Understanding Of Blog Definitions And Features English Language Essay

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There are four sections in this chapter. The first section is an overview of the chapter. The second section provides a general understanding on blog definition, the features of blogs and blogging tools and their evolution. The third section examines the uses of blogs in different areas such as personal, business, politics and education. The fourth section discusses the previous empirical studies. Finally, the discussion of the entire chapter is summarized in the last section.

A blog or weblog refers to a personalised web page with minimal or no external editing that provides, online commentary and that is periodically updated and presented in reverse chronological order (preserved old posts in addition to new entries) with hyperlinks to other online sources (Farell and Drezner, 2007; Downes, 2004). Most authors agree that a blog is a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries (Walker, 2003). A blog may include any, all, or some combination of text, photos, videos, audio, as well as hyperlinks (links to websites or other Internet-based information). One of the useful features of blogs is their interactivity. A blog was designed to facilitate interaction by permitting readers to comment on entries. So a blog is a platform of personal media, knowledge management tool, and community forum (Liu et al, 2009).

Blogs are a popular way for expressing personal opinions and interests on the Web (Varlamis et al, 2008). Essentially, the author or we call a "blogger" not only expresses his personal ideas and experience, but also provides help to others during the communication throughout the Internet and in this way make their blogs more valuable for sharing (Shaohiu and Lihua, 2008). In addition, blogs can be a personal diary, a memo, a place to deliver messages, a cooperation field, a news-release website, or a temporary performing stage for a politician (Xin, 2009).

According to most researchers, a small scale webpage that we call as a blog usually has certain features. Five features that a blog usually has i.e. personal editorship, a hyperlinked posting structure, frequent updates, free public access to the content via the Internet and archived postings (Paquet, 2003). Table 2.1 summarises the definitions of a blog or weblog according to respective researchers.

Table 2.1

Definition of Blog

Definitions

Authors

Reverse chronological posting

Doctorow et al., 2002; Paquet, 2003; Walker, 2003; Schiano et al., 2004; Downes, 2004; Herring et al., 2004; Bruns and Jacobs, 2006; Viegas, 2006; Farell and Drezner, 2007; Shaohui and Lihua, 2008; Liu et al., 2009

Individually author / Personalised web page

Barger, 1997; Paquet, 2003; Bruns and Jacobs, 2006; Liu al et., 2009

Online commentary

Bruns and Jacobs, 2006; Farell and Drezner, 2007; Liu al et., 2009

Text-based online environment

Downes, 2004

Mini web page / Small scale website / Simple web page

Doctorow al et., 2002; Farell and Drezner, 2007; Shaohui and Lihua, 2008

Online diary/journal

Barger, 1997; Blood, 2000; Doctorow al et., 2002; Herring al et., 2004; Xin, 2009

Table 2.1 (Continued)

Definition of Blog

Definitions

Authors

Posting with date entries

Paquet, 2003; Walker, 2003; Herring al et., 2004

Frequently updated website

Blood, 2000; Walker, 2003; Schiano al et., 2004; Herring al et., 2004; Luehmann and MacBride, 2007; Shaohui and Lihua, 2008

Sharing thought

Shaohui and Lihua, 2008

Express personal ideas / opinions

Doctorow al et., 2002; Varlamis al et., 2004; Shaohui and Lihua, 2008

Sharing experiences

Shaohui and Lihua, 2008

Sharing interests

Varlamis al et., 2004

Collects and shares resources (Photos/Videos/Hyperlinks)

Doctorow al et., 2002; Paquet, 2003; Bruns and Jacobs, 2006; Luehmann and MacBride, 2007; Farell and Drezner, 2007; Liu al et., 2009

Features

Blogs utilise a simple interface to make it easy for a user to construct it, without having to understand HTML or web scripting. Thus, anyone who can create a basic Microsoft Word document can create and maintain a blog. Users can add pictures or audio files to enhance their blog's attractiveness. Typically, blog combines text, images, links to other blogs or web pages, and other media related to its topic i.e. video. A blogger decides what does and does not go into a blog (Shevked and Dakovski, 2006). According to Duffy et al., (2006), a blog is usually made up of the following components:

Date and time the post was published

Category the post is label with (can be one or more)

Main title of the post

Main content of the post

Links back (trackback) from other sites

Comments added by readers

URL of the full, individual article

In addition, Du and Wagner (2005) claimed that the features of blogs (i.e. archival of past weblogs by date-posted, hyperlink to other web or blog, instant publishing of web content with little technical skill required, and ways for others to comment/feedback). An important and desirable feature of blogging technology which makes communication possible is the ability to comment a publication in a blog. Most blogging tools allow writing a comment on someone's article (Downes, 2004; Du and Wagner, 2005).

Shaohui and Lihua (2008) stated that advanced network technology is not required to build a blog and thus any one can establish his own blog, as long as he is able to type and take advantage of the Internet. The establishment of a blog does not need any extra economic costs because basic blog services are available in any online computer for free. A blog is open, free and available for sharing. This entails one may write down what he sees, hears and thinks of freely in a blog. The openness, sharing features, interaction, virtual capability, cover up and non-restraint characteristics of a blog stimulate people's desire of self-expression and self complacency, including those who are reserved in real life but are willing to express their inner thought through a blog (Shaohui and Lihua, 2008).

Besides the basic features of a blog, there are additions to a blog. Nowadays, most blogging tools support a method for communication between blogs called trackback. When someone writes a new article in his blog that refers to another article typically residing at a different blog, a notification is sent to the other blog. The notification is referred to as trackback (Shevked and Dakovski, 2006). The trackback functionality enables the reader of a weblog to comment on a certain article in his own blog platform (Bross al et., 2009).

Another additional blog feature is called pingback. This feature allows a blogger to request notification when somebody links to one of his articles so he can keep track of who is linking to, or referring to his publications (Shevked and Dakovski, 2006). In a contemporary blogging system it is now important to support Really Simple Syndication (RSS). This is a web feed format, which is used to provide web content (Shevked and Dakovski, 2006). This way when someone is interested in content published in a particular RSS-supporting site and wants to stay in touch with its updates and new articles posted there, he may subscribe to them via RSS.

BLOGGING TOOLS AND THEIR EVOLUTION

During the late 1990s, there were no special tools available for creating weblogs. Most bloggers hand-coded their sites. But, very soon, it became difficult to read every weblog every day, or even to keep track of all the new ones that were appearing (Blood, 2000). Blogs started to gain popularity after Pitas.com launched the first free build-your-own-weblog tool, and others like Blogger released their blogging tools. These tools provide the ease and affordability for non-technical persons to communicate online.

According to Bauer (2004), approximately 80% of weblogs use hosting services that provide weblog building tools and server space, while the rest use standalone software that runs on individual servers or web hosts. Popular weblog hosts, such as Blogger, ModBlog, and Xanga, offer basic services for free, which are to the advantage for new bloggers or general users even though there are limited server spaces and standard features. But, successful weblogs can outgrow these basic services, and may be forced to choose premium services (at higher costs), or even to set up their own hosts (Rubenking, 2003). Comparatively, standalone software is more flexible in terms of server space and control of own content, but this requires some knowledge on the part of the users to set up the application and to maintain the server. Movable Type and Radio Userland are two popular fee-based standalone software solutions.

Schiano al et. (2004) found that the participants of their research used a wide variety of blogging tools, including Blogger, Blurty, Xanga, MoveableType, RadioUserLand, and customised scripts. Several participants began with Blogger (recently acquired by Google), but as they gained experience, they migrated to other, more sophisticated tools or created their own.

2.3 USES OF BLOGS

Most people are not aware that there is a variety of genres in the blogosphere.  The interface looks similar but the content is different.  Blog can be used in various areas or purposes such as, for personal usage, politics, business and educations.

2.3.1 Personal

Personal blogs is often known as online diary or journal. The blog format of an online diary makes it possible for users who have not much experience to create, format, and post entries with ease. People often write their everyday experiences, complaints, poems, thoughts and more and this type of blog allows others to contribute. The blogger, as a main role, writes about his/her personal perspective in his/her own blogs. Blogs also provide users the right to write and express their own ideas and viewpoints. Moreover, blog writings enable the users both to share information and to make self-reflection. According Schiano et al., (2004), many blogs seem to function in the age-old tradition of diaries and personal record-keeping.

2.3.2 Politics

Political campaigns at the federal, state and local level use blogs to organise and motivate their supporters (Farell and Drezner, 2007). Political blogs may take a number of forms. Often an individual will link to articles from news web sites and post his own opinion. Most news, activism, and issue-based blogs follow the same format.  A recent trend in politics is that candidates are incorporating blogging into their campaigns.  For example, in 2005, Chilean presidential election, four candidates used their own blogs as part of their campaign mechanisms (Farell and Drezner, 2007).

Blogs have played an important role in several media scandals (Glaser 2004). They have also played a important role in shaping campaign strategy and tactics. In 2004, Howard Dean rose to prominence in part because of his adroit use of the blogosphere as a tool for rallying activists (Graf and Darr 2004; Kerbel and Bloom, 2005). Blogs increasingly affect legal outcomes (Solum, 2006; Berman, 2006).

It has been shown that blogs have influenced policy outcomes. As example, blogs played an important role in helping defeat George W. Bush's proposed Social Security reforms, which were intended to be the landmark achievement of his second term in office (Glover and Essl, 2006). Blogs have also achieved some political and policy prominence outside the US (Drezner and Farrell, 2004).

2.3.3 Business

Businesses increasingly use blogs for promotional campaigns, and track blogs to measure customer satisfaction and monitor trends (Farell and Drezner (2007). A number of entrepreneurs establish blogs to promote their businesses. Often business blogs act as a showcase for entrepreneurs to provide a window into the behind-the-scenes activities at their business, presenting a more personal face. In some cases the blog itself is the core of the business bringing in revenue from advertising, selling products or information.

Interest in blog as a business tool has coincided with a growing realisation that traditional marketing methods may no longer suit today's fragmented markets and increasingly demanding customers. The nineties saw the introduction of new forms of marketing, including relationship marketing, buzz marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, one-to-one marketing, opt-in marketing, guerrilla marketing and viral marketing. Blogs have the potential to fulfil the aims of these new marketing methods. The blogger not only share the ideas and feeling, but also received valuable comments from readers.

The business world now realises the opportunities of blogging and begins to reap the benefits. Maintaining a blog an important part of each company's "Internet strategy". A company can make blogs to introduce products/services; inform customers about discounts, do promotions and announce achieves and success (Shevked and Dakovski, 2006). In addition, customers can write their comments, opinions, complaints and suggestions and get support from responsible company workers. Concurrently, it is useful to have also an internal blog for development tracking, which by company employees. This supports collaborative work as the blog might be not only central information source but also management tool, brainstorming sessions, announcements or reporting place (Shevked and Dakovski, 2006). Corporate blog have received widespread attention in press and among Internet users. It can help a company build stronger relationships with its customers and get customers' feedback instantly. It can be used to market products or services and develop a brand (Ryu and Shi, 2010).

2.3.4 Education

Blogs can be used as learning tools in a variety of ways, Their value is demonstrated by the operational structures and responses mechanisms, discourse style and method of recording ideas, commentary and institutionally relevant information (Ismail, S., 2009). Students frequently use blogs as records of their learning while teachers use them as records of what they taught.  For example, through a blog, a teacher can perform daily recording was taught, include links to Internet resources, and specify the homework students are required to carry out. This application has many advantages: (i) student can quickly catch-up if they miss a class, (ii) the teacher can use the blog as a lesson plan, and (iii) the blog serves as an accurate summary of the course that prospective students or new teachers can refer to. The collaborative features of blogs can be used to authorize several students to contribute to the blog. 

There are more educators and language teachers using the Internet in language teaching as well (Godwin-Jones, 2003; Lord and Lomicka, 2004). Many computer applications, especially asynchronous computer-mediated communication such as email and electronic bulletin boards, promote interactive learning (Arnold and Ducate, 2006). With the booming growth of technology, blogs have become another learning platform for language teaching.

Johnson (2004) pointed out that the logs are a useful additional aid to teachers. From any computer connected to the Internet, teachers can create, edit, or delete their teaching hand-outs including notes, assignments, and reviewed materials. Teacher's messages are organised in a reversed chronological order with the latest postings at the top. The feature of automatic date-stamping for each post is useful. Students' emails may, for some technical glitches, not reach their teachers or be carelessly deleted by their teachers. With the automatic date-stamping function, both teachers and students know clearly when students turn in their assignments.

Consequently, the automatic archive of past posts by date or theme can help teachers and students easily locate the message they are searching. If students do not have their own personal websites, an easy-to-use blog is a good start for them to interact with users of the cyberspace community. As Campbell (2004) emphasised that simple customisation of templates can help students build "a sense of ownership and unique online identity". Most students will write more carefully if they know that they are going to publish their articles online for authentic readers who may comment on their postings.

Additionally, teachers can easily use blogs to organise a collaborative learning environment in which students can peer edit others' postings (Dieu, 2004; Mitchell, 2003). Students should be encouraged to comment their partner's postings, which can also be shared by other classmates. Oravec (2002) claimed that blog development can allow students to become more analytical and critical. Duffy al et. (2006) list the following are possible uses of blogs in education.

Table 2.3

Possible Uses of Blogs in Education (Duffy et al., 2006)

Perspective

Uses

Personal academic

A blog can support reflection on teaching experiences; categorised descriptions of resources and methodologies for teaching; ramblings regarding professional challenges and teaching tips for other academics; illustration of specific technology-related tips for other colleagues.

Organisational

A blog can support a common online presence for unit-related information such as calendars; events, assignments and resources; an online area for students to post contact details and queries relating to assessment.

Pedagogical

A blog can support comments based on literature readings and student responses; a collaborative space for students to act as reviewers for course-related materials, images and reflections related to industry placement; an online gallery space for review of works, writings, etc. in progress; making use especially of the commenting feature, teachers encouraging reactions, reflections and ideas by commenting on their students' blogs; development of a student portfolio of work.

2.4 RELATED EMPIRICAL STUDIES

This section focuses in blogs used in learning, blogs in teaching and also others issues related to technology in teaching.

2.4.1 Blog and teacher

The ease of operating blogs make them attractive tools to some teachers for posting announcements, facilitating discussions, or linking to class resources (Downes, 2004; Oravec, 2003). Blogs have been coined as teacher-driven administrative tools. Teachers may require students to post to their own or a shared blog a required (or recommended) structure and contents for entries and in accordance to specific grading rubric (Krause, 2005).

The literature discusses interesting possibilities for the use of blogs in education (Flatley, 2005; Huffaker, 2006; Perschbach, 2006; Quible, 2005; Richardson, 2006; Selingo, 2004). Churchill (2009) asserted that blogs added a new dimension to teaching effectiveness by enabling teachers to do things that were not possible otherwise, either with or without other technology. Initially, teacher saw blogging as a means by which they could provide a reflections (Chuang, 2008; Yang, 2009).

Wang and Hsua (2008) reported that pre-service teachers enjoyed exchanging perspectives on the blog and considered blogging an extra channel that enabled them to express different views or to extend in class discussion. Teachers can continue the class discussion in a blog after class. For that reason, blogs become a good tool for communication between teachers and students as they provide with a platform for the students to give their opinions about teaching. Ding (2008) concluded that the greatest advantage of a blog is that it provides an efficient platform for the interaction between teachers and learners.

In addition, a blog can promote teachers to develop thinking and writing habits. Blogging help accelerate the transfer of teacher's personal implicit knowledge to explicit knowledge, and let others share the essence of his knowledge or beliefs. So a blog is not only a platform for teaching, thinking and communication; but also a platform of belief and opinion (Yan et al, 2010). Blogs contribute positively in teaching of the English language (Ding, 2008; 2009) and Science (Sawmiller, 2010). Ding (2008, 2009) found that blogs has extended and complemented classroom teaching and learning activities.

Sawmiller (2010) in his study supported that using blogs in the classroom can help in teaching scientific concepts and in increasing student learning through the use of a student's preferred learning style, personal interest, and engagement. Blogging is the bridge spanning the gap that exists between at-home and school experiences of learning. Blogging can be a constructive tool in a science learning environment. It promotes critical thinking skills, collaboration, and differentiated instruction by using multiple learning styles.

Other than teaching, blogs can be used as a tool to promote interaction within online communities, teachers' professional development and teachers' interaction (Hou, 2010). Luehmann (2008) supported the potential of blogging for teachers' professional identity development. The study suggested that teachers' blogging determine the extent of the benefits they derive from the practice. Blogs can become the digital files that record teachers' professional growth (Shaohui and Lihua, 2008). Blogs help teachers prepare for lessons co-operate and communicate with each other and receive long distance training.

Because of the classification function of blogs, teachers can set some useful items (e.g. teaching materials, reference, question solution, exercise, work presentation, notice etc.) in their teaching blog as knowledge management tool (Ding, 2009). Blog provides a platform for not only information interchange but also interchange of thoughts. In sum, blogs allow teachers to have a network identity, promote teachers to reflect upon daily teaching activity, and hence improve the quality of teaching. (Yan et al, 2010).

2.4.2 Attitudes towards Technology and Teaching

It has been stated that no matter how sophisticated and powerful the state of technology is, the extent to which it is implemented defends on teachers having a positive attitude towards it (Huang & Liaw, 2005). Therefore, this section will discusses the empirical studies related to teachers or educators' attitudes towards technology in teaching. Teo (2008) asserted that the success of any initiatives to implement technology in an educational programme depends strongly on the support and attitudes of teachers involved (Teo, 2008). The factors that affect the successful use of computers in the classroom are teachers' attitudes towards computers and these attitudes, whether positive or negative, and the attitudes affect how teachers respond to technologies (Teo, 2008).

Khine (2001) studied 184 pre-service teachers their use of ICT. They found a significant relationship between computer attitude and ICT use in the institution. Yuen and Ma (2001) administered the Chinese Computer Attitude Scale for Teachers to 216 secondary teachers in Hong Kong to examine the factors that influence the instructional use of computers. They found that affective attitudes a significant factor in influencing the use of computer among teachers.

Hong and Koh (2002) investigated the attitudes of rural secondary schools teachers towards computers. The sample consisted of 200 secondary school teachers in Malaysia. Hong and Koh (2002) found that rural secondary teachers have positive attitudes toward computers. Teachers who owned computers and had more computing experience were found to have more positive attitudes than teachers who had less computer experience.

Wong et al (2005) examined the use of the Internet among 310 pre-service teachers in Malaysia using questionnaire survey method. The study shows that attitudes toward the Internet were positive. Wong et al (2005) concluded that pre-service teachers will integrated the new technology effectively in classroom instruction either as a teaching tool or as a learning medium.

Kadijevich (2006) examined teachers' interest to attain educational technology standards (interest) in terms of their computer attitude (attitude) and the professional support they received to attain these standards (support). The study used a sample of 39 mathematics pre-service teachers and 62 elementary pre-service teachers. The two groups differed in Support favouring elementary student teachers, who, contrary to mathematics student teachers, received some basic. Despite the differences in support, for both student teachers, there were direct positive and significant effects for support on attitude and of attitude on interest.

Teo et al (2007) examined 239 pre-service teachers' attitudes towards computers in Singapore. The results show that perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use and subjective norm were significant determinants of pre-service computer attitudes. Later, Teo (2008) examined demographic factors among 139 pre-service teachers using a questionnaire. The results show no gender or age differences among pre-service teachers on computer attitudes. However, there were significant differences in computer attitudes for the subject areas that pre-service teachers had been trained. Correlation analyses revealed significant associations between years of computer use and level of confidence, and computer attitudes.

Birisci et al (2009) conducted a survey among 191 prospective elementary teachers in Turkey to investigate prospective elementary teachers' attitudes toward computer and Internet use. It was found that attitudes of prospective teachers' towards computer and Internet use at high level. There are no significant differences between prospective elementary teachers' attitudes toward computer and Internet use with students' class, graduation school type and monthly income.

Prior researches haves shown that a teacher's attitude towards the computer is a major predictor for future computer use (Myers & Halpin, 2002) and his need for learning computing skills that in turn will lead to computer literacy (Zhang & Espinoza 1997). For example, Yildirim (2000) found that teachers who used computers more would tend to develop positive attitudes to promote further use of the computer in their daily teaching tasks and conduct activities that require computers to play a major role in, for example, computer-mediated forums.

Researchers (Guerrero et al, 2004) summarized teachers' attitudes toward the use of technology in mathematics classrooms as hesitant. The majority of teachers indicated that they had not observed any software that really helped learning and using software did not save time in teaching or evaluation.

Further, Kadel (2005) found that overcoming the typical obstacles that may deter faculty from utilizing technology for instruction requires a positive attitude. This attitude may manifest itself in an extensive time devotion or willingness to challenge institutional thought.

Chao (2005) conducted a survey to find teachers' attitudes toward usage of mobile technologies in Taiwan classrooms. This study used cognitive, affective, and behavioural construct of attitudes 150 school teachers. He found that teachers' intent to use technologies resources begins with their attitude toward using them in their daily practices.

Gado and Hooft (2005) conducted a project in West Africa that introduced handheld computers to Benin secondary science teachers to explore their attitudes towards technology integration in inquiry-based science. Sixteen physical science teachers were selected from ten secondary public schools. A mixed method research design (survey data and interviews) was used. Participants showed positive attitudes toward handheld computers. Analysis of interview data showed five determinants of participants' attitudes toward the use of handheld computers and probeware: (i) handheld computers as powerful educational tools; (ii) novelty of the technology; (iii) (ir)relevance of handheld tools in the context of Benin; (iv) self-efficacy beliefs (or perceived simplicity of use); and (v) enhancement of student learning outcome expectancy.

Pange et al (2005) studied the attitude of Greek pre-school teachers towards new technologies. 100 preschool were selected as a sample. Pange et al (2005) found that the pre-school teachers have a positive attitude in using new technology. Likewise, Luan et al (2002) found that teachers have positive attitudes towards IT amongst 60 Malaysian in-service teachers.

2.5 SUMMARY

This chapter provides a general understanding on blog definition, the features of blogs and blogging tools and their evolution. Examples of blog used in different areas also explained. It also included the empirical study that used technology in teaching. Therefore, the following chapter proposed a model which will be used for this study.

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