I created my blog and posted for the first time on January 18th of this year. Sixty posts and ten categories later, I feel much more confident in my understanding of what a blog is and how it can benefit teaching and learning for students and their teachers. Of course, blogging is not limited to education. It seems everywhere I turn there are both individual and collaborative blogs by reporters, lawyers, moms, travellers and authors to name a few.
Prior to this blog, my experiences with blogging had been limited to occasionally having students discuss their literature circles books on a blog, as an alternative way of presenting and linking to content in social studies (using a blog format but not technically a blog) and sharing my thoughts on YA books with students (and helping myself to remember what I had read). Now, not if but when I have students blog, we’ll be playing in a whole different ball park!
Will Richardson’s book Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (2006) has served as a major source of information for this blog topic. I have interspersed it with anecdotes and exemplars from bloggers. Many of them also reference Will Richardson’s book. I agree with Richardson that the best way to learn to blog is to become a blogger. Why? Because it helps one to process new technologies (reference to Miguel Guhlin at quoteflections ).
I feel like an ‘infovore‘ more so than I ever have. Initially I started by following a handful of blogs as was suggested in our course materials. However, each week I add a few more, dividing them into folders by category: class blogs, edtech, del.icio.us, library, teaching, technology, personal, business/Social 9, and visual literacy.
I remember one blogger questioning the optimal number of blogs to follow (unfortunately I don’t remember who) . At one point he had followed 150 (or was it 500?) then weeded it down to 40. Others depend more on tools like Twitter and read what others suggest that way. Still others have deleted all their feeds and asked their blog readers to suggest their favorites. I have conducted one such spring cleaning, deleting blogs that don’t seem to be updated or are not topics that interest me. The way I read them has also changed. Depending on my mood or the amount of time I have to read influences what I choose to read. In the beginning I felt somewhat obligated to read everything and was overwhelmed by the number of unread posts. Now, I am much better at skimming, scanning (critical reading skills, Focus on Inquiry, pdf) and selecting what I want to read and much faster at clearing out folders. This is a matter of survival because:
For most of human history, there was little chance of overdosing on information, because any one day in the Olduvai Gorge was a lot like any other. Today, though, we can find in the course of a few hours online more information than our ancient ancestors could in their whole lives (Gomes).
I don’t use RSS as a Life Tool (yet) but I can see how I could use feeds to organize and follow all sorts of authors of different media optimized into one page like Pageflakes. It was through Bloglines that I learned about
Before this course I didn’t have any idea what I was missing out on! I didn’t know what Web 2.0 was and I maintained a bit of an aversion to it because I didn’t know anything about it. Bloglines is professional development that comes to me based on the feeds that I select to receive. Everyday I have my own personal “unconference” depending on what comes across my reader. The feeds criss-cross so references may come up in several feeds; if I don’t read about it now, chances are someone will remind me that I wanted to read it at some point later.
Blogging provides a differentiated form of PD by reading, commenting or publishing. One can read about anything imaginable related to the theory or practice of teaching in any subject area. Some are more philosophical while others are more practical and the rest are somewhere in between. Because other media can be embedded or linked to from a blog, it provides a jumping off point to other media in Flickr, YouTube, VoiceThread, wikis and podcasts to name a few. The blog is a tool, a platform, through which thoughtful reflection and discussion is mediated. The blog isn’t the focus. The learning that takes place among a community of learners is. No one is ever alone in the blog-o-sphere.