Learning Tools

Penn State Incorporates Blogging into the Classroom

Faculty and students at Pennsylvania State University are embracing blogs as teaching and learning tools.

The university's Teaching and Learning with Technology organization first launched its Sites at Penn State service in 2012. Since then, numerous classes have switched from notebooks to blogs for student writing reflections.

"One of the biggest benefits to using blogging in class is that students can interact with each others' blogs," said Priya Sharma, associate professor of education, in Penn State News. "Plus, students don't have to stop at just writing their posts. They can also add other media, like photos, videos and links to other sources. The options for creativity and expression are much greater."

Sites at Penn State is powered by the WordPress open-source web publishing platform and hosted by CampusPress. Students, faculty, and staff can use the service to build their own websites, blogs and e-portfolios at no charge. CampusPress and the university's Information Technology Services department jointly manage and support the service.

Sharma uses blogging in her Emerging Web Technologies and Learning course, where students blog as a way of engaging with the course material and then comment on each other's blogs to help "build shared knowledge." Through the experience, Sharma said she has discovered that students who tend to be quiet in class are more willing to express themselves through blogs.

Burt Staniar, associate professor of equine science, builds class websites on the platform. He uses the sites "to post text and videos for each week's lecture," and students use it "to turn in assignments and also take turns writing posts for the site's blog," according to Penn State News.

Before adopting classroom blogs, Sharma advises faculty to have a clear goal in mind, to provide students with well-written sample blogs, and to be prepared for a heavier workload as they read and comment on student blogs.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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