Experts say there are currently between 50 and 70 million blogs on the Internet - that's a lot of blogs! So just what are blogs and why are they important?
The word blog is short for “Web log” and it means an online journal where the author's thoughts are posted on a regular basis on a website. Usually, entries are posted in reverse chronological order, with the newest items first. Visitors can typically respond to blog postings and contribute their own thoughts. Blogs can contain text, photographs, embedded audio and visual clips, podcasts, and many other features. Blogs can be publicly read or accessible only to a select group of people invited by the creator of the blog. Blog authors can solicit feedback from others and allow others to comment or they can adjust the settings so that the blog is a one-way dialogue only. Blogs can be as simple or as complicated as the blog author desires.
Blogs are an easy, interesting and often entertaining way to share information with others. Blogs also encourage discussion, promote reflection, encourage the sharing of ideas and resources, and support the creation of community. Blogs are highly interactive by nature.
Sometimes blogs will contain the personal stories of the author (for example a trip diary), but other times the blog will be on a specific topic of interest to the author or organization that created the blog (for example, bird watching, science, raising children, current political events, cooking, woodworking, or economics).
And the good news is that blogs are easy to set up and maintain. As well, on several blog-hosting sites there is no cost to set up and maintain a blog. Blogs can be created and accessed from almost any computer with an Internet connection. In short, blogs are a wonderful tool.
For more information on blogging, Common Craft has created an informative and fun overview called “Blogs in Plain English” at: www.commoncraft.com/blogs.
In adult literacy, blogs can be used to encourage learners and educators to reflect upon various learning issues, hear diverse opinions, engage in collaborative work, build community, engage in online discussions, share information and resources, support peer-to-peer learning, and give people a voice on issues that are important to them. Blogs can also allow learners and educators to “go global” and connect with people with common interests from around the world.
In education, blogs are usually used to supplement online courses or face-to-face learning opportunities. For example, a blog could be used for students to continue to discussions started in a regular face-to-face classroom setting. Or, a blog could be added to an online course held on Moodle, Blackboard, etc.
How to Start Your Own Blog
Blogger is a very popular, user-friendly and free online blog hosting system. For a guided tour of what a blog is and how to set one up, please click here: www.blogger.com/tour_start.g. Blogger's site is very user-friendly and is highly recommended. You will however need to register with the site and create a username and password.
After the guided tour, in three easy steps Blogger will walk you through how to create your very own blog at: www.blogger.com/start.
How to Find Blogs
So how do you find some of the wonderful blogs on the Internet? One effective way is to search for blogs at: http://blogsearch.google.com/.
When you heard that there were between 50 and 70 million blogs currently on the Internet, you may have thought, “I'll bet that there is a literacy blog or two”. And you'd be right! GO researchers typed “Adult Literacy” in Google blog search and this returned over 300,000 hits! We instead tried the term “Adult Literacy Canada” and this returned 5,678 hits. Blogging about literacy issues is obviously very popular!
As well, blog authors will often post links to other blogs they value. Clicking on these links can be a very effective ways to find other blogs of interest and build your own blog network. These are sometimes called “Blog Rolls” (a list of all blogs the blog author subscribes to).
Technology in Action
GO researchers found some interesting blogs created by the Canadian literacy community covering diverse provinces and issues. These blogs include:
AlphaPlus – Learning Outside the Lines: http://blog.alphaplus.ca
AlphaPlus also supports a blog for AlphaRoute learners where they “learn about blogging and blog about learning”: http://alphastory.blogspot.com
British Columbia Literacy Forum: http://bcliteracyforum.ning.com
Ontario Literacy Coalition: http://ontarioliteracycoalition.com
Prince Edward Island Literacy Alliance: http://literacytalkpei.blogspot.com
Yukon Literacy Alliance: www.yukonliteracy.ca/this-week-in-literacy
Additional Resources about Blogging
Educause Learning Initiative developed a highly informative overview of blogging called: “Seven Things You Should Know About Blogs” at: http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7006.pdf. Topics covered include: what are blogs?; who's blogging?; how does it work?; and what are the implications for teaching and learning?
The Learning Technologies Centre of the University of Manitoba has information on the “Top Things Educators Need to Know about Blogs” at: http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/wiki/index.php?title=Blogs.
Zaid Ali Alsagoff has prepared the following online slideshow called “Twenty Five EduBlogs You Simply Don't Want to Miss” at: www.slideshare.net/zaid/25-edublogs-you-simply-dont-want-to-miss-presentation?type=powerpoint.