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Part 1—The What and Why of Web logs in the Classroom

From TechLearning? Magazine

What Is a Blog? Web logs started out primarily as a self-publishing movement for both professional and armchair journalists making their voices heard in an open online press. For some, blogging-the act of writing and publishing to a blog-takes the form of a digital diary, such as those found at And for a handful of educators experimenting with this new genre, blogs offer them and their students an interactive and immediate publishing tool.

What makes Web logs unique is their emphasis on publication and their signature as a dynamic genre of Web writing. Forming the technical backbone of blogs are content management programs, such as PostNuke? or UserLand's Manila, that are built to be "personal publishing systems," as UserLand president and COO John Robb puts it. No HTML is required, since these programs are designed to be as easy to use as a word processing application, but with additional collaboration and communication features. Manila, for example, can manage 500 individual student sites, discussion boards, mail bulletin functions, and digital portfolios all with site search and syndicated news stream capture capabilities.

Unlike most Web sites, which generally combine static and dynamic features, a blog is produced with an active writer in mind, one who creates in an online writing space designed to communicate an identity, a personality, and most importantly, a point of view.

From Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy

Weblogs provide a format for critiques of other Web materials along with various personal touches. They are structured like journals, with their segments identified by time and date. The online diary, a similar genre, also gives writers the means to produce daily reflections and make them available via the Web, but the online diary focuses less on critique and more on personal reflection. Weblogs can be considered as a series of snapshots of day-to-day Internet-related activity, highlighting the resources individuals use and how they evaluate and apply them in specific contexts. By following weblogs over time, students can obtain a sense of how others digest and make sense of Internet materials.

From Syllabus Magazine

Blogging is well ensconced in the education community. Educators in K12 and higher education are using blogging tools for: • Student logs (writing with various intentions) and portfolios • A place for students, parents, and community members to collaborate • Peer coaching environment for faculty • Classroom management tool, e.g., place for posting assignments • Knowledge management tool for compiling research logs, reference tools, policies and forms

From the NITLE Newsletter

Blogs are being employed in the liberal arts classroom in a variety of ways. Educational uses run the gamut from course management to student portfolios to collaboration or any combination thereof. In many of these various incarnations, blogs are being used to strengthen class community. As Colleen Wheeler, a blogger and member of the Information Technology & Services staff at Wheaton College in Norton, MA, explains, "…weblogs can support many of the critical touch-points in the college experience, as a living, reflective journal informing a student's portfolio; a bridge to connect class content and writing assignments; a strategic tool to fuel ongoing research; collective memory for remote or co-located teams; or a gentle orientation to the new student or employee, providing insight and context into how an unfamiliar community really works."

Student portfolios have become an increasingly popular way to organize and present student work. In addition, according to Wheeler, students "are energized by the opportunity to create their own spaces." However, teachers who are interested in having students publish materials to the web for short- or long-term projects end up having to teach web design and the use of a web editor like Dreamweaver along with the course content. Many teachers have found weblogs to be a more efficient way for students to build portfolios.

In addition, many weblog tools automatically archive older materials as new content is posted. This is a useful feature, as it allows a student to sift through a semester's worth of materials (or more) and draw connections between materials posted at different times during the development process.

Weblogs are a personal writing space. Easy, sharable, automatically archived. Weblogs are easily linked and cross-linked to form learning communities. The school logs projects are examples. The school logs also enable a teacher to evaluate a student's thinking, by reading explanations and assignments. Weblogs can become digital portfolios of students' assignments and achievements. Weblogs are a novice's web authoring tool. Accumulated weblogs become a content management system. Via digital storytelling, weblogs play a role in professional development.

From Jay Cross of Internet Time

""What is the role of weblogs in education? It's roles, plural. Weblogs are a personal writing space. Easy, sharable, automatically archived. Weblogs are easily linked and cross-linked to form learning communities. The school logs projects are examples. The school logs also enable a teacher to evaluate a student's thinking, by reading explanations and assignments. Weblogs can become digital portfolios of students' assignments and achievements. Weblogs are a novice's web authoring tool. Accumulated weblogs become a content management system. Via digital storytelling, weblogs play a role in professional development.”

From Laura Shefler$364

"The weblogs represent a body of work that has both academic and literary substance. In their weblogs, students exercise critical thinking, take creative risks, and make sophisticated use of language and design elements. In doing so, the students acquire skills that may be useful to them in both scholarly and professional contexts." "Through successful practice rather than through theory, this project suggests the possibility that some of the work that students need to do in order to read well, respond critically, and write vigorously, might be accomplished under circumstances dramatically different from those found in schools."

From Anne Davis http://www.schoolblogs.itcinsights

Web logs are: 1. a way to improve my own writing 2. just in time learning arena 3. place to share 4. easy way to create a web site quickly 5. way to connect with others and make connections to learning 6. perfect spot for quick writes 7. a writing room in which you can make it be what you want it to be 8. a perfect place to think outside the box 9. place to go to each day that provides elements of surprise and anticipation 10. way to give students ownership of a personal space a web site that encourages active engagement by the students and teacher 11. a place to collaborate 12. an up close and personal way to include parents in the process.

Part 2—Tools


Blogger Considerations

1. Easiest to use; can access from anywhere with Internet connection. (+) 2. No server setup. (+) 3. Free basic service. (+) 4. No built-in commenting feature. (-) 5. Difficult to add pictures. (-) 6. Dependent on Blogger to be working in order to post. (-) 7. If commenting add-on is used, no way to limit who gives feedback. (-) 8. Posts are readable by anyone with an Internet connection (+,-) 9. One dimensional; not a tool to build a Web site with.

Blogger Set-up Instructions

1. Go to 2. In the right-hand column, find the box that says “Sign Up.” Type in a username and password. (You will need to type the password twice for verification.) 3. The next screen will ask for: first name, last name, organization, e-mail address, then submit. 4. You will be sent back to the top page. In the right-hand column, look for a box that says “Your Blogs.” Click “Create a New Blog.” 5. The next screen will ask you for the title of your new weblog and a description. It will also ask whether your weblog should be public. Select yes or no. (You can change this later.) 6. The next screen will ask you whether you would like to host your weblog on your own Web host (server) or host it on Blog*Spot. Choose Blog*Spot. (More on local hosting in a moment.) 7. The next screen will ask you to choose the URL or address for your weblog. Type in the name of your weblog, or your own name if you prefer (or some other catchy word.) Read the terms of service (a new window will open) and check the box to agree. 8. Choose a template. Click finish. 9. Start posting!

Using Blogger

1. All posting is done in the upper text box. All posts, once posted, will appear in the lower text box. 2. To create drafts, click the “Post” button when finished; the post will not be published but stored for future editing. 3. To publish an entry, click the “Post and Publish” button. 4. Once you have published something, click “view webpage” to see the post. (Give it a minute.) A new window will open. 5. To add a link, highlight the text you want to link and click the link button (world with chain link). A small form will appear to type or paste in the web address of the page you want to link to. Hit ok. (Don’t be scared by the html code added to your post…it won’t show up when you publish.) 6. To make text bold or italic, select it and click the appropriate button. 7. To edit a post, scroll to the bottom of it in the lower text window and click on “Edit”. (You have to have one there for this to work, obviously.) The post will appear in the top text window where you can make changes and republish. 8. To change the description that appears on your weblog, click the settings button and edit in the description box. (Review the other changes you can make while you are here.) Click “Save Changes” at the bottom. These changes will take effect the next time you publish, which you can do at any time. To get back to the posting screen, click the “Post” button. (Der.) 9. To invite others to be able to post to your weblog, click on the “Team” button. Then, click on the “Add Team Members” button at top right. Next, enter each new member in the “New User” box at left center. Enter the first and last name and the e-mail address where your invitation will be sent. Then click “New>>”. Repeat for each new member. You may also edit the message that is sent in the dialog box at bottom. Click “Send Invites” at the bottom. Click “Posts” to get back to the editing screen. 10. The “Template” and “Archive” buttons are for advanced use. If you want to change the appearance of your page using HTML, you would do so through the template.

Example of a Blogger group Web log: Example of a Blogger class portal Web log:
Example of a Blogger student Web log:


Manila Considerations

1. Local server which means problems are local. (+) 2. Low cost. (+) 3. Built in commenting feature. (+) 4. Multi-dimensional; can act as a complete Web site. (+) 5. Easy to add pictures and other files. (+) 6. Easy to set permissions for use. (+) 7. Can be viewed on just intranet or Internet. (+) 8. Greater capabilities in general. (+) 9. Learning curve a bit steeper. (-) 10. Greater complexity makes it less easy to use (but not by much). (-)

Manila Setup Instructions

1. To create your new Web log, go to:

2. On the sign up form

• In the top line use your HC login., i.e. wrichard • Your e-mail address is: [email protected]. • Create and Remember your password. • Choose the Swim Fan theme (you can change this later).

3. Once you create the site, you will be directed to a “It Worked!” page. You need to login to the site using your e-mail and password. Click on the Login link and enter the required information.

4. On the next page after logging in, you should get an “Editor’s Only” toolbar. On the “Editor’s Only” toolbar, select “Prefs.”

5. On the next page, from the right hand column, select "Appearance."

• Change the Site Name and the Tag Line to whatever you wish. • Scroll to the bottom and click "Submit"

6. On the next page, from the left hand column, select "Editorial."

• In the "Contributing Editors" box, paste in the e-mail addresses of any students or teachers that you intend to create content for the site. Note: the e-mail addresses need not be valid. I’ve assigned addresses like [email protected]. As long as the student uses the address when joining, it will work. • In the "Managing Editors" box, add wric[email protected] • Scroll to the bottom and click "Submit."

7. On the next page, from the left-hand column, select "News Items."

• Click yes where it asks, " Do you want the News Items feature enabled?” • Type in "50" where it asks “How many News Items should appear on the home page?” • Click yes where it asks, "Do you want your home page organized by news days?” • Scroll down to where it says "Add a Department." Departments will allow you to filter your posts by subject. Type in the name of your first deparmtent, then click "Submit." • On the next page, Scroll down to where it says "Add a Department." Type in a second name then click "Submit." • On the next page, Scroll down to where it says "Add a Department." Type in a third name then click "Submit."

8. On the next page, from the left hand column, select "Plug-Ins."

• Click on the box next to "Filer." • Click "Submit"

9. On the next page, from the left-hand column, select "Discussion Group." • Make sure the first choice, "Do you want your discussion group to be topic-based?" is "Yes."

10. On the next page, from the left hand column, select "Advanced." • In the first box named "Navigation", copy and paste the following: <navigator>

   <item name="Home" pagename="/firstnamelastinitial/"/>
   <item name="About" pagename="/ firstnamelastinitial /about"/>
   <item name="Department1name" pagename="/firstnamelastinitial /newsItems/viewDepartment$department1name"/>
<item name=" Department2name " pagename="/firstnamelastinitial /newsItems/viewDepartment$department2%20name"/> <item name=" Department3name " pagename="/firstnamelastinitial /newsItems/viewDepartment$department3name"/> </navigator>

(Please note: where it says "firstnamelastinitial" above, replace with your first name and last initial just like the address to your site.)


Click on “News” from the Editor’s Only toolbar. On the next page, click on “Create a News Item.” On the next page, enter a title for your post on the top line. Then, if applicable, enter the URL for the site that you are linking to. (The easiest way is just to cut and paste the address.) In the big box below, enter your post. You can format the post using the icons at the top of the dialog box, and you can use the “Add a Link” feature to create hyperlinks.


1. Click on “Stories” on the Editor’s Only Tool bar. 2. Click on “Create a New Story” 3. Title your story “Links” 4. In the text box, type in the name of the page you want to link to, highlight it, click on “Add Link”, paste the URL of the site into the dialog box, click “OK”, the click “Post New Story” 5. When you get to the next page, please note the number that comes toward the very end of the URL of your story page. 6. Next, click on “Prefs” on the “Editor’s Only” Toolbar. 7. From the right or left hand column, click on “Advanced” 8. Scroll down to the second box of code named “Template” 9. In the Template box, scroll down until you find a line that says {membershipBox} 10. Just after this line (meaning on a new line just below it) copy and paste in the following snippet of code: <br><div class="sidetitle">Links</div> {includeMessage (#)} 11. Replace the # in the above code with the number that you took from the story page you created above. 12. Click on Submit at the bottom of the template. 13. In the column, you should see your link appear, with a little “Edit” button below it. 14. If you want to add more links, just click the “Edit” button and your story page should appear. Simply type in more site names and link them. REMEMBER to put a <br> after every link so they separate. As you update the story, the links should update as well.

Here's how you can add pictures to your site.


1. Find a picture that you want to use. 2. Right-click on it and choose Properties. 3. Highlight the URL and press CTRL-C to copy 4. Go into the post you are creating where you want the picture 5. At the desired spot, type the following: 6. <img src=>; 7. (you can CTRL-V to paste in the address.) 8. There are a number of ways you can format the picture. If you want the picture at the right side of the post, you would add align="right". (Or left or center.) This would then make the code above look like <img src="" align="right"> 9. If you need to make the picture smaller, you need to go back to the picture, right click on it, select "Properties" and look at the "Dimensions". If you change the dimensions, you must do so proportionately. For instance, if the current width x height is 200 x 300, then you could change it to 100 x 150 (a reduction of 50% of each value) to make it work. Simply subtracting from both, i.e. 100 x 200 will distort the picture. (FYI, try to make the width between 150-200 pixels.) Now the code would look like: <img src="" align="right" width="100" height="150"> 10. If you want to link the picture back to it's original source, highlight the entire img src line of code you created, brackets and all, and click the Add Link button. Paste in the Web site address and,'s linked. Now, it might look like this: <a href=><img src="" align="right" width="100" height="150"></a>


If you have a picture that you want to upload and use, here’s how to do it.

1. Make sure the picture is in digital form. 2. On the Editor’s Only toolbar, click Filer

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Last edited September 26, 2003 7:04 pm USA Pacific Time (diff)