Blogs: Phenomena or ???

A person I respect and admire has challenged my thinking about blogs recently. That challenge sat at the back of my mind for a week now and it took an in-service in my district to pop it out to this blog.

I led a group of teachers through the first day of a literacy strand on Thursday. The goal was to create literacy competencies in various subject areas so that we could take a step back from what our students are reading/writing to see the individual components that make up reading/writing and then address those areas that needed support with strategies (that comes with Days 2 and 3). The conversation veered substantially just before lunch………to student motivation.

The conversation bothered me on many levels – but the one that is most relevant here and to the challenge to blogging, is the sense of some educators that students haven’t changed. School isn’t meaningful or engaging to them and that, I think this is what I heard, they are just plain lazy if it doesn’t interest them.

Watch this and tell me students haven’t changed since you were one of them:
(Thank you 21st Century Collaborative!)

Now watch this:

(Thank you Fischbowl!)

I have come to believe that educators (and in fact our entire concept of education) is where the change must happen. Our kids are bombarded by information from lots of sources – we need to teach them to be discriminating consumers of that information. The world has given us MySpace and Instant Messaging – we need to teach students what is appropriate information to put out to the public and the appropriate words to use.

I’m not advocating that students write their essays in IM language – the real world still demands complete sentences (and words!) but we do have a responsibility to recognize that our kids are living in a different world and IM language is a literacy competency they need to have to have power in that world. You don’t need to embrace it – but you do need to acknowledge it.

And so – I think – it is with blogs. Blogs are more than online journals. They can be used in powerful ways by teachers and can engage students in the content we value using a medium they value. So why aren’t more teachers using them? Why aren’t they a part of each and every classroom across this globe?

Lots of reasons, or at least I am told. Here are some I have heard:
1. They are not safe – don’t you watch Dateline?
2. My school blocks all social networking sites.
3. Real life requires pen and pencil, not just a computer. Sure they can type – but they can’t type their state assessment.
4. I don’t have the time to have kids blog when I have content to cover.
5. I don’t have time to learn how to blog so I can teach my students.
6. I don’t blog because I don’t have anything to say – why should I have my kids blog? (Followed by – It’s just an on-line journal!)
7. Blogging doesn’t create real relationships – I want my students to discuss things in class.
8. Blogs are another fad in education– don’t you remember whole language and the damage THAT did?

I have learned so much since being introduced to the Web 2.0 tools this summer. And I have learned it from other educators who have put their experiences out there. As a result, I am bound and determined to make sure blogs aren’t a fad – and I’ve tried with the community of educators that I thought could push the envelope with this blog. So far – it is Blogging 0, Tradition 1. But I’ll continue this investigation and report back here.

In the meantime, I’d love to know…..what’s your excuse?


Kimberly Moritz said...

The point about blogging that continually gets lost is that it's all about learning. It's not about giving students the same assignments that they can do with pen and paper, just asking them to create a blog and to write what we tell them to write. It's about reading and reflecting and learning and THEN, and only then, about writing.

Melissa said...

I was at a meeting yesterday where a group of leaders from 4 districts met via Distance Learning and were talking about last summer's experience for some 40 teachers to learn about blogging, podcasting, and wikis. I got lost in thought wondering how many of those teachers actually did something with their learning. How many are blogging? How many are using wikis? I got pretty excited to know that a few are doing it and doing it well. The group's conversation traveled to the world of, "Shall we offer a second session for these summer bloggers?" I voted no! As educators, we were given a prime opportunity to engage in learning something new and applying it to our work. Those of us who blog and use wikis will continue to do so, and we will continue to learn about new technologies because of our reading, reflecting, learning and writing on Web 2.0.

I think about what a mentor told me as I was beginning my teaching career, "Melissa, teach to the highest." After spending three days with Will Richardson totally immersed in technology, participants had time. They had the reasons why it is important to blog and wiki. They know how to get things unblocked or at least the reason behind the fight. (How many have asked to get a site unblocked? In a district last week, I mentioned that a site was blocked that I felt that new teachers could use. Within a few hours, it was unblocked. All I did was ask. How cool unique is that?)

Those who have not taken this opportunity to stretch their professional practice have their reasons, but I am thinking that another 3 days will not teach them anything new. They have the tools, and they will soon decide to use these tools or let them go! Those of us who used our learning from last summer....

Let's invite 40 new people to join us and see who comes along for the ride.

Jenn B. said...

Your most recent post had me thinking about education 30 years ago. Was there a "blog" then? What was the modality that was viewed as blogs are viewed now - as a fad/ Or have we made such a leap in the last 40 years that what we're experiencing is actually - gasp - something new? (Darn. Now the little voice in my head is asking if new really means anything. Does new translate into better?)