Blogs allow you to post news and updates, which are displayed in reverse chronological order.

They are primarily used in courses for 2 purposes:
  • For the instructor to post what is going on and coming up in the course. See for example the front page of my internet development course: http://internetdev.usu.edu/
  • For students to use as journals, for reflection, for a portfolio, etc.

The most popular free hosts for educators wanting to use blogs include:
  • Wordpress.com We'll try this one out.
  • Blogger.com
  • Edublogs (for teachers)
  • Some others include movabletype, drupal, etc. You can host your own blog on a server, see: wordpress.org
Moodle and the new version of Blackboard have built-in support for blogs (and wikis), too.

Please try signing up for a blog on wordpress.com and posting some information about yourself there (click the 'New Post' link at the bar at the top of your blog). You might post your philosophy of teaching & technology to your blog just as an example. You can edit the 'About' page with info about yourself, too, if you like.

Another thing that really makes a blog much more interesting and usable and engaging for students is to add widgets and links on the sidebar. Notice for example on the right side of my blog I have displayed recent items from twitter, and also recent things I've starred in Google Reader.
To add widgets to your blog, click the 'My Dashboard' link at the top of your wordpress blog (while logged in) and scroll down and on the left sidebar you'll see an 'Appearance' link. Here is where you can edit the visual theme (look) of your blog, and also click on Widgets to see different widgets available. If you scroll down you'll see a twitter widget, where you can enter your twitter account username to display your tweets on your blog.

One last thing to do, to let me and others be able to find your blog (and your twitter account):
Then link your blog to your friendfeed.com account, so that when you post to your blog, it will show up on friendfeed (and twitter if you so choose). (and also so that I and other class members can find your twitter account and blog via friendfeed).
Click the 'add/edit' link below your name on your friendfeed page. Click the Blog icon and paste the url to your wordpress blog to link it to friendfeed.
Click the 'Tools' link at the top of Friendfeed if you want to forward your friendfeed stuff to twitter, too (it won't forward stuff that was originally posted to twitter).

How do I read/subscribe to blogs?

With an RSS Reader. There are hundreds of them, but probably the most popular is Google Reader.
I explained on the Web 2.0 Tools page what RSS is. Whenever you see the orange icon in your location bar in Firefox (or most other browsers), that means that site has an RSS feed that you can subscribe to. Whenever new stuff is posted to the site, the RSS feed is updated, and the new stuff is displayed in your RSS reader.

I recommend signing up at Google Reader and subscribing to some blogs that interest you.

Google's blog search http://blogsearch.google.com/
is one way to search for interesting blogs, and see the links below for more, too.

Blogs in education/teaching:

Why use blogs in the classroom (other than for purposes I listed above, such as announcing class news, or for your own professional development)?
Blogs help students improve their writing skills. Blogs also serve as nice tools to use for portfolios for students.
Also, sometimes it helps students to write for an audience beyond just the teacher. I know we worry about students having to write in public, but I don't think most students are afraid of that, and also, you can have private blogs, too, especially in moodle, etc.