Using Blogs to Create Your Personality
Have you ever felt disconnected from your online class or wished that you could get to know the other students in your class better?
Many online schools will ask students to post an introduction at the beginning of the class to establish community and break the ice. I read all of introductions posted by my students, and it does provide me with a general sense of who they are; however, they are not enough to establish a sense of community among online students.
Is there a way to develop connections with other students – without having to reveal a lot of personal information? The answer I’ve discovered is blogs. Blogs provide a very effective method of building connections with other students while demonstrating your personality and engaging in friendly, relaxed conversation – without revealing personal details.
Some online schools are starting to incorporate blogs in the curriculum. Blogs are often used as a one-time learning activity, designed to either demonstrate use of alternate forms of digital communication or provide a means for students to outline their progress in class. I’ve discovered that blogs offer much more potential for students to get to know each other because students are sharing outside of the classroom, which makes it feel less intimidating to talk to each other.
Personal blogs or posters help to humanize the online learning experience. It adds a sense of the student’s personality, and over time students not only build a greater feeling of community, they are also likely to create a support network. This can have a positive impact on class discussions because students feel more comfortable sharing ideas and knowledge with each other, and they are more likely to ask follow up questions because they have a perception of belonging to the class.
I’ve encouraged students to use one of the free blog providers, such as Blogger, WordPress, or Xanga. There is also a variation through Glogster, which allows students to create a free online poster. When students post their introductions in class they can also share the link to their blog. Other students can bookmark that page and check in on a periodic basis. My recommendations are to include hobbies, career interests, and academic interests, along with notes about their academic journey.
The most popular online blog website is Blogger. Blogger was started in 1999 and then purchased by Google in 2002, which means that you need a Google account to set up your blogs. It is one of the most popular free blog services and reviews indicate that Blogger is “probably the most user friendly blogging platform out there.” With a Google account you are allowed to set up and publish an unlimited number of new blogs.
The process for creating a new blog is simple. Once you arrive on the Blogger home page, use the Sign Up link to create your account (and a display name) and then use the Create Your Blog Now button to begin the process. You will be directed to a dashboard where you can type the content of your blog. One of the features you are likely to find useful is the Blogger template designer because you can select a background for your blog. I’ve followed the steps outlined and created a test blog: Dr. J’s Test Blog.
There is a tour of Blogger you can take prior to creating your first blog if you want to review all of the available features and one of features you may want to explore is the blog settings. For example, if you want only members of the class to view your blog you have an ability to set controls. There is also a Blogger Help button located on every screen that provides quick answers to most questions. Overall, I found the website was easy to navigate and the published blog is very easy to read.
Another very popular blog website is WordPress. This is a format I am most familiar with as I use it daily to publish articles. You can review an overview of WordPress to learn more about the basic features. Similar to Blogger, WordPress is available to use at no charge and when you publish a blog with WordPress it does not include ads on your blog page. (Some of the blog websites I’ve reviewed do include ads that clutter up the page)
To begin the process, you need to visit the Sign Up page and create your free account. The basic account is free and there is an option for a paid upgrade, if you want to have other features available to use, such as custom designs. I’ve created a test blog for you to review utilizing the basic account: Dr. J’s WordPress Blog.
Xanga is the least known of these blogging websites; however, it is gaining popularity because it is offered at no charge. Xanga first began as a source for sharing reviews and has evolved into a blogging platform. To begin the process you need to visit the Sign Up page to create your account. The basic account is free and there is a premium version available that offers additional publishing options. Templates are available for the basic version, along with advanced features that allow you to include audio, video, and images. I’ve created a test blog for you to review: Dr. J’s Xanga blog. While the design looks nice there are ads that have been included and it makes the page look somewhat cluttered. I would encourage you to view all three websites and determine which one has the greatest appeal for your blogs.
An alternative to blogs that some of my students have enjoyed using is Glogster where you create a Glog instead of a blog. What’s a Glog? It is defined as “interactive posters loaded with text, graphics, music, videos, and more.” Instead of writing out a blog, you can create a poster with short phrases, statements, and quotes – instead of using complete sentences. To begin, visit the Sign Up page to create an account and your first Glog. There are a variety of interactive tools that allow you to customize your poster. Here is a sample Glog I’ve created: Dr. J’s Glog.
As you consider using a blog or a Glog, remember that these websites are not designed for social networking; however, with some websites you can select favorites, join a community, or view blogs by categories. What I would encourage you to do is to first use it as an extension of your class, which allows you to discuss topics related to the course, your ongoing journey as a student, or your career. This will allow you to find common interests with other students – without being too personal, which is a risk that is associated for use of Facebook and other social media.
Have all of my students participated in this type of activity? No. Some students are still uncomfortable with the use of websites that requires them to create an account because they still believe that it may share too much information. This is often the result of a generational difference between students. I find that students who do share a blog or a Glog with the class become more visibly engaged in the class – through interactions within the discussion board. I’ve noticed that they interact more with other students because they feel like they are part of a community.
Students also enjoy the creative aspect of creating a blog or a Glog, and their personality often shows through the design and their writing. This is fun way of expressing your thoughts in an unstructured environment. As you read what other students have written also consider leaving a comment. The connections you develop could provide you with a support system that is often harder to develop with an online classroom than a traditional class.
Have you used a blog or Glog? Share your experience @DrBruceJ
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