Blogs as Teaching Documents

I recently presented a session on using blogs and wikis in the classroom at the annual GISA conference. I focused on teacher and student-created and maintained blogs and wikis and didn’t touch very much on how we can learn from these tools. When I share my presentation with my own faculty in January, I would like to include this information. I probably won’t have to teach teachers how to figure out whether a blog poster has reliable credentials, but that would be necessary if I were sharing blogs with students. After all, I have a blog, and I can declare a recipe for cold fusion that really works, but no one should believe me if I do that — after all, my credentials as an English teacher are not exactly reliable compared to those of a nuclear physicist or even a science teacher.

Blogging history, literary and otherwise, seems to have developed into a major trend. I am very excited about this trend, as I think it makes history alive for students and makes the people they study seem like flesh and blood. I found several examples of such blogs.

Boston 1775 purports to be “a miscellany of information about New England just before, during, and after the Revolutionary War, and about how that history has been studied, taught, preserved, politicized, mythologized, lost, recovered, discussed, described, distorted, and now digitized.” It is maintained by J.L. Bell, a Massachusetts writer who specializes in Revolutionary War-era Boston and has written scholarly papers for children and adults and consulted in the show History Detectives.

The Blog of Henry David Thoreau makes Thoreau’s journals accessible to everyone with Internet access. It is maintained by Greg Perry, a poet who posts Thoreau’s journals on the corresponding date today. For example, on November 18, 2006, Greg Posted Thoreau’s journal entry from November 18, 1857.

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog is not so much a digitized version of a document produced by Chaucer as a vision of what a “blogge” by Chaucer might really look like; more than anything else, it’s just good satire. Reading this blog, one can get a feel for Middle English, a sense of the politics of the time, and most importantly, an appreciation for Chaucer. The site is maintained by an anonymous medievalist.

Pepys Diary is digitized presentation of the diary of Samuel Pepys, whose Restoration-era diary is an excellent primary source document of the period. It is maintainted by Phil Gyford, a UK website designer who bases his site on the 1893 edition of Pepys diary, which was edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

These are just a few that I know about. Please share your own discoveries in the comments section.

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