Blogging Binds Critical Reading and Writing

April 6, 2008 at 7:33 pm (blog)

As I started exploring the topic of blogs in teaching and learning in more depth, and read about, and was reminded of, how audience and purpose lead to your format, I wondered if a blog is a genre or a format.  Richardson identifies blogging as a new writing genre which he calls connective writing which can include, but is not limited to any combination of  

  • personal reactions
  • reflections
  • links
  • summaries
  • annotations
  • creative writing
  • exposition

Richarson identifies that connective writing:

  1. forces bloggers to read carefully and critically because they are reading to find ideas to write about
  2. demands clarity in persuasion
  3. is intended for a large audience
  4. links to sources of ideas
  5. often begins with reading

“This, in turn, requires critical thinking skills as they consider their audience and clarify the purpose of the writing.”  Many times, one post is the synthesis of the reading of many texts, so bloggers must be able to find connections and articulate the relevance of those connections.  In composing the post, this genre of writing demands organization and clarity as well as a keen awareness of audience.  Also expected is the writer’s own reflections on or experience with the ideas she’s writing about” (31). 

I think Doug Noon takes this even a step further at his blog Borderland

…there’s more to blogging than just adding links to our writing.  Yes, linking is important.  Mainly, it allows us to extend a conversation by connecting one source with another….Doing that requires us to make judgements about how texts are related, and to take a position to one or another.  But that doesn’t happen just from linking.  The linking…facilitates criticism.  [my emphasis]

While not exclusive, for me the critical thinking would occur during the process of reading while the criticism takes place during the process of writing. 

“Throughout this process, bloggers are constantly making editorial decisions, and these decisions are more complex than those made when writing for a limited audience.  Because students are regularly selecting content to include or link to, they learn to find and identify accurate and trustworthy sources of information.  Because of a potential audience that goes beyond the classroom, they pay more attention to the editorial correctness of the post as well” (31).  Bleimes describes how even writers as young as first-graders take the writing process more seriously knowing that the blog is available for the whole world to read.

In contrast with traditional writing where publishing marks the final step of the process, Richardson says connective writing continues post publication.  The ability of readers to interact changes the purpose of the writing from a traditional closed completed piece of writing to a draft to be tested against an audience.  Konrad Glogowski calls this “transactional writing” to be interacted with, returned to and reflected upon.  Comments are most motivating when they come from the wider audience beyond the classroom. 

Steve Matthews puts it this way:

…the social side of blogging is where the value is.  Blogs aren’t magazine articles, and they’re not a simple diary – blogs are personal commentary with social networking baked in.  Tell me what you think, and tell me how you feel about it.  And whenever possible, link out to other bloggers and exchange ideas.  Every successful blog does this.  No excpetions.

One of my favorite parts of Richarson’s discussion is where he identifies the distinctions between traditional writing and blogging.  I write it here in the format of a found poem:

Writing stops; blogging continues.
Writing is inside; blogging is outside.
Writing is monologue; blogging is conversation.
Writing is thesis; blogging is synthesis. . .
none of which minimizes
the importance of writing. 
But writing becomes an ongoing process,
one that is not just done
for the contrived purposes
of the classroom (31).

Richardson quotes Ken Smith’s (2004) description of blogging:

Instead of assigning students to go write, we should assign them to go read and then link to what interests them and write about why it does and what it means, not in order to make a connection or build social capital but because it is through quality linking…that one first comes in contact with the essential acts of blogging: close reading and interpretation.  Blogging, at base, is writing down what you think when you read others.  If you keep at it, others will eventually write down what they think when they read you, and you’ll enter a new realm of blogging, a new realm of human connection” (33).

This directly connects to the Schmoker presentation I attended in the fall and the follow up reading from Results Now about having students read critically and respond in writing.  However, there was no mention, that I can recall, of blogging or any other Web 2.0 tools.

Richarson identifies, what I picture as, a hierarchy or continuum of the uses of blog sites.  Even though some use a blog to share information, this does not fit the definition of blogging.  Posting information, such as (1) assignments, (2) journalling the days activities, (3) posting links with (4) brief annotations to a blog is not blogging.  If the annotations are longer or more critical, it may then be the beginning of blogging.  Analyzing the meaning of the content that is linked to is simple blogging (5). Reflective writing and/or commenting (6), articulating the relationship between linked content with audience in mind (7) leads to complex blogging which involves analysis and synthesis over extended periods of time that builds on previous posts, links and comments (8).   

While I feel that I have engaged in reflective writing for the majority of my posts, it is only recently that I have been much more conscious of my audience as I receive more comments from people that I don’t know, which led to, what I referred to in a previous post as, “blog block.”  It is also only recently that I have begun to link to previous posts and to comments others have made on my blog.  To do this, you must have a large enough number of blog posts to be able to link to something that you have said before or discuss further at a later date, demonstrating how thinking or perception has changed as a result of new learning.  This week I am particularly aware of the possibility that those who I am linking to and quoting may pop by pushing me to ensure, even more so than before, that simple things as the conventions of writing are accurate and that I am clear in what I am trying to say so as not to be misinterpreted still keeping in mind that, “blogging is not about posting well thought-out entries, and that each entry does not need to present a definitive and complete view on a given topic.  Rather, . . . blogging is about engaging with ideas” (Glogowski).  I am definitely engaged with ideas, most of which I never knew existed three short months ago or how they related to teaching and learning.  In this course, I have learned the most I ever have in the shortest amount of time. 

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