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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Blogs, Blogs Everywhere: Does Everyone Need an Internet Journal?

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant

I was working in a school where a teacher, who is technically savvy and making great use of digital tools in her classroom, openly challenged the idea that blogging is something to be encouraged for teachers and students. She voiced a concern that there is just so much stuff out there already, and all these blogs are just too much.

This was an especially provocative comment, as one of the other participants in the session, Mark Spahr, had just shared the blog he had launched as a place to post his thoughts about teaching and learning in general and on being a culinary-arts instructor at a juvenile corrections facility.

Her questions, juxtaposed with Spahr's excitement about his new endeavor and the connections it was creating, caused me to reflect on the amount of great thinking, great ideas, and great writing out there on blogs, especially those -- such as the Spiral Notebook -- focused on teaching and learning. I realized that there was way too much on the Web to even begin to digest. A human being could not regularly visit the sites on which this information is posted and still maintain a normal life in the real world. There are not enough hours in the day.

So the solution most often suggested for getting to all these resources is the use of an information aggregator (mentioned in a blog entry by Diane Demeé-Benoit and in one by Chris O'Neal) such as Bloglines or iGoogle. These aggregators go out and cherry-pick the content you have asked them to collect, then deliver it to you in one neat package.

But after you use an aggregator, what do you have? You have the ability to bring all the content you want to one place, the ability to create your own personalized and content-rich Web resource. Great, but what about that time thing? There is a TiVo-like sense to the aggregators that troubles me -- the inaccurate assumption that the only reason I don't watch this television show or that, the only reason I don't read a certain blog, is simply that it is not broadcast at a time that is good for me or that I don't want to go skipping all over the Web to look for it.

And then it hit me: The real power of blogging, the greatest benefit in writing for a blog, goes not to the audience but rather to the writer. It is in the very act of writing, the preparation of the content you are going to share, that the benefit is found. Writing is a reflective process, and the creation of content you're going to share causes you to work hard to make your thinking clear. An audience creates anxiety, and appropriate levels of anxiety support our best efforts. And the best writing calls for our best thinking.

Here is an example, from my own experience: This topic has been churning around in my mind for more than a week, and sitting down and writing this piece has been cathartic. I have crystallized my thinking and taken the time to get it as right as I can. I have made my best effort.

Should you read this and find that it causes you to think, that is good. But I have already received value from my effort. I have figured out what I really believe about the topic of universal blogging. I have a better understanding of my own thinking because I have stopped moving, thought, written, revised, thought, written, revised, and finally edited.

Would I have taken the time and put out the effort to do this if I was not writing for my blog? Let's be honest. Probably not. The blog is the taskmaster, the responsibility that not only provides the audience but also asks for my input.

Often, when I work with teachers responsible for supporting the development of writers, I will ask them, "How many of you are writers?" with the caveat that writing lesson plans doesn't count. The response is consistently troubling. Generally, less than 10 percent consider themselves writers. And I have to ask, who do we want helping young people become better writers -- a writer, or a nonwriter?

The writer, of course -- so show us your blogs!

Jim Moulton

Technology Integration and Project-Based Learning Consultant
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Comments (40)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Carrie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is the site for me! This is my first experience with blogging, so I was really unsure the point or purpose. As I began to explore different sites, I came upon this one. It has given me insightful information about blogging.

I am a teacher, who is also "blogging" for a class assignment. As I was reading the blogs here, I began to develop some ideas of ways that I want to use blogging in my classroom. I do agree that blogging will improve writing performances of students through daily interactive writing. I'm glad I had this experience.

Val's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Jen,
I thought you had a good example of blogging in the school. Using blogging in this way didn't cross my mind. When I was reading Jim's idea's in his entry I was thinking of a free for all type of Blog which concerned me. My mind was stuck on that idea. Your example of a direction for blogging was a very basic and clear idea and great for the classroom. I can see older students really getting into it. Thanks for helping me think outside of my preconceived thoughts.

Laura's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hello!
I agree that blogging can be a great way to improve so many different things. My question to you is -- Do you think it is ok for an administrator or teacher to have a public blog? If it is open for all to see, can it open up communication, or set the administrator(teacher), up for complications?

Jim R. Moulton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Laura -

First off, I have to say that I think complications are part of a teacher's lot in life. A teacher who seeks a professional life "without complications," must be constantly frustrated.

Oh yes, harm can certainly be done through thoughtless posting, but people don't need a blog to be indiscreet... How many times have I heard comments in teachers' rooms that I have to believe the speaker would love to be able to retract...

Perhaps, "Discretion is the better part of blogging," eh? In fact I would suggest it is that very public nature of the blog that is one of its strengths. Inappropriate uses of social networking sites by kids & adults happens either when folks simply don't understand or most likely don't take time to consider the very public & very long lasting nature of their posts, be they text, images, audio, or video.

So rather than not blogging for fear of the open-ness, that very open-ness is a great reason for teachers to blog. We need to help the students understand how important it is to think before one hits "post" or "send" or "reply" or "forward..." After all, they will be using those buttons for a long, long time in whatever career path they take.

How about having a class discussion about whether a post is ready to be sent out for all to see... A conversation about who might agree, who might disagree, etc...

This is an important topic, so if you haven't read it already, you might consider reading Neil Postman's "Teaching as a Subversive Activity." http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Subversive-Activity-Neil-Postman/dp/03852...

Tracy's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am going to start my 4th graders on a math blog. I am in the process of setting this up on Class Blogmeister. What I am thinking of is a math question of the week, something we have been studying or a concept that they can write about, or solve a problem. My class is small, so I can assign computer time to each student and they will need to respond by Friday. I went to the NCCE conference in Seattle in February, and attended a session where the presenter was doing this with her 5th grade class. Once I get this up and going, I would like to pull in the 3rd and 5th grade math teachers (small school - 1 class per grade) and have them join in the math conversation. I'm looking forward to seeing how this will work!

Brittany's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree. Blogging is more for the writer than the reader. Although reading blogs does help you think of your own position and it is sometimes very entertaining, blogging makes you, as the writer, think about what you want to say because it is out there for the world to see.

Ashley's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Blogging is a great way to get your opinion out and also to consider others opinions. It is also a great way for students to interact with others.

Ashley's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think blogging is very good way for students to interact their own thoughts and opinions with other students.

Cathy McDonald's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I was hesitant to blog with my students, afraid of what they might say inappropriately. When I discovered Gaggle.net, which closely screens for inappropriate language and/or pictures, I decided to give it a try. Students who would not think about putting an entry in a hand-written journal are excited to have their blogs. They read what each other writes and respond to mine on a weekly basis.

It is time consuming because I have to read each entry before they are posted. As an English teacher, I cringe at the errors in grammar and mechanics. I wonder how to work this into blogging without turning the kids against the whole idea.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have heard about blogging and some teachers have actually set up a page where students can interact with the teacher. My main concern was appropriateness and legality. If something comes up on a blog, do you have to report it?

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