Blogs: December 2007 Archives

OK Maybe an Open Blog can Work

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I just saw that my ETS colleague Brad Kozlek wrote about open blogging in a science lab and I honestly have to agree that this is a good model.

In a recent round table with instructors using Blogs at Penn State, one of them mentioned that he specifically wanted his students to blog in the open (i.e. anyone can see the posts)...because he felt that students would pay more attention to what they wrote if they knew anyone could stumble across it.

I do maintain both an open and a private blog, and again I would agree that the writing on my open blog is much more coherent. I'm glad that I do have some open blog venues out there and I am getting a chance to use them to try out some ideas in public. Similarly, if a scientist is training to keep an usable lab journal, a public blog is a good way to sharpen the focus.

I think one caveat for this discussion is that I would say that a research journal may be semi-public genre. A lot of the entries from the Redfield Lab Postdoc Blogs were noting investigations and results from that day and are a bit technical in nature. On the other hand, more than a few are referring to Meatloaf (the musician) and Queens of the Stone Age (also musicians). There's no doubt that a blog is a little funkier than a formal research paper.

Still... I maintain that we need to carefully to define what constitutes "public" and "private" in the blogosphere and when each is appropriate.

I know, I'm stubborn.

Are Blogs Notebooks?

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We've been having some interesting discussions on how the expand and explain the full capabilities of our Movable Type Platform.

Movable Type is the engine for Blogs at Penn State, but blogs are not it's only capability. With the new system you have easier control over "static" pages which can be connected to your main blog...which means you have more control over your Web space than ever. You can post your photos and videos, write commentary and create resources for yourself (you could have your key links on one page and a static public resume on another)

There's been a lot interesting talk at ETS about how we can encourage students to use the Movable Type platform to document their Penn State life and maybe develop a professional portfolio at the end. Blogs are great for dotting down your "thought du jour", but it could be more than that. Perhaps the most exciting possibility is that this process can "nudge" students into "reflection" (do these thoughts tie together somehow?) and maybe even "exploration" (I talked about concept A...what's the next step?)

But - how can we explain this vision to the Penn State educational community? Blogs and portfolios are two pieces of the puzzle, but there may be more. Is there a common metaphor that everyone can understand?

Well, here's my modest proposal. Maybe we're talking about the "notebook" process. Like real notebooks, Movable Type can be very flexible. Some people use notebooks for diaries, others for short stories and poems, and others may draw in theirs. Some people may have one notebook for everything (all tasks in one place) and others may have several notebooks for different topics (one class, one notebook). At some point, a notebook can be re-edited for a professional portfolio...or you could just share the one you have.

But there are some powerful features in the electronic Movable Type Notebook that aren't in a traditional paper notebook. One is that it's easy to share. If you want your friend to see your class notes - you won't have to worry about your friend losing it or not getting it back to you. Not only that, but I can get to my electronic notebook from any computer

Another is that you can stuff in more media (like a video) than in a paper notebook. It's also easier to incorporate "outside material." If I see a link I like, I can plug it into my blog. With a paper notebook, I would need an extra folder just for handouts...or I have to invest in three hole punch.

And maybe the nicest benefit of all is that I can type instead of write. Anyone who has seen my rapid handwriting knows it's not too easy to read.

So that's it - a blog as a notebook. Will this metaphor make the process easier to grasp? I'm not sure yet - it's just an idea I jotted down.