Weblogs are a popular form of Social Software, supporting personal Web authoring as well as innovative forms of social interaction via internet. The potential of Weblogs to emphasize active student participation and collaboration raises great expectations for a new pedagogical quality in higher education. In this chapter, the author explores the value of Social Software, specifically Weblogs, for learning and teaching in institutional education. An exploratory study serves as background for the discussion. Critical issues and areas of research for using Social Software in education are concluding the chapter.
Social Software, Web 2.0, And Weblogs
Social Software provides an easy-to-use technical background for computer-mediated communications between individuals or individuals and groups: “Social Software blends tools and modes for richer online social environments and experiences” (Corante 2004). The quote refers to the enabling character of information technology for building new relationships: Social networks and Social Software are seen to be complementing each other. In contrast to the earlier understanding of computer use, where goal-orientation and purposeful uses were in the foreground, now the voluntary, self-organized distribution of information over the internet and the added value for supporting real as well as virtual communities catch the attention of research and business alike. So the appealing effect of the Internet is no longer driven by the technicality of being logged-in, but rather through the personal participation in the co-weaving of the information texture of the World Wide Web. Unlike earlier activities, this is not only done by writing and reading, but also by representing the interests of oneself through pictures, videos or audio streams.
The basic idea behind the term Social Software can be traced back over six decades to Vannevar Bush and others. Vannevar Bush’s “memex” was an early blueprint of hypertext, although never manufactured. The device was basically intended to store and associate related knowledge and experiences for personal use (cf. Bush 1945). So the idea to enhance the reach of our personal memory and knowledge by using an external device and providing it with all our individual understanding and experiences as well as that of other people is not so new. Interestingly enough and contained already in the original writing Bush envisioned that other people’s knowledge would be equally important and that the exchange of newly associated knowledge would be the crucial asset (for an extensive discussion of the unfolding of Bush’s idea cf. Allen 2004). The ease-of-use of the current applications and their widespread adoption, though, creates a new quality with respect to users and innovative interactions.
The term Web 2.0 was coined by Tim O’Reilly, a well-known speaker and writer on issues of the internet (O’Reilly 2005). Rather than trying to define Web 2.0 more precisely some authors distinguish its applications from the presumed world of Web 1.0. While Web 1.0 is supposed to simply present information, Web 2.0 is implying user participation. In popular publications, Web 2.0 is frequently understood as a synonym for Social Software, although it carries a stronger connotation to technical and business aspects. In this chapter, the term Social Software is preferred over Web 2.0, intended to embrace the facets of both terms.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Blogging: The individual activity to contribute to a Weblog, either by posts or by comments to posts
Posting: Another term for >Blogging
RSS-Feed: Defined as Rich Site Summary (RSS 0.9x), RDF Site Summary (RSS1.0), Really Simple Syndication (RSS2.0). Through RSS, short descriptions of articles or web pages can be represented in machine readable form (XML) and regularly delivered by a news repository. It is also called a newsfeed. This way changes and updates in one site are automatically fed to subscribers, see http://www.atompub.org/ and http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rssChangeNotes (06/14/2006)
Weblog: Artificial word, combining “Web” and “log”file. Web pages with individual entries presented in reverse chronological order, usually maintained by a single author and managed through a specialized software system
Blogroll: A list of constant links in a Weblog that points to other, somehow related Blogs
Informal Learning: Informal learning is neither institutionally planned nor functionally defined, but opportunistic and spontaneous. It can take place within or outside of institutionally planned education
Social Software: Web-based systems, supporting individual representation, mass interaction, formation and communication of common-interest groups
Trackback: A technology employed to let users of a Weblog know which other Blogs are linking to them.
Blogosphere: A thought construct, comprising all existing Weblogs, denoting the social relevance of Blogging
Blog: Short form for >Weblog