Blogs, short for "weblogs," are a popular online medium for self-expression in education at all levels of education from elementary level to post-secondary (Jacobs, 2008; Sweeny, 2010). Researchers note that student's report they are motivated to write when empowered with a choice of topics and if the writing is relevant to their lives and interests (Lenhart, 2008). They further find that students who create their own blog tend to be productive writers in the classroom, and that carries with them to the outside world (Lenhart, 2008). With technology-based blended instruction, there is a blending of new ways of thinking about the teaching of writing, allowing for the integration of information, communication, and technology literacy, transcending the old methods of pencil and paper. (Partnership for 21st-century Skills, 2009).
In the classroom, blogs have many purposes, beyond merely a way to document self-expression. They see it as a place to publish one's writing or and allow for receiving feedback on writing and collaboration (Lacina & Block, 2012). In such a blog forum, students write collaboratively and can serve as mentors as they draft, revise, and edit their writing as a team in a virtual environment. Blogs connect the sometimes disparate worlds of the home to school literacy (Lacina & Block, 2012). Several blog sites are focused specifically on classroom blogging, such as Edublogs. These sites have been designed to make classroom blogging easy, affordable and safe for students (Evans, 2016). Utilizing blogging in classroom writing instruction can engage students and motivate them to participate more fully in the writing process (Lacina & Block, 2012).
Blogging can also contribute to the motivation and buy-in of the student and enhance class participation. Participating in commenting on fellow student's blogs is associated with being more receptive to peer interaction and academic achievement and positive motivation to learn from peers (Yang, C. and Chang, Y.-S., 2011). Blogging can result in the construction of a "common knowledge" base whereby students of diverse background and life experience nonetheless can efficiently communicate and therefore increase participation and confidence in subject matter knowledge when in cooperative reasoning tasks (Alterman, R. and Larusson, J.A., 2013). While content knowledge is obviously very important, blogs can serve as a springboard to create an environment that facilitates learning, add clarity, provide a guideline and more fully engage students (Courts, B. and Tucker, J., 2012).
Positive effects from blogging are seen over a wide spectrum having been shown in English Language Learners (ELL) (Lin, M.H., 2015) and Honors Students (Harlan – Haughey, S., 2016). Writing and collaboration skills are increased. However, without proper scaffolding, support and preparation on the part of the teacher, such effects can be blunted (Deed, C and Edwards, A, 2011). Harlan-Haughley (2016) notes that while blogging can increase both student and teacher satisfaction, many teachers are hesitant to implement unfamiliar tools and technologies. It is also not sufficient to assume that today's "digital generation" students are ready and able to participate in academic-level blogging. Without guidance, particularly in the early stages, students experience confusion about the purpose and express doubts about the efficacy of the enterprise as a learning tool (Deed, C and Edwards, A, 2011).
In conclusion, blogs are a popular blended learning tool for teaching critical thinking, reading, and collaboration skills. They allow students to respond to issues in an informal way that enhances motivation, comprehension, and satisfaction. It can help heterogeneous classrooms create a baseline of shared common knowledge which facilitates a sense of community. However, it can be intimidating for teachers to initiate and confused in purpose for students. Teachers pursuing in-class blogging must be properly prepared, provide adequate scaffolding and guidance for blogging to be successful.