So what's so special about blogs?

In reply to my last post, Robin Strain asked "Can you persuade me the advantages of blogging?" Great question Robin - I think it deserves a fresh post :)

6 months ago I would have asked exactly the same question. I am involved with an online community of educators and technologists who seek to embrace the opportunities that Open Source software offers education. The official website is Schoolforge but we communicate mainly through google discussion groups. These work well for us, and up until I came across Exc-el, I didn't really see the point of blogging.

Before I start trying to explain why blogs are fit for purpose here, I should say that you have to blog yourself to really find out why blogging works - it's a bit like dancing: it looks kind of stupid from the seats at the side, but once you're on the dance floor it feels great!

I have been involved, over the last few years, in several attempts to establish on-line communities for teachers. None of them have worked, until now. The community that is developing now through blogs is an on-line community established by teachers. That's why I think it will flourish, and the process of blogging is key to the sense of ownership that the participants have.

Once someone has gone to the effort of setting up a blog, and making it look the way they want (it is vital that bloggers can do this - the blog needs to feel like it is really theirs) they have already put in some effort. Now the world is looking. Once they have made a couple of posts, and people have started to comment on their posts (as will certainly happen to any teacher in East Lothian that starts blogging!), the newbie bloggers starts to feel that they have an audience - "hey - people are actually looking at this!". Now they have a real incentive to keep their blog alive. If things go quiet, they know that it is because they didn't write any new posts for while.

Compare this with a bulletin board. On a bulletin board, the contributors haven't really invested anything. It's not their bulletin board (unless they made it - that's why there are often more posts from the administrator of the bulletin board than anyone else!). If things go quiet, as they always have done in the past on educational bulletin boards for Scottish teachers, it doesn't feel like anyone in particular is responsible.

It's great if a bulletin board supports a thriving community. I think that creating an educational blogosphere in Scotland stand a better chance of success.

The other great benefits of blogging are that tags are attached to posts, making it easy to find what you are looking for, and that RSS feeds can pull together relevant information from blogs into one place.

I feel like I've only scratched the surface here - oh yes - another big benefit is that blogging is great for pupils and we need teachers to blog if they are going to see the benefit of blogs for their pupils.

If anyone can think of more or better reasons for us to be using blogs to develop an on-line community, please let me know!

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