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On the Web: Blogging for A's

Online Web journals are changing the way we live and learn

 by Ryan Kost  published on Thursday, April 21, 2005

Internet blogs have become popular among students and professors for academic reasons and entertainment.  /issues/arts/693011
Danielle Peterson / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Internet blogs have become popular among students and professors for academic reasons and entertainment.
 

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From authors including average Joes and newscasters to celebrities and porn stars, blogs have gone from something the company computer guy does to a mainstream form of expression.

Blogs, or online Web journals, are used to spout off about current events, dish about the latest gossip or just kill time complaining about an awful day.

And with many college professors implementing blogs into classroom instruction, the Web journals are becoming more than something to read out of boredom. Many students may soon have to write their own to get a good grade.

John Lynch is one professor who is no stranger to blogging.

Lynch is a professor at ASU's Barrett Honors College. Not only does he keep his own blog, but Lynch runs blogs for professional organizations, collaborates on a group blog and has begun using blogs in his classroom.

"I largely use them solely as an interactive Web site where students can come to pick up readings, background information, etcetera, while still being able to leave questions and comments," he says.

Lynch says the increased freedom associated with blogging services won him over.

"I really don't like myASU," he says. "I prefer to tailor my own Web sites, discussion boards, etcetera using open-source software alternatives that allow me control over appearance."

So far, so good.

But Lynch is thinking about upping the ante next semester by requiring students to keep their own blog.

"I would definitely be up for that," says management sophomore Matthew Linden. "I think that'd be really cool because that gives the professor a little more insight ... He can see what these students are doing with these ideas outside of class. It gives him a little better idea of how they are perceiving what he's teaching."

Linden is no stranger to online journals; he's kept his own for about a year now and updates it regularly.

"I started it at the end of last year just because I kind of wanted to keep friends updated on what I did over the summer," he says.

The dedicated blogger started off with one or more posts a day, but has since slowed it down to a few times a week.

But that doesn't mean Linden is stopping anytime soon. Now his posts include everything from daily rants to comments on current events.

He says he doesn't post everything but that his journal is a great way to get feedback from friends.

"I also have my private journal I write in on the side," he says. "You don't want to publish everything on the Internet."

Posting is only one part of the new trend; some blogs have developed a sort of celebrity, though Linden says he hasn't made that jump just yet.

"I haven't really found any that I was interested enough in to read on a consistent basis," he says.

As for all of the media hype that has dubbed the blog as the new source for all things newsworthy, he says unless the blog is from a credible news source, he doesn't trust it.

Leslie-Jean Thornton, an online media professor, says she sees the growing importance of blogging.

"It looks like everybody is jumping on the bandwagon with blogs," she says. "It's fun. It's way to perhaps feel important and to share."

This is just the beginning, though, and while she says there are some well-done blogs, there are quite a few others that are not so good.

"We're seeing not a terribly well thought-out use of them," she says. "It's the sort of thing you get in the beginning of trends."

But the good, she says, is hard to ignore, such as foreign news correspondents who use the technology to give readers a more complete look at their feelings regarding a number of situations.

Thornton says above all, it gives readers and bloggers alike a sort of intimacy.

"It's sort of like sitting down for a cup of coffee," she says.

Thornton also uses blogs in the classroom for many of the same reasons Lynch does.

But, she says blogs aren't just another posting board.

"Most importantly, it's a way to create almost a community where people get to know each other," she says. "And I also think it's a way to encourage people to give more thought. "It gives [class] a real-time, real-life component."

One step ahead of Lynch, she's already had all of her students sign up for a personal blog, though she hasn't made updating it a requirement. But that step isn't that far away.

"I think that's a great idea," she's says of Lynch's plans. "I think I, too, will work with having everybody set up a blog next time and keep it going."

Lynch and Thornton agree the potential is there to make blogging a staple in the classroom.

"I think it offers a tremendous amount of potential," Thornton says. "The Internet has changed everything about the way we live, and also probably about the way we teach and learn."

Reach the reporter at ryan.kost@asu.edu.



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