Thursday, May 10, 2012

A taxonomy of edublogs

Blog Many Moons Ago When the World Was Young O Gentle Reader, I was asked to take part in a project. My contribution was to be the construction of a taxonomy of edublogs.

Once upon a time, taxonomy was an essential component of any biology degree. But taxonomy is not popular with students (or grant awarders), so it tends to get downplayed these days. This is a shame, because as well as helping us make sense of complexity, it goes beyond that function by suggesting rationale and motivation which lies beneath the surface. Just as our first year students puzzle out the difference between taxonomy and nomenclature, I found myself thinking about the purpose of this exercise.

Although blogging, as opposed to microblogging, is still a minority exercise, it is now sufficiently mainstream to demand further thought. In the networks in which I participate, a lot has been written about science blogs - in particular the rise and fall of networks, and although I'm not involved, political blogs have become more prominent in the UK, but what about edublogs? What framework could we use to think about them? And what does that tell us about the people who write them (and those who try to stop them)?

My first thought was that we could classify edublogs based on roles:
Student - Primary - Secondary - Tertiary
but when I tried to do that it was difficult to see any overarching principles, so I thought about classification based on technologies.

Institutional - dependent on a given infrastructure, a mix of early and late adopters. Some probably didn't know why they blogged, it just felt right (competitive advantage?).

Independent - e.g. Blogger, Typepad, Wordpress, etc. Those who took the trouble to go out and forge an independent path display a strong motivation, although the barriers have been lowered by microblogging of status updates on social networks.

Course blogs - many invisible behind walls in neatly manicured walled gardens. Should this include "portfolios" such as PebblePad?

Video blogs - never caught on in the education sphere - the overhead is too high. Photoblogging is popular, but are there any eduphotoblogs (excluding photography and design courses)?

Microblogs - cannot be ignored in any taxonomy of blogging as it has taken off in such a big way - where is the line between blogging and pure microblogging? Not just Twitter - parallel networks (Yammer, Plurk, but also Friendfeed, Facebook, Google+ ?)

So what does all this tell us? That there is great diversity - of style, purpose. But always a wish to communicate, either from an individual or an institution. The project for which this was intended never happened. Once again I find myself defined by the things I do not do rather than the things I do.

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