Analysis Of Technology Innovation In The Classroom
Analysis of Technology Innovation in the Classroom:
Blogs as Powerful Learning Tools
Reviewed by Lisa Chizek, Composition Teacher
Technological and educational innovation: The use of individual student blogs as
rhetorical devices in the first year composition classroom to facilitate writing, critical
thinking, understanding of audience, community, and citizenship.
The Problem of Practice
As first year composition students enter college to learn, practice and develop
writing skills necessary for active participation in a multimodal world, it is important that
student needs are met using effective writing pedagogy and appropriate educational
technology tools. While many first year writing programs aim to envelop writing
students with community and citizenship, common practices in student writing leave only
the instructor to provide assessment, feedback, and support which often produces static
essays that limit student opportunities to reach out to the world around them through their
As the world continues to grow digitally, there is a great need to promote digital
literacy through writing in first year college students to adequately prepare their entrance
into an evolving world post graduation. Selfe and Hawisher, researchers in the field of
digital media, define the immediate urgency to expose students to multimodal writing
experiences in their recent text Literate Lives in the Information Age: “Today if U.S.
students cannot write to the screen—if they cannot design, author, analyze, and interpret
material on the Web and in other digital environments—they will have difficulty
functioning effectively as literate human beings in a growing number of social spheres”
(2). If what Selfe and Hawisher argues is true, today’s writing students must have
appropriate writing assignments that allow learners to practice pedagogically sound
writing methods while being introduced to new media writing experiences. In many
writing classrooms, sound pedagogical writing practices are present, but are not evolving
as quickly as the information age. This often leaves students with college writing
experiences that could be improved if new media opportunities were available and in
The problem of practice can thus be described as a fundamental need to expose
first year writing students to effective technology that will work in tandem to promote
digital literacy, practice writing skills, and forge a bond between community, citizenship
and audience. One such tool to address the problem of practice is the integration of blogs
as the primary mode of transportation between writing and community. The success of
integrating blog technology to address the problem of practice would be measured by
students’ abilities to write, reflect, analyze, and synthesize their experiences through the
use of interactive, semester-long blogs.
As previously stated, the general setting for the use of educational blogs is the
first year writing composition classroom, where regular writing is necessary for
completion and success. Within this setting, there are four primary components that will
influence, evolve, and ultimately lead to the success of blog integration: the teacher, the
learners, the subject matter, and the physical setting.
The teacher’s role in assimilating blogs to the first year writing classroom is to
facilitate, guide, and support students on their blog writing quest. The teacher must first
explain and demonstrate how to use a blog before students can begin their own blog
writing. The teacher will also work as a facilitator to determine blog rules, guidelines,
and web etiquette before blogging begins. While the teacher’s role remains active during
the initial integration of blogs, as students begin to take control of their writing the
teacher’s role shifts to act as a support and guide, rather than the sole leader.
The learner’s role is equally as crucial to the success of blog integration as that of
the teacher. As the learners become more confident in their blog writing and analysis
skills, they will become leaders of their blog, experimenting with design elements and
furthering their reflective and critical thinking through writing. By becoming leaders of
their own blog, students will build confidence and independence in their writing skills
while maintaining active in the classroom community.
The subject matter posted on the blogs will be developed through classroom
discussions between students and teacher. While the teacher will assign specific blog
posts related to course material, learners will have a voice in the subject matter and will
be able to suggest, comment, and work together to create post content relevant and
interesting to course material and the community’s interests.
The physical setting of maintaining regular blog posts will be shared between in-
class posting time and at-home posts. During the early stages of blog integration,
students will have in-class time to learn and familiarize themselves with the functions of
their blog. Overtime, more blogs posts will be assigned as homework to stimulate
thinking beyond the classroom walls and to continue to connect students with one another
outside of class. Periodically, the teacher will reference blog posts in classroom
discussions to further bridge the distance between out-of-class work and in-class
conversations and to further the deepening of students thought processes.
Technology Integrated Solution
Integrating blogs into first year writing classrooms is an effective method to
address the problem of practice because blogs allow a platform for students to write with
an audience in mind, connect to a larger community, and continue to build citizenship
through their writing. According to a recent Educause Learning Initiative, blogs are
conducive to openness which allows students to interact with their peers and an audience
beyond the classroom (Windham 5). With the fluid and flexible nature of blogs, students
are not only exposed to a new technology, they are also given an opportunity to read,
respond, and interact with classmates and the world at large. Because blogs are public
writing avenues, students will learn to think deeply about their writing, their audience’s
needs and impressions, and ultimately, create an online space that is their own to explore
reflection, critical analysis, and interpretations of course material.
The integration of blogs will make a meaningful difference in addressing the
educational need of co-mingling traditional writing practices with new media because it
allows students to invest in their writing in meaningful ways that is embedded in
classroom practices and expectations. Blogs provide a dynamic educational tool because
they permit students to maintain individual writings that are open to a larger audience
than that of the traditional classroom. This in turn allocates students as leaders in their
own thinking and development while publishing and sharing their critical analysis to a
wide audience. This works to further strengthen understanding and connection of
citizenship, writing, and community.
Blogs also allow generous occasions for students to comment on one another’s
posts, increasing classroom community and intensifying personal and professional
relationships among different groups of learners. Those students that do not have a voice
in class, may find a voice online through their blog, giving them a chance to express
themselves when they may not otherwise feel comfortable doing so in the classroom.
Ultimately, this serves to increase student-to-student interactions but also teacher-to-
With the integration of classroom blogs, concerns of logistics and realistic
implementations of such technology for educational purposes should be considered.
Students must have regular access to a computer with an internet connection both at
home and on school grounds. While daily access is not necessary, at least once a week
posts should be conducted to encourage regular and active participation in critical
thinking and digital writing. The ideal integration of blogs would be a semester long
project where students regularly posted, responded and conversed continually throughout
the time span of the course. The use of blogs can be shortened and adapted for individual
instructors’ purposes or needs, but a semester-long blog allows learners the possibility to
reflect over time, augmenting both writing and communication skills with a sizeable
community accessible in reach.
While some funding may be necessary for various blog uses, many free blogs
exist on the internet available for teacher use. Blogger.com, one of the largest and most
popular blogging platforms hosts over one million users and is adding more each day
(Nelson, Fernheimer 2). With the vast audience of Blogger.com, students have
substantial options to reach a large community through their writing. Individual colleges
and course management sites may also offer opportunity for blogging. By using open
source blogs such as Blogger.com, there is a privacy concern and risk that should be
addressed. Individual instructors must determine their parameters of privacy before
beginning blogging to determine if public or private blogs would best suit their goals and
needs. By choosing a private blog, privacy is assured but audience is limited, weakening
the connection to citizenship and a vast community. Choosing a public or private blog
will also have tremendous impact on how audience is perceived. For the purposes of this
solution, it is suggested that blogs be public to increase the education of citizenship and
audience but that clear expectations for appropriate posts are discussed and outlined in
class. Individual teacher preferences and expectations of the college, however, should
dictate the appropriate mode of blog use. Review the table below to learn more about
several free blogging programs.
The table below provides an outline for three different blog programs available free on the internet
Description Advantages Disadvantages
Open to the public
A free blog publishing User-friendly, creative (could also be seen as an
Blogger.com tool from Google for design elements advantage), more
easy thought sharing available, and very difficult to monitor,
flexible regulate and control
Free blogs available for Custom design Similar to Blogger.com,
Wordpress.com personal or professional templates and automatic students are more
use spam protection exposed to the public
Blogs tend to be more
A free service for online Offers privacy control, journal based on
Livejournal.com journaling photo uploads and other personal narration rather
publishing tools than academic reflective
Benefits of the Solution
The solution of blogs to bridge the displacement between writing practices and
digital demands has many benefits that centralize on three primary gains: audience,
community, and citizenship. By endorsing blogs as educational tools, students can
“create community by linking to other blogs to create a mini-web of sorts or by creating
communities of common interest” (Nelson, Fernheimer 3). By linking students together
outside of the classroom, the sense of community has an opportunity to grow, evolve and
develop into a unique and dynamic discourse community overtime. Additionally, “as
teachers, we can draw upon many aspects of blogs to engage our classes in issues of
public rhetoric, and model the class as a discourse community” (Nelson, Fernhemier 3).
With this concept in mind, blogs can be an effective vehicle to unite students with one
another and to strengthen citizenship through their interactions with individuals outside
of their immediate discourse community. Blogs can also benefit student writers by
exposing them to conventions of genre and public discourse, reinforcing an
understanding of citizenship. If citizenship “should convey the connections between the
classroom and the so-called real world,” blogs fortify the road between students and the
world they see around them (Tryon 128).
Finally, we must “actively present in our practices how writing is a continually
changing activity that shapes just who we can be and what we can do” (Wysocki et al 3).
With Wysocki et al’s words in mind, blogs advocate voice, reflection, and great thought
concerning the written word, while also creating moments of important technological
advancement for students. With the interlinking of blogs and composition classrooms,
helping students achieve a sense of community, citizenship, and recognition of audience
becomes accessible, feasible, and exciting for both the students and the teacher.
As a composition instructor, I believe that the benefits outlined above would be
present if another instructor implemented the suggested solution. I have tried
implementing blogs into my own classroom and have found similar results, though I did
not achieve such success right away. Although the benefits listed above appear easy to
attain, it does require great time and consideration from the instructor’s perspective to
discover such positive results. For example, the integration of blogs will only support
such benefits if the teacher is able and willing to regularly read, respond and comment on
student blogs. Many instructors may find the timeliness of the solution difficult because
it takes a great deal of time to read student blogs and connect them to classroom
discussions. If an instructor does have the required time to read and respond to student
blogs, another important consideration must be made in order to achieve effective results.
Regular communication of blogs inside the classroom and creating relevancy of blog
posts to students is necessary to maintain the desired outcomes.
When I first initiated blogs into my writing classroom, I made the assumption that
what students blogged about would automatically link with classroom material and
discussion. I failed to reference the blogs in class, missing an important connection
between their thought processes outside the classroom and those within. Overtime, I
have learned through practice that in order to effectively relate the concepts of audience,
community, and citizenship through the use of blogs, the teacher must bring blogging
into the classroom through discussion of posts and ideas presented by students in their
The implications of blogs as a mode to enhance student writing through digital
texts can be regarded as a small representation of the future of writing. According to
Wysocki et al, “teachers of composition should not only be interested in new media texts
but should be using them systematically in their classrooms to teach about new literacies”
(44). As Wysocki et al outlines in the above statement, the future of writing is soon to be
intertwined with new media texts and so teachers should be continually contemplating
how new technologies can play a role in enhancing student learning and preparedness for
the “real” world. This presentation of blog use in the first year composition classroom is
one suggestion addressing the greater need for further introduction of new media texts to
writing students. The outlined solution presented here can be revised, clarified, and
situated within immediate needs and contexts and should be viewed as an evolving
discussion rather than the only solution available. As a writing teacher, I will continue to
use blogs in my own classroom by furthering consideration between the concepts of
audience, community, and citizenship.
Nelson, Thomas, and Jan Fernheimer. "White Paper Series." University of Texas at
Austin, Computer Writing and Research Lab, 22 Aug. 2003. 1-15.
Selfe, Cynthia L., and Gail E. Hawisher. Literate Lives in the Information Age:
Narratives of Literacy From the United States. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
Tyron, Charles. "Writing and Citzenship: Using Blogs to Teach First Year Composition."
Pedagogy 6 (2006): 128-32.
Windham, Carie. "Reflecting, Writing, and Responding: Reasons Students Blog."
Educause Learning Initiative (2007): 1-10.
Wysocki, Anne Frances, Johndan Johnson-Eilola, Cynthia L. Selfe, and Geoffrey Sirc.
Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of
Composition. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004.