In the most basic terms, a ‘blog’ (derived originally from the term web log) is ‘an easily created, easily updateable website that allows an author (or authors) to publish instantly from any internet connection’ (Richardson, 2010, p. 17) and also ‘a website with dated entries, presented in reverse chronological order and published on the internet’ (Duffy & Bruns, 2006, p. 32). Those who write and publish blogs are known as bloggers and the online community is known as the blogosphere. Creating web logs used to require knowledge and experience of HTML, but in recent years the creation of free and easy to use software and web-based applications has bridged the gap between the user and the technology meaning it has never been easier to get involved; essentially, if you can write and send an e-mail you have the skills to create, edit and publish a blog.
Blogs are a product of a series of profound changes in the World Wide Web which have come to be known as Web 2.0, or more simply, the read/write web. Precise definitions of Web 2.0 are difficult to pin down but, basically, the shift was from the internet being a place where static information could be found and consumed, to it being an environment where user-friendly software and social media facilitated user-generated content and ‘a whole range of newer applications that foreground interactivity and collaboration around shared content’ (Davies & Merchant, 2009, p. x). Since the advent of Web 2.0, internet users have become producers as well as consumers and this has radically altered our participatory relationship with the technology.
According to WordPress.com, the largest online host of blogging software, more than 409 million people worldwide view more than 15.5 billion pages every month and WordPress users publish about 41.7 million new posts and leave around 60.5 million new comments every month. It would seem that reading, creating and contributing to blogs is a popular and widespread pastime, particular among internet users under the age of 30, and yet the platform appears to be relatively underused as a teaching tool, particularly in UK universities. Davies and Merchant (2009) have highlighted that ‘Blogs are now a well-established and widely recognised form of digital communication, and this alone suggests that they should be taken seriously in educational setting’ (p. 34), yet when I recently decided to employ a blog as a summative form of assessment, I was surprised to find comparatively little advice and guidance as to the practicalities of employing blogs in higher education and only a limited amount of published case-study research into the pedagogical influences of such assignments in the UK HE sector.
Thus, I decided to publish my experiences and findings on my own blog.
- Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (London: Sage)
- Davies, J., & Merchant, G. (2009) Web 2.0 for Schools: Learning and Social Participation (New York: Peter Lang)