Blogging might just be the next academic frontier, if you believe the New York Times. But does the medium lend itself to student learning?
John Orlando at Faculty Focus thinks it does. Arguing that blogging harkens back to commonplacing, he advocates for blogs as a space where students’ original ideas can smolder until the moment when they’re ready to burst into flame. Orlando also suggests that blogs can provide a space for “collisions” between students. In addition to allowing for contact and conflict that doesn’t always take place in the classroom (with its power dynamics and public-speaking intimidation), blogs help students practice analysis and argumentation in a low-stakes forum. More importantly, students own their ideas and at the same time find themselves accountable to a greater public. Orlando provides some quick tips on getting students blogging here.
Of course, not everyone sees things like Orlando. In an article for the Harvard Crimson, Yair Rosenberg writes about his resentment for the extra work, redundancy, and general pointlessness of student blogs. (Full disclosure: Yair is my former student, and his article was partially written in response to keeping a blog for my class.)
If you do decide to assign student blogs, there are resources you can draw on. ProfHacker offers one possible rubric for evaluating blogs and a check-list of sorts to help you through the planning stages.
For those interested in academic studies of student and faculty blogging, a starting place might be the bibliography of this article on developing research blogs.