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Classroom Blogging – Blogging for Beginners

Classroom Blogging: A Teacher's Guide to Blogs, Wikis, & Other Tools that are Shaping a new Information Landscape (2nd ed.) by David F. Warlick.

In this third section of the book, Warlick begins by clarifying the key difference between the internet proper, and the “blogosphere” - the world of blogs. The Web is basically a vast global library, passive in nature. The information is there on the digital shelf for you to check out. On the other hand, blogs are a global conversation. They require active participation on the part of the user. Of course, that is what makes them especially valuable as a teaching tool.

Warlick supplies a few stats to show the growth of blogs – but the stats are a little dated, so I looked up something more current. According to WordPress, a popular blogging service, there are (at the time of this writing) 64,955,801 WordPress blogs on planet earth. Twitter reports (on their blog) 50 Million tweets per day (600 per second).

Perhaps we get a sense of volume here. But, Warlick notes, “Much of this content is of little or no use to any of us. However, there are serious people considering and reporting on serious issues, and engaging in content-generating conversations – and this fact deserves our serious consideration as professional educators” (37).

Not all blogs, any more than all books or all movies or anything else, are created equal. We must be discerning about which blogs we deem worthwhile just like we would carefully screen which books our students are assigned to read. The ability to assign relative importance to information has always been a skill which is vital to students. Unlike in the past where professional editors and critics made most of these decisions on behalf of the reading public, we are all called upon today to perform some of this function ourselves. Blogs are personal, and so the reputation of a blog and/or its author are important, and students must be trained how to evaluate them.

Warlick also furnishes a pretty comprehensive (but not laborious) breakdown of blog nitty-gritty. If you are in need of a “blogging for beginners” tutorial, his section called Anatomy of a Blog is a valuable reference tool. Here you will find clarification about banners, links, titles, time stamps, editing, archives, copyrights, commenting, pictures, ads, trackback, and so on. If you are not computer savvy, or have not yet done any blogging on your own, this is a must-read.

If you cut through all the details, though, you come to realize that the “process of blogging is amazingly simple and entirely unimpressive” (48). “Write, paste, submit” (50). That's it. Today, the technology imbedded in most blogging services does all the high-tech stuff for you.

For the more technically advanced blogger, Warlick follows with a short elaboration on XML files, RSS encoding, and aggregators. Many people rely on search engines to go and find information. With RSS and aggregators, a savvy user can train the information to come to him. “It is radical and dramatic, and it adds one more element to what it means to be literate within a networked, digital, and overwhelming information landscape” (59). None of this is essential for the beginning blogger, but these are tools the experienced blogger may find useful.

In our next segment, we'll move “beyond blogging” to look at some of the other digital publishing platforms available today.

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