What is a blog and how can blogs be used for powerful, pedagogical purposes?

Okay, clearly I’m new at this blog thing. So if what I’m about to say is obvious, feel free to ignore it. For the last six weeks or so, I’ve been trying to decide if blogs are substantive or mere puffery. Here are my thoughts so far.

According to the Web Hosting Glossary, a blog is “A frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and Web links.” This is okay but pretty sterile as a definition; it doesn’t really explain what blogs are for. Here are three definitions that I’ve discovered

1. A blog is a journal for egotistical emoting, a place to present opinions, whether you know anything about the subject or not. This isn’t very attractive to me and I don’t see much of a pedagogical use here.

2. A blog is a venue for experts to publish on a level that non-experts can understand. Think of the public intellectual here. I can see how this could be a useful source of course content for students.

3. A blog is an opportunity to participate in and contribute to an intellectual conversation on a topic of interest and at least potential expertise. Think of pre-prints of scholarly journal articles. Imagine being able to influence a scholar’s thinking before his argument is fully formed. Imagine him influencing your thinking. This is the most academically powerful usage of blogs.

It seems to me that the blogosphere levels the playing field in the academy between expert, journeyman, and novice. There is the implicit assumption that if you post, your posting will be evaluated on its merits, rather than on the reputation of the author, at least more so than in traditional forms of publication. This is exciting stuff!

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3 Responses to What is a blog and how can blogs be used for powerful, pedagogical purposes?

  1. ernie says:

    You may want to look at “What’s a Blog? Bag the Stereotypes,” http://blog.contentious.com/archives/2005/05/16/bag-the-blogging-stereotypes, by Amy Gahran.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think that the most compelling part of blogging is missing from the first two ways you describe about how people use and view blogs. To me, the feedback, the community, the participation is what makes blogging a rich experience for the reader and blogger alike. That “Comments” link is really powerful – and can really make the argument for using blogs in teaching and learning.

  3. Anonymous says:


    Thanks for the very helpful reference. It was a different angle on the question, but I think it provides an excellent answer to my question.

    – Steve

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