Picture of CA Edington
by CA Edington - Wednesday, 28 May 2008, 04:13 PM
For the first time this year, I've been using blogs. I have two questions.

The only choices in publishing the blog are to “yourself” or to “anyone on this site.” The latter means that anyone enrolled in a course that I teach using Moodle can read the blog of any other student, regardless of the course. [Note: I teach at three different universities.]

I am concerned that this (the fact that the blogs could be read by “strangers”) might make students rather timid about writing their opinions. I realize that I can tell students to “View course entries” rather than “View site entries,” but there's no way to control what students opt to read. mixed

Does anyone else see this as a concern?

An even bigger question is, how can students comment on one another's blogs? One of the main reasons I wanted to use blogs is so that students could interact. I know that forums are a way to do this, but I much prefer having students write blogs because they’re more personalized. (In the class where I use them the most, each student is required to write on whatever aspect of the day's topic is of the greatest interest to them.)

Students can, of course, read what others have written on the same topic. However, there seems to be no way for them to respond on the blog itself. Further, if there were a place for comments, I could keep track of who's looking at which blogs, and so on.

I'd like to know how any of you may be addressing this particular blip. In fact, I'd be very interesting in knowing more about how others are using blogs in their Moodle classes in general.

Happy Blogging!

Picture of Eric Hagley
Re: Blogs
by Eric Hagley - Thursday, 29 May 2008, 11:52 AM
Recently I was skyping with Stephen Henneberry on this very issue. With his permission I'm pasting below our collective response.

I am trying to get ready for my presentation, and one of the things I want to do is set up a kind of social networking site for language teachers...
5/21/08 2:43 PM

My project was a L1/L2 blog exchange, and I want to set up an area for fellow teachers to use to find other teachers to do such exchanges with...
5/21/08 2:44 PM

...it will require that I get both English teachers and Japanese teachers to join the fold...

So, anyway, do you do any blogging courses?
Eric Hagley
5/21/08 2:48 PM
I have some writing courses this year but not specifically blogging. I'm not really a big fan of blogging though I know I should be - it is huge in Japan.
Stephen Henneberry
5/21/08 2:49 PM
Well, what I did was rather fun. My Ss blogged in L2, the American Ss blogged in L2 (Japanese), and they both commented in L1 on each others blogs. It was a very interesting project...
5/21/08 2:50 PM

You can see my Ss blog here: http://nashidai07.blogspot.com/ You will have to go back to the archives to see the more interesting stuff, as the front page is all "Come see my new personal blog" posts...
5/21/08 2:51 PM

My goal is to get a group of like-minded EFL teachers in Japan to partner up with like-minded JFL teachers from America and other native English countries...
Eric Hagley
5/21/08 2:51 PM
When you say blogging with Japanese and English teachers being involved are you doing it with .... ah yes you are. I did a similar thing. I think I put you on to senseionline. Did you get a partner from there? I did mine within Moodle and had students do as you did re the language output. They uploaded powerpoint presentations and audio files and commented etc on them.
Stephen Henneberry
5/21/08 2:53 PM
Well, I will probably post a notice to senseionline about this soon, but I already knew someone in the states. She is also on senseionline, but I did not meet her that way...
5/21/08 2:54 PM

...I love moodle, but I wanted something that would allow students to easily progress into their own PLE after the course, so I went with Blogger. The tie-in with Google makes for some nice natural progressions (Reader, Picassa, YouTube, etc...)
5/21/08 2:55 PM

Once the Ss were accustomed to the blogger interface, they were easily able to set up and run their own blogs. I like that idea, as the learning/practice continues after teh course.
Eric Hagley
5/21/08 3:01 PM
True. How did you assess it though? Pain in the butt going to all their blogs isn't it?
5/21/08 3:01 PM

I'm still waiting on the next version of moodle that will apparently have a blog section to it that is open to the www
Stephen Henneberry
5/21/08 3:02 PM
That was a bit tough, but I had them each use their own name as a "category", or "tag" for each post. In that way, it was easy to just load a page for each Ss. The comments were a bit more work...
Eric Hagley
5/21/08 3:02 PM
It was meant to be in 1.9 but they put it back to 2.0. The blog apparently allows comments too.
Stephen Henneberry
5/21/08 3:02 PM
...mostly, I assessed on participation/effort as opposed to accuracy.
5/21/08 3:03 PM

A blog w/out comments is like a popsicle w/out a stick... Comments are necessary. The most interesting part of my project was the discussions that took place in the comments
Eric Hagley
5/21/08 3:04 PM
to be sure to be sure... Looking forward to that capability in 2.0
Stephen Henneberry
5/21/08 3:05 PM
In that case, moodle could work well for a project like this, but you will either need to allow students to maintain an account forever, to keep their own blog, or have a tool for exporting posts to facilitate migration to a personal blog external to the moodle installation...
5/21/08 3:06 PM

...which is why I still like blogger. You can still set "read" permissions if you like, to maintain a "walled garden" of sorts, and moving on to a personal blog is rather easy... IMHO.
5/21/08 3:07 PM

There are no "word count" tools, or other useful things for assessment, but as long as the group is not too large it is OK.
Eric Hagley
5/21/08 3:12 PM
I think it would be kinda cool to show new students what their seniors had done and how they are still going on with it. I'm sure the school would like that too. I certainly see where you are coming from but I'm old fashioned in believing that we should be supplying the educational environment without advertising of any sort and that we should keep it simple and in one place. I like what you and your students have done, and depending on what Moodle gives me in the future may go that way, but I'd go kicking and screaming I think....
Stephen Henneberry
5/21/08 3:16 PM
Well, I agree. I will be using the same blog this Fall, so the old posts will be there for posterity, and Blogger does not use advertising. I think that the business model is to create more Google users, and get the AdSense adds to get them in other tools. So, Blogger is a sound tool in that respect. I also love moodle, and try to stay in there as much as possible, but I went w/ blogger due to some limitations that I just could not live with (comments, extendability, etc...)
5/21/08 3:16 PM

But, lets agree to disagree I don't want to digress into a debate here. Different strokes for different folks...
Eric Hagley
5/21/08 3:20 PM
I have 50 students in all 4 of my writing classes. That is essentially the biggest hurdle I have when thinking about something new. The assessment of the blogs would therefore be my biggest challenge and one I can't take on right now.

(finish exchange)

Hope this helps.
Picture of CA Edington
Re: Blogs
by CA Edington - Thursday, 29 May 2008, 02:58 PM
Eric - That was an interesting exchange between you and Stephen Henneberry. Of course, Blogspot is one way to go, but I prefer staying within the confines of Moodle for reasons similar to what you stated.

As for my main question about being able to make comments on Moodle blogs, apparently it's not possible, at least yet. (sigh)

I don't assess the entries themselves, since I have students do self-assessments. I'd really like to be able to comment on them, though.

I had them each use their own name as a "category", or "tag" for each post.

This was an especially useful tip. Thanks!

Picture of Stephen Henneberry
Re: Blogs
by Stephen Henneberry - Thursday, 29 May 2008, 12:47 PM
Eric contacted me to ask permission to post our discussion the other day, so I thought that I would jump in here as well and share my two cents on the topic...

I ran a blogging project with one of my classes last year, and I put a lot of thought into which tools was best for my needs. I wanted to run the blog(s) in a "walled garden", but I also wanted to allow for commenting to extend the discussion and learning. Although I am a long-time Moodle user, and love to use it in many of my classes, I found that it just did not meet my needs in this course. The permission issue that you mentioned was a problem, as I did not want to expose my students to the whole university (literally thousands of students), and there was no commenting tool at the time. As such, I decided to go with Blogger for my project.
Blogger has many advantages IMHO, and few disadvantages.
Permissions: You can easily choose between three levels of access: "Anybody", "Only people I choose", and "Only authors". (Screenshot attached)
Management: If you set up a group blog yourself, and add your students as "authors", you have full access to their drafts and can easily manage posts and comments.
Account creation: You can send invites to your students' university email addresses and they can easily set up an account within minutes.
Access to tools: The new google account allows students access to other great tools for blog classes, such as Google Reader, Picassa web albums, YouTube, Google Docs, etc...
Push Technology: If you enable RSS for your blogs, you can easily monitor posts and comments in Google Reader, or opt to have them all emailed to you. Good for archiving posts, and with some creative mail filters you can create student portfolios in your mailbox.
Extendability: Once the course "group blog" is coming to an end students can quite easily create a personal blog to extend the practice and continue working on developing their own Personal Learning Environment (PLE).
Usability: Blogger is translated into many languages, so students can use a Japanese interface to allow them to focus on the activity without losing motivation due to issues with understanding the tools.

Sorry, I do not wish to be too long winded here, as you may quite simply not be interested in going outside of the Moodle site for your classroom blogs, but I personally found it to be a very satisfying solution.

If you are interested in getting your students together in the Blogosphere with other L2 bloggers, of both English and Japanese, I have recently created a social network on Ning for just this purpose. In my project, my students blogged in English, while some American students blogged in Japanese, and they all acted as "peer-teachers" for each other. It was a very interesting project, which I will be presenting on this Sunday at JALT CALL, and I would love to extend the reach to other teachers and classrooms. If anybody is interested in participating, please join the Ning site here: L1L2 Blog Exchange. Or you can email me directly at steve.henneberry @ gmail.com

Hope that helps,

Picture of CA Edington
Re: Blogs
by CA Edington - Thursday, 29 May 2008, 03:11 PM
Steve - Thanks for a very thorough and convincing two cents' worth (more like at least two dollars' worth) on Blogger.com. I may consider it for use in future years, unless there are changes in the Moodle blog options.

CA in Sapporo

Picture of Don Hinkelman
Re: Blogs
by Don Hinkelman - Thursday, 29 May 2008, 05:54 PM
Hi CA and Eric,

We are now doing comments on Blogs. We reprogrammed the Blog module and added a Blog Course Report which gives a word count, entry numbers, and direct link to each student's blog. Great for assigning comments.

It is called the Media Blog and to install it will be tricky, but you can do it if you have your own server or your school has its own server. Let me know if you are interested.

If you do not have a server, I would do the same thing (word counts, comments, etc.) on a paper form.

Andy and I used to have students do a blog in Blogger.com, but we had soooooo many hassles. I would spend 1.5 class periods just dealing with forgetten passwords, and teaching them how to set up a Blogger account.

Picture of Don Hinkelman
Blogs vs. Forums
by Don Hinkelman - Wednesday, 8 October 2008, 10:53 PM
Here is a discussion that Laura MacGregor and I have done about Moodle blogs. Also, I regret to say that our reprogramming of the Moodle blog (as mentionned above) is not ready to share. We got commenting going well, but then the tagging feature broke down. Hope to fix it in a few months. Or you can can wait for Moodle 2.0 with guarenteed commenting, due in April 2009.

Hi Don,

Anyway, I am back with a new question if I may--blogs versus forums
They look awfully similar in format - what's the diff?

These are very different. A blog is just a one way publishing of my own thoughts or essays. Like bowling. A forum usually starts with a question, and is followed by many replies, and further comments by the original poster. More like tennis. (a la Polite Fictions)

I made one blog entry, but nobody can see it unless they click "view site entries." Is there some way to highlight the blog entry on the blog menu (sidebar), The latest news and featured learning site give teasers about the contents. Can this be done for blogs too?

There is no automatic way to highlight a particular blog entry on the main course page. But you can make a special block and put a link in there to entice students to visit your blog or a particular blog entry. You would have to do this....
1. Add block >> HTML block
2. Click the edit icon to edit the new HTML block.
3. Copy the link to your blog (not possible to link to a particular entry).
4. Paste the link into the HTML block, and type any other information explaining that link.

I read the discussion about blogs on englishforum and took a look at CA's blogs. May I ask two questions about blogs now that I have seen them in action?

1. What are tags and how do they work?

Tags are categories. There are two kinds of tags--official and user. The official ones are categories made by the teacher. The user ones are tags made by the student.

2. Is there a way to organize blog entries into categories? If more than one "discussion" or topic gets going then it would be nice to divide them into categories.

Use tags. But students have to be required to make tags. Usually they don't unless you make a big deal of it.

Besides, the list could get pretty long, so being able to categorize, even by month, would make it easier to navigate perhaps. I realize that the nature of blogs is not a discussion, but is a bowling lane, but I thought there might be some way to organize the lanes.

Actually, the current Moodle blog is really primitive, especially if you are used to Blogger and Wordpress. In fact, there isn't even a comment function. I would wait until version 2.0 of Moodle in April 2009 to really use blogs. So much more can be done in forums. Blogs are independent of your course and it is hard for students to find each others blog. But it is easy to see all the comments in a structured forum.

And, your idea to highlight the blog is good. I want to do it but don't understand where the link to a blog entry comes from. The URL to the blog entry doesn't work. I don't know how to link the line "view site entries" in the blog block if that is what you mean - my kindergarten skills only let me link to web pages using the knot link icon on the editing page. Thanks for teaching me how to link this.

Sorry, I was wrong. You cannot make a link to an individual entry. The only way to connect to blogs is to go into "Participants" (a side block) and click on a name, then click on their "blog" tab.

It is very hard to encourage students to read each others blogs without manually building a table of links to everyone's blogs. I tried and gave up... for now. smile