Internet Blogs and Contextual Background Jerry Garfunkel
The report on Internet Access in US Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994 - 2002, clearly demonstrates that technology in general and internet access in particular has become ubiquitous in America's public schools. An ISTE publication, Videoconferencing for K-12 Classrooms, (2004, Cole, Ray, Zanetis) supports the growing use of the internet in the classroom for communications - videoconferencing, telementoring, remote learning, etc..
This says little however about the educational value derived from this internet access. The real question to be asked is not how much is the Internet used, but rather how well is the internet used. The ISTE reference above, suggests that the number of increased "educational opportunities" should be the measure rather than how well one learned any particular subject. After all, the internet facilitates learning; it is not a teacher in and of itself. As a facilitator, the number of educational opportunities (and the quality of those opportunities) is indeed an apt measure.
Blogs are a wonderful vehicle for student reflection and expression. The expression is enhanced by the web-based technology involved, i.e. it is more fun, it is more attractive, it is more readable/navigatible. "Part Web site, part journal, part free-form writing space, blogs have the potential to enhance writing and literacy skills while offering a uniquely stylized form of expression." (2003, Kennedy, Kristen)
Blogs come in all shapes and sizes. They can be school blogs or class blogs or group blogs or individual blogs. Each community has its own identity and each member shares visions and goals with the other constituents in their community - be it the school community, the class community or a small community made up of collaborative project members. It is healthy I believe, for students (everyone) to identify as members of different communities. It broadens their perspective? of their individual role in a project or in a school system.
The popularity of the Blog-creating programs, like Manila or PostNuke is that their ease of use has invited a whole new pool of web-page creators that didn't exist before. These new web creators are "regular people". In the past when these "regular people" had something to say publicly, they had to team up with a web page savvy friend (or professional) if they wanted to broadcast their comments. Now they can say it loudly (across the entire internet community - worldwide ) and they can say it attractively, given the plethora of templates and publishing tools embedded in these easy-to-use Blogging applications. They often need little technical assistance.
2) Videoconferencing for K-12 Classrooms, (2004, ISTE, Cole, Ray, Zanetis)
3) Kennedy, Kristen (2003). Writing with web logs Technology and Learning magazine