Blogging in Education: Pros and Cons

So here I go blogging again. This will be the third time I have been prompted by an educator to blog. I really don’t see the point of writing a blog nor do I read or subscribe to any. When I am searching topics on the Internet, I don’t recall having ever been directed to someone’s blog. The intention of this blog (not the entire entity, but just this post) is to research and examine the literature that is out there regarding blogs to see what, if any, value they have in education.

According to Wikipedia, blogs are supposed to be digital communities evolved from online diaries. Functionally speaking blogs allow the owner of the blog to post some information for others to read and comment on, and they can be subscribed to using RSS feeds so that all participants can be notified when there is an update. A 2008 video from Palm Breeze Cafe’s Kim Cavanaugh (view below) cites the Pew Research Center’s 2008 data on blogs saying that 70% of students under age 18 have a blog. My guess is this statistic is much lower in 2010 with the advent and popularity of Twitter. A quick search of the Internet using Google shows numerous Web sites singing the praises of “blogs in education,” but oddly most are dated around 2003 or 2004 and very few seem to be current. One current blogger I found at halfanhour.blogspot.com had a post dated Monday, April 13, 2009 which is very thorough, comprehensive and contained a considerable amount of valuable links. Like most of the Web sites I found touting blogs in education this one too starts with a discussion about what is a blog. In his archived post the writer, Stephen Downes, states that according to edublogs they have hosted over 400 thousand educational blogs since 2005.

Pros: Some of the student benefits listed by Mr. Downes are the ability of students to take ownership of their own learning and providing them with an authentic voice in order to give students the opportunity to articulate their needs and inform their own learning. He also cites Bortee, D.S. (2005) as having said that blogs have been shown to contribute identity-formation in students. However I found no empirical studies which back up any of these claims.

Cons: Among the drawbacks I found while searching the Internet for information about educational blogging is the issues of privacy. Privacy of our students is a large concern of educators and so the question arises as to how much personal information, if any, can be requested or required of a student posting to a blog in order to complete a school assignment. Another issue is student motivation which falls in two categories, 1) getting students motivated to write a blog in the first place, and 2) the technological novelty of blogging seems to wear off very quickly and therefore students can become bored with it just as quickly. On another front one complaint I saw made by several posters was a complaint about the slowness of edublog. Edublog is a site set up for educators to give them and their students free blogging. Ostensibly this was a ground breaking site when free blogging was not as prevalent as it is today, but apparently their number of subscribers now outnumber its technical capability to provide blogging services which meet their expectations of responsiveness.

At this point I would say the results are inconclusive and much more research is needed to confirm whether blogs are making a difference in education or not. Subscribe to this blog if you would like to read my further research. I can guarantee you there will be at least two more posts made by me (they are assignments I am required to complete).

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