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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Identifying Desirable Blog Features (B4B: Wk. 2, Task 2.a.)

This post covers a review of eight blogging applications in which Campbell (2005) offers guidelines for choosing amongst them and other tools like them to use for language learning purposes.

Campbell suggests that blogs provide opportunities for "authentic use of language" that will challenge and stimulate learners "in ways that classroom experiences cannot" (Campbell, 2005, Choosing the right weblog application, paragraph 1).

Below are principle blog features to seek (Merits) and avoid (Demerits) that I've gleaned from Campbell's review of existing applications (2005), combined with a few others, and arranged roughly in descending order of importance:

Merits

  • user-friendliness from the get-go (signup) including language choices;
  • WYSIWYG, drag-&-drop editing and automated link assistance;
  • author-ownership with edit-ability at any time, including time stamp updates;
  • search and tagging or labeling functions;
  • ease of setting levels of access, moderation, publicity & security;
  • integrated, nearly unlimited file, A/V media and photo storage, and independent page options;
  • variety of simple, easily accessible themes with intuitive (drag & drop) module arrangements;
  • readily accessible, easy to use, built-in aggregators;
  • networking options extending beyond immediate blogging services/venues, including whole and partial RSS feeds; &
  • spell-checking functions.
Demerits
  • external email necessary for confirmation, and forced local language displays;
  • HTML coding skills necessary
  • text-only comments;
  • low contrast (text to background) themes with restricted font sizes;
  • fixed or heavily constrained column, frame and window sizes for both input and display;
  • same-service membership required to comment; &
  • advertising.
Reference

Campbell, Aaron. (2005). Weblog applications for EFL/ESL classroom blogging: a comparative review. TESL-EJ, 9(3). Retrieved January 24, 2007, from http://www-writing.berkeley.edu/TESL-EJ/ej35/m1.pdf

8 comments:

  1. Hi, Paul.

    What an excellent summary of the Campbell article!

    I found the "Merits vs Demerits" section to be particularly useful.

    Kudos, Paul!

    Dennis in Phoenix

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice blog, Paul!

    I liked the slide show of photos and graphics very much and was also impressed with your blogroll and descriptors for RSS.

    Dennis in Phoenix

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey Dennis,

    Thank you for your kind appraisals. If you discover any hot, particularly useful features in the "no longer beta" (new) Blogger that might serve students well, please point them out - same for anything ready-made and easy to integrate from elsewhere.

    Cheers, Paul

    ReplyDelete
  4. For extended discussion of this Blogging for Beginners (b4b) Electronic Village Online workshop task, please review the b4b workshop blog:

    http://blogs4beginners.blogspot.com/2007/01/welcome-to-week-2_12.html

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Paul!
    I've enjoyed your post about the Campbell article as well. Like Dennis mentioned, dividing the points into merits and demerits is a useful way of breaking down the information.

    Do you think that Blogger would best suit your educational blogging needs? So far, it is the one I'm most familiar with and it does have many "merits".

    Mary H

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi, MaryH!

    For educational blogging needs, I thought Blogger would satisfy - till I tried to help some folks across the island get started during a hands-on workshop over the weekend.

    It seems that sign-up for a Google mail (Gmail) account as a base for a new Blogger account now requires a response to confirmation email sent to a separate, pre-existing email account (one of the demerits that I'd listed).

    If learners don't have another mail account, if their mobile phone mail cannot accomodate confirmation messages, or they cannot access separate email accounts from a workshop venue; they may be in for headaches before they even get started blogging.

    Some better blogger buddies (the Miyazaki JALT workshop leaders), with whom I'll co-teach writing courses next April, said they'd look into that apparent problem soon.

    Before I can answer your question definitively, however, I'll have to take another good hard look at features of WordPress models in the edublogs suite.

    Cheers, Paul

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your response. Since we seem to be working in similar contexts, I was curious what blog host(s) you were considering using with students. I'm off to explore WordPress too; let's continue sharing ideas!

    Mary H

    ReplyDelete
  8. Regarding the email confirmation issue,...

    Jonathan Boutelle indicates that he and folks at SlideShare have examined related trouble with spam filters.

    They find that Gmail users fare better than average in confirmation of sign ups.

    Google, yahoo, and hotmail spam filters compared (January 12, 2007).

    ReplyDelete

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