The Blogging Boom

By: Justin Williams
By: Justin Williams

In 2004, it received “WORD OF THE YEAR” honors from the folks who publish Webster's dictionary, and Fortune magazine recently named it the top technology trend for 2005. But before you blink at term “BLOG,” you may want to begin by hearing some folks blab about the benefits of blogging.

University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Greg Downey describes blogging as "a new way of publishing on the Internet today. A blog—otherwise known as a weblog—is a place for posting information on the Internet that comes with a lot of built–in tools."

Responding to weblogging's increasing popularity, during the 2004 fall semester, Downey introduced a “blog” to his Introduction to Mass Communication class, touting it as a tool for teachers and TA's to enhance class discussions.

Teaching assistant Aaron Veenstra explains, "When you're able to put all 400–plus students together, you're able to get a much broader base of opinion and get a lot more voices talking—a lot greater opportunity for the students to contribute."

"It was almost as if—you know—you were studying with—with everybody in the class," says Brett Watson, a student in last semester's "blog trial" class. He says the blog is best utilized as a place to post a pool of information. "The blog was most useful for review sessions, in that, students could post questions and comments for other students about exam material, and it's a nice tool for studying."

Meanwhile, Professor Downey says he also uses the blog to post provocative discussion questions, class announcements, even related news items and their links. "A good media system is full of diversity of information—diversity of opinion—and the weblog is one of the tools that we can use to help bring that out a little bit and let the students experience that for themselves."

Downey says the weblog also provides professors and TA's an opportunity to monitor students' overall class comprehension.

According to blog search engine and measurement firm Technorati, 23,000 new weblogs created each day.

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