literacy assignment in which students evaluate weblogs

For evaluating students’ blogs

 

Blogs (Weblogs) from http://webtools4u2use.wikispaces.com/Blogs+%28Weblogs%29 licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike Non-Commercial 3.0 License.