Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching


Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching


Article excerpt

Byline: Erica Brownstein and Robert Klein

Blogs are reshaping our political, social, and cultural environment. Education is affected by blogs because of their potential for learning and teaching, and also their risks. This article elaborates a set of rules for evaluating and implementing blogs in teaching college science.

"True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information." -Winston Churchill

"The real act of discovery is not in finding new lands, but seeing with new eyes." -Marcel Proust

In the quotations above, Churchill and Proust could have been describing the challenges of teaching college science. As science educators, we strive to communicate the vibrancy and contentiousness of the field, yet often fall short because the discourse seems more monologue than dialogue. In this article, we will describe how blogs can be used to provide students with "new eyes" in the science classroom, and nurture discourse among instructors and students.

Blogs, short for weblogs, can be used as virtual environments where all students can participate in critical discourse on scientific topics. We explore blogging through related definitions, research, and examples. The etiquette, ethics, risks, and resources involved in successful blogging in a science classroom are also addressed.

Blog: Defining the species

A blog is a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries called posts (including text, images, media objects, and data) arranged in reverse chronological order so the most recent entry appears first. Each post can have three basic attributes: title, link, and description (Walker 2005; Brownstein et al. 2005). Examples of blog posts are shown in Figure 1. The first one is a reflection on the use of blogs in a writing course, the second is sharing an inquiry on cleaning pennies, and the third is an assignment from a physics class.

Figure 1. Examples of blog entries.

Birth of 28 New Bloggers "It's that time of semester again. Tonight I introduced blogging to my class of preservice English and foreign language teachers. Their new blogs, mostly without content yet, are here."

Bernie Dodge's One-Trick CyberPony

"The Tabasco Sauce did a good job, but again, no better than the other hot sauces. And it has no tomatoes, ruling out tomatoes as being involved in the cleaning. That leaves vinegar and salt."

Cleaning pennies with taco sauce

"Should we continue to explore space as planned, or redirect some economic resources towards research in HIV/AIDS, cancer, or other human diseases; or environmental issues like global warming? Prioritize your list as to where taxpayer dollars should go pertaining to research and exploration, and defend your choices. Post your blog entry in 200 proofed words by this Friday."

Typically, blogs are published by an individual or small group of individuals in a personal and informal style. Blogs are native to the web, meaning that they can dynamically take advantage of the interconnected nature of the web. Diaries and journals are native to paper-they can only statically refer to other information sources. Blogs, on the other hand, do more than just refer to other sources; they provide a doorway, through the hyperlink, directly to that idea.

Blogs have been used since the development of the World Wide Web (WWW) when Tim Berners-Lee at Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire (CERN) kept track daily of recent additions to the WWW as a list of links with brief descriptions. More recently, blogs have had a much greater impact on lives beyond those of the technorati. For example, blogs became a tool for political mobilization of the electorate in 2004, serving both to educate voters and to motivate their participation at the polls. After the devastation of the 2004 tsunami, survivors used text messaging-enabled mobile phones to post important information to their blogs, creating an invaluable resource for family, rescue workers, and a concerned and connected world. …

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