Finding a Blog Balance

April 6, 2008 at 7:31 pm (blog)

What Is A Blog?

According to Will Richardson (2006),

“a Weblog [or blog] is an easily created, easily updateable Website that allows an author (or authors) to publish instantly to the Internet from any Internet connection.  The earliest blogs were literally ‘Web logs’ or lists of sites a particular author visited on any given day” (17).

In contrast to edublogs for professional development, “teenagers use these sites more as social tools than learning tools, and…their behavior is sometimes reckless.  As a result, “…the powerful instructional uses of the tool are being at best ignored and at worst not even being considered” (20).  This reminds me of a slide in one of Valenza’s reformed powerpoints, at her informationfluency wiki, that says “While we look out for the safety of our students, we must also protect their access to the information and communication tools they need to learn effectively.”  Here intellectual freedom and student safety are on two sides of the same coin. 

This reminds me of a post at Seth Godin’s blog where he discusses the need for an online presence which replaces a traditional resume.  Employers can read a blog, for example, and make a decisions based on what they read that demonstrates the ability of a potential candidate to question, think critically and reflect thoughtfully.  If we don’t provide students with the opportunity to play with these tools, become comfortable with them and use them to demonstrate skills of a 21st learner, are we preparing them for what future employers will demand that they be able to do? 

Richardson states that what teenagers often do is journalling rather than blogging which is an important distinction to make when implementing blogging into teaching and learning because “thinking in words [is] not simply an accounting of the days events or feelings” (20).  And, danah boyd, long-time LiveJournal user specifies when she was asked to be on the LJ advisory board, “My private LJ is going to remain private, but http://danahboyd.livejournal.com will be my new public LJ,” yet another distinction to make with students.   It is important for teachers be aware of these distinctions, communicate them to students and provide exemplars so that students don’t fall into the trap of journalling their daily activities.  Blogging requires thoughtful reflection, connecting, analysis, critical thinking and synthesis. 

Richardson identifies the following benefits of blogs:

  1. Doesn’t require any knowledge of code or FTP
  2. Reflections and conversations are updated rather than static
  3. Engage readers with ideas, questions and links, asking readers to think and respond: they demand interaction

Speaking from experience, I am grateful I no longer need to know code or use an offline software package to create and FTP updated pages.  This is something that I no longer look forward to doing.  Knowing that there is an engaged blog audience encourages one to update regularly.

Referring to Eide Neurolearning Blog (2005), Richarson also identifies that blogs promote:

  1. Critical and analytical thinking
  2. Creative, intuitive and associational thinking
  3. Analogical thinking
  4. Increased access and exposure to quality information
  5. Solitary reflection and social interaction at the same time

Since I have started blogging I have definitely been more critical, analytical and sometimes even analogical as I make connections between new reading and prior knowledge.  Because of the RSS feeds that I collect via Bloglines I have a steady stream of new information from experts in the edtech field – Warlick, Richardson and Valenza to name a few – that push my thinking into new territories.  I enage in social interaction via the comments, although, this is an area that I wish to improve upon, particularly when I read that every comment I receive should be commented on. 

What can an edublog (education blog) or edtech blog (education technology blog) include?

  1. Reflections
  2. Links to other sites, podcasts
  3. Ideas for Lessons
  4. Responses to thoughts and ideas of other bloggers
  5. Comments and questions from blog readers from readers that push the bloggers thinking and offer links
  6. Blogroll – a list of bloggers that are followed by the writer
  7. Multimedia including Images, audio, video

What can a student blog include?

  1. Reflections
  2. Assignments handed in via the blog leading to a paperless class
  3. Links that the student blogger found interesting and relevant that are commented on via the blog
  4. A news feed on a topic related to studies
  5. Comments from classmates, teachers and global audience
  6. Contributions by expert mentors
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