Beyond the blog are a number of other electronic media that use a similar interactive approach to communication. Vlogs, which obviously borrow part of its term from blogs, are video blogs. Sites like YouTube.com have become hugely popular. Much like a blog, anyone with a video camera and Internet access can upload a video for free. Podcasts are audio files. These can be listened to on-line or loaded up for later use on ipods. Sites like gcast.com offer free software for creating and storing podcasts. Wikis are collaborative websites where multiple readers can add and edit information to the site. Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org/) is one example a large wiki that is used by huge number of Internet users.
The weblog interface, as part of an evolving electronic apparatus, offers an easily accessible environment for alternative forms of discourse. Bloggers, working as digital archivists, all have various reasons for writing on-line, but most of them share the need for alternative space that allows them to work outside traditional institutions. This movement from ephemeral media to digital or hypermedia provides a new space for bloggers to experiment with nonlinear narratives. Hypertext creates an interactive reading experience and does not dictate one prescribed method for reading. It becomes a medium for dissimilar ideas to work together in a layered narrative, a story that is not necessarily linear. By clicking on a web page hot link, other sources of text are mingled in with the original content, again weaving text into a new narrative. Differences in hardcopy and digital memory archiving are obvious. A hardcopy journal has a tactical element that a digital equivalent does not possess. However, along with having similar purposes of passing along information and documenting the past, both also share other qualities. For example, both use scraps of ideas woven together. The stories formed have a “narrative/iconic relationship” (Lanham 44).
We often think of personal journals first when it comes to blogging, and yes, those are the most popular types of blogs. However, the business world was one of the first industries to take note of the advantages to blogging:
- It is a way to educate consumers about a product or service.
- The user-friendly interface means just about anyone can operate a blog.
- The structure of a blog, its reverse chronological order, allows new information to be at the top of the page and thus right in front of the consumer.
- Regular blog posts means lots of regular content and thus good SEO.
- Blogs provide an opportunity for branding.
Since blogging is really a form of writing, it’s that not surprising to discover that educators have realized the power of this media as an educational tool. Of course, like anything new, this is still taking some time to spread through all of academia, but it is spreading. Will Richardson’s book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, examines the use of these alternative forms of discourse in the classroom. The author’s purposes that educational systems should take advantage of these web tools because “today’s students may not be well-suited to the more linear progression of learning that most educational systems employ” (7). He believes that the potential of these web tools is not being fully utilized, especially by educators, and he provides practical solutions to this issue – how to combine the Read/Write Web with reading and writing in the classroom.
Some of Richardson’s suggestions for integrating technology and teaching includes using blogs to create a class portal, digital filing cabinet, or E-portfolio. As a class portal, blogs provide an area for instructors to archive course material and communicate with students. Rather than turn in hardcopies of assignments, students can use a blog as their own public filing cabinet and post assignments on-line. To highlight their best work, students can use blogs to collect, organize, and exhibit their efforts via an electronic portfolio.
These are just a few ideas provided by Richardson in this slim volume. Teachers who are looking for ways to engage students and meet them, at least half way, on the Read/Write information highway will find practical, pedagogical techniques to consider as well as step-by-step how-to instructions. You can also find more about education and blogging at his blog, http://www.weblogg-ed.com/ .
If you ever think you’d like to get paid for blogging, here are some tips for finding freelance writing jobs offered by a number of blogging networks:
- If you don’t blog but think some day you may want to get paid for blogging, then start a blog immediately. Just like any other kind of writing work, you need experience, and unless you are Stephen King, you need blogging experience. Other writing work, even web site work, may not cut it. Potential employers want blog savvy bloggers. They don’t want to pay someone to learn the ropes. So, use one of the many free blog sites out there and set one up as soon as possible and start blogging now.
- Make sure you are an active member of the blogosphere. That means, blog regularly and well; link to other bloggers both in your blog roll and in your posts, and read other blogs in your field and leave comments.
- Be part of the web conversation. It’s great to write original content, but don’t write in a vacuum. When you write a post, try to find other people who are talking about what you’re talking about and link to them. Do your best to have a minimum of one relevant link in each post. Feel free to quote and provide sources for these quotes. Show that you are part of the conversation. Oh, and don’t steal other people’s content. Provide sources, just like if you were writing a term paper.
- Look for a niche rather than talk about everything in the whole wide world. To be an expert or at the very least someone who has something worth reading, you can’t cover everything. That leads to rambling and no one (not even your mom) is going to want to read that. Find a topic that you know a lot about already, and carve out your own niche in the blogosphere.
- Search engine rankings and page views don’t appear overnight. It’s a long haul up the Google ladder, so be patient. Unless you are already well ranked from other sites that you may write for, don’t expect to see yourself up at the top for six months to a year. Obviously, blog networks will find you much more attractive if you are already known by search engines and you have a good ranking. If you already have a web site (or two) link to yourself. Nothing like your own link love.
- Speaking of link love, what goes around comes around. Don’t become a link farm, but be a good link neighbor with like-minded blogs. This is not a competition. That’s one cool thing about blogging. You help other bloggers by linking to them, posting about something interesting you saw on their blog, adding them to your blog roll, and they’ll link to you. Like I said, though, don’t be a link farmer. Be choosey. If you really like someone else’s blog and it has any kind of connection to yours, then link.
- Pick a topic you l-o-v-e. You’ll hear a lot about passion from blog how-to-ers, but they are right. There’s only so much you can squeeze out of a topic if you don’t have a pretty big interest in it. Professional bloggers normally blog a minimum of once a day per blog. After doing this month after month, you can really get fried, especially if it’s a topic you are only “so-so” about.
- When pitching a new topic to a blog network, be as specific as possible. If you were pitching a book idea to a publisher, you wouldn’t email them and say, “I want to write about jewelry making. What do you think?” You’d write a book proposal, providing a thorough outline of what you propose. Same with a blogging network – you need specifics. Telling them you want to write a blog about “nutrition” tells them zip. At a bare minimum, give them the name of the proposed blog, a few sentences describing it, and 3 to 5 sample posts. A step above the minimum would be to start blogging about the topic; set it up on a freebie blogging site and blog. Locate some available URLs to suggest to them. Then approach them with your current blog as a reference to your brilliant idea. Bottom line – they need something to gauge your idea by.
- To make any sort of decent income from blogging, expect to blog a lot. Very few professional bloggers only write one blog. One reason for this is because it’s really hard to make a living from one blog. Normally, you need the combined income from different blogs added together to make any kind of real money. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but these are usually bloggers who have been blogging for years and have a huge audience. So, start with one paid blog gig, and then start adding on until you find your own balance. It can be a tough juggling act because (on average) you have to blog daily to keep it going.
In our 4th (and final) class, we will discuss being a professional blogger for a network. Below are some blog networks that pay bloggers:
Here are some places to find pro-blogging jobs:
Educators are discovering how blogging can be a great tool for the classroom. Check out Will Richardson’s blog: http://weblogg-ed.com/