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Blackboard Blogs and Journals
Using Blogs/Journals for Assignments
A blog is a searchable list of postings displayed in reverse chronological order (most recent first). Blackboard allows you to create multiple blogs in each course. You can create blogs that are open to all students in the class, or blogs for specific groups. You can also use the Private Journal blog option that will create a blog for each student that is visible only to them and to you as the Instructor.
In Blackboard, the blogs are self-contained within the course, that is, they are not open to the general public.
Blogs work well for journal writing, for posting opinions to which others can respond, for expository writing, for posting latest news items, for use as a research diary or organizing space, or for any type of writing that is chronological. Blogs also allow you to upload and attach files, so you can use them to collect student assignments that are created in other programs like Word, PowerPoint, or Excel.
How are blogs being used in education? Here are a few examples from courses around the web that demonstrate a variety of uses.
- Summary and reflection on articles read and on class discussion of articles:
Clancy Ratcliff used this blog for his 2005 course on Rhetoric. According to the syllabus, students were asked to find and read two articles per week, then summarize the articles and class discussion about those articles for the blog posts.
- Research journal:
There are programs (Endnote, Zotero, Refworks, etc.) that let you store and organize citations and create bibliographies, but when collecting materials, notes, resources, or brilliant ideas you have about your research topic how do you store them? Derek Mueller, PhD candidate in Composition and Cultural Rhetoric at Syracuse uses a blog. In it he has tagged keywords, then generated a "word map" to make things easier to find.
- Student reflections in their own blogs:
Jennifer Koslow handles blog use in a slightly different fashion for her Public History course. Instead of providing a blog space for her students she has them create blog spaces of their own, to which she links. This allows the students to weave their blogging into the rest of their scholarly lives, and allows them to keep their postings beyond the end date of the class.
- Blog as course web site:
Richard Parent at UVM uses a blog space as a course web site. While this space is not meant for student blogging it does provide a model for students (or even other faculty members) on how the blog concept can be adopted for variety of online uses. http://www.uvm.edu/~reparent/345/
- The Scholar's Blog:
Blogging provides opportunities to your students as students, but what about their work as scholars? How might you use your own blog as a scholar or researcher? Here is an example from Dan Cohen. He uses the blog as a blog to post events and ideas, but also uses it to provide links to his courses, his bio, CV, and other related information. http://www.dancohen.org/
- Administrative functions:
Blogs are not always used for creative writing or reflection. They can also be suitable for quite mundane tasks. For example, the blog is one of the few places where students can post materials for each other. Those postings can also include documents or files that are uploaded to that Blackboard blog space. So, if you have your students share files, for peer editing or other purposes, posting them to the blog can be an easier way to keep track of those than sharing by e-mail.
Ideas for Blog Uses
Ideas for Personal Journal Blog Use
- Have students use their blog space to upload assignments created in Word or any other program. They can create a blog post and attach their Word or other file to it using the Attach File icon in the editor. You will be able to download each student's file to review it, then post comments in their blog. These postings will be private between you and the student.
- Have students use a Private Journal blog to write reflections or journal postings.
- Have each student write a one paragraph response to a homework reading. You will be able to review it, then post comments in their blog. These postings will be private between you and the student.
- Have students post discussion questions for the next class meeting. This will alert you to what is uppermost in their minds about the topic, and will help them focus. These postings will be private between you and the student.
- Have students do a pre-class summary/question quick write. That is, they post a one sentence summary of the topic covered in the last class and one question related to that topic.
- If students are working on a research project, have them use a blog to record their progress. They can post resources, questions they are developing or answering, amount of writing done, drafts, etc.
- Have regular "how are we doing" updates: have students post on how the class is going, what they especially like, and what they are having difficulty with. (Blackboard does not allow for anonymous blog postings, so you may wish to consider using the Survey Tool for this if anonymity is important.)
Ideas for Group Blog Use
- Use the blog as an ice-breaker. Have students post something about themselves, for example, two things about their current research interests, or, in a lighter vein, three things they would take with them if they were to be stranded on a deserted island.
- Have each student write a one paragraph response to a homework reading.
- Have students post discussion questions for the next class meting. This will alert you to what is uppermost in their minds about the topic, and will help them focus.
- Have students do a pre-class summary/question quick write. That is, they post a one sentence summary of the topic covered in the last class and one question related to that topic. This can be done by all or by one or two for each class session.
- Assign one (or two) students to be scribes for each class session. Have them take notes for their session and post them to the blog. This is particularly useful for discussion classes where you want the majority of students to be focused on the discussion instead of trying to take notes.
- Have students follow a related blog, listserv, or Facebook group, or other active online resource. Have them post updates on what is happening as it relates to the class.
- Ask students to choose and follow a Wikipedia article, then report on how it changes over the course of the semester. (A good way to discuss reliability issues.)
- If students are working on a group research project, have them use a blog to record their progress. They can post resources, questions they are developing or answering, amount of writing done, drafts, etc.
- Have students describe, comment on, or share how they solved a particular problem posed in class or in an assignment. Students can then learn from their peers.
- Post exemplary student work from the class, or good/bad samples of an assignment to help them understand your expectations.
- Take a survey of student opinions on an aspect of the topic being studied. Create (or have a student create) a graph or chart from the answers and post that to the blog.
- Ask students to post links to pictures, articles, or media files that relate to the topic being studied and explain why they were chosen.
- Provide writing prompts for creating short stories, completing case studies, or other writing assignments.
- Have students use a Private Journal blog to write reflections or journal postings.
Things to consider
The Blog Tool presents several variations. You can create blogs for the entire class to post to, for groups of students, or for individuals. You can also create Private Journal Blogs where each student has a blog that is visable only to the student and the instructor. You can create any number of blogs. For example, you might have a general blog for the course, blogs for specific group projects, and a Private Journal for student reflections. When creating a blog, decide who will be able to view it, or to edit it, or to make comments (ex: instructor only, all students, groups of students, individual students).
See also: Blackboard How-Tos: Blog Tool