UChicago Voices

Medieval doodling from Carpentras, Bibl. mun., ms. 0368, f. 064v

What are blogs? Why use them as assignments?

A blog (the shortened version of the original term, “weblog”), is an online, chronological collection of first-person reflective essays that are often linked to supportive writings and media on the internet. Many instructors assign blogging as short writing exercises to help students achieve pedagogical objectives such as:

  • Encourage students to expand their literacy in the field through reading and commenting on relevant writings.
  • Provide a write-to-learn opportunity where students experiment and apply what they have learned in class to synthesize a critical reaction or argument in a short first person reflective essay.
  • Set up frequent and low-stakes learning opportunities for students and obtain early feedback on student learning without adding much to the instructor workload, as blog posts need not be graded extensively.
  • Create a learning community and provide a peer-learning experience through the interactive features (comment feature) of blogs.
  • Help student recognize the real-world relevance of what they are learning through linking to internet resource, and, if the blog is made public, through engaging with the larger public in the discourse in the comments section. Further, students can show off their work with friends and family, and if the blog has high readership outside of the class, it also gives them certain bragging rights.
  • When the blog is made public, students learn how to write for and engage a public audience, and practice good digital citizenship. They learn essential digital communication skills and the visual rhetoric of digital writing (e.g. how images and other media are used in relation to the text).
  • Accustom students to good writing practices. Students have a tendency to pay closer attention to grammar, style, argumentation, and presentation when they write for an audience other than the instructor, and class blog posts by nature are viewable by at least the entire class.

For more about using blog as a pedagogical tool, see Teach Smart with Technology: Blogging as Write-to-Learn Exercise.

How are blogging tools different from other writing platforms?

Writing in the Medieval ages.

How has writing changed in the internet age?

A blogging tool makes incorporating online references and multimedia easy via hyperlink. (Think of these dynamic footnotes or endnotes as intertextuality in Web 2.0 era if you will.) Bloggers can also easily insert an image to pique readers’ interests (for example, the header image in this post) or to illustrate the argument they are making (such as the image on the right, “How has writing changed with the rise of internet tools?”) With blogging tool like this one, writers can easily design how images are placed in relation to the text.

In addition to links and images, bloggers can embed a video that plays on the page by simply adding a link, like this one:

Best yet, there is no need to know how to code HTML or CSS to create a beautiful looking blog post!

Furthermore, take a gander below, and you will see that blogs are interactive. Writers and readers can interact using the comment section at the end of the blog post. Try it out and join the conversation below!