Hyperlink Literacy

September 1, 2008 at 5:30 pm (blog)

During the Spring Session, right after I finished the online class for which this blog constituted the main portion of the course work, I enrolled in a face-to-face class.  I had every intention of continuing to post here.  My plan had been to post the reflections I wrote before, during or after each class. 

At first, I really struggled because I found I wanted to include hyperlinks in my hand written or typed reflections.  In some cases I did in the pre-session responses to selected chapters from the course text.  However, these were lost when they appeared simply as underlined text when printed in hard copy form for hand written comments from the instructor.  I assume the instructor wondered why I would underline such things.     

Another major difference between the in class reflections and posting online is the scope of the audience.  There were only a handfull of us in the class.  As such, the audience was very small and intimiate.  Because of this, one is more comfortable revealing thoughts and feelings, ones that may be misinterpreted in the wider forum of the blog.  Sometimes taking the form of streams of consciousness, my reflections would have required much editing to make them blog worthy, time that I did not have to devote.  Besides, I suspect that in doing so, what made the hand written reflections effective would be lost, or at the very least, lead to weaker writing.  

I thought a lot about this while taking the Spring Session course, however, it is the benefit of the summer break, and an article that I finished reading Monday, that finally brought me to solidify my thinking here, not to mention my goal to post on a more regular basis.  Tiffany Hunt and Bud Hunt wrote an article in the September 2007 issue of the EJ on the web called “Linkin’ (B)Logs: A New Literacy of Hyperlinks. 

In it they write:

In terms of professional development, I have learned more from blogging and the community of readers and writers I have met than I have learned anywhere else.

I agree with this in part, the part where I have learned a lot from blogging, the actual writing of the blog.  In fact, the Web 2.0 inquiry that I was engaged in and blogged about led me to learn the most I ever have in the shortest time span ever.  While I have received written comments from people who read my blog, and learn much from reading the blogs of others, I feel that because I have not kept my blog up to the degree of other edubloggers I have not developed the community that Hunt and Hunt talk about. 

At the end of the school year, I met with an old friend with whom I worked on many telecollaborative projects, ones in the vein of the work of Judi Harris of Texas.  We talked a bit about blogging, as it was in sharing the link to my blog that led us to get together for dinner one evening.  She mentioned that she had registered and set up a blog to see how to do it.  She commented on how easy it was.  It was then that I made, what I thought to be, a very bold statement, one that is very true. 

You must blog to understand blogging.

Blogging is hard work but it is also very rewarding.  It takes time and practice to get good at it and I am afraid that I have become rusty.  I picture my blogging like a boom and bust cycle with its ups and downs.  Yet, as I wrestle with ideas, reflect and compose, I am invigorated at the same time!

Even though I seemed to end up doing it anyway, I think I would have found the three categories of blog post types that Hunt and Hunt talk about helpful when I first started blogging.  I’ve described them a bit differently then they were in the article.

  1. Questions, research findings and learning.
  2. Self-reflection and metacogition
  3. Read, reflect and respond to peers, quoting when appropriate. 

At this point, I am reminded of when I first started Literature Circles with my classes.  It took quite a few years to fine tune the process.  Hunt and Hunt talk about the same thing when assisting students in writing their own blogs.  It takes a while to figure out how to instruct students in how to write effective blogs. 

We can’t learn how to write connectively, to get into blogging, without first learning how to make those connections….Much as we want them [students] to understand how hyperlinks work for them as readers, I want students to appreciate the value and power of hyperlinking as a composition tool.

This is where I find the articulation of four types of connections also helpful.

  1. Connecting to locations eg. people, places, events
  2. Connecting to ideas eg. quotes, sources
  3. Connecting to self eg. conneting to earlier blog posts you wrote
  4. Connecting for attention eg. knowing that there is a possibility that someone is keeping an eye out for when they are quoted or referenced may lead to them responding. 

I see this as a continuum of increasing sophistication.  Connecting to locations and ideas is the easy part.  Unless you have blogged for a while, you probably won’t be connecting to yourself very much.  At least, I didn’t.  I started connecting to my own blog posts after blogging for several months.  While I didn’t purposely connect for attention, when I received responses from those whom I linked to, they certainly had my attention!  It make me much more conscious of my audience when I was writing.

I think Hunt and Hunt end with an important reminder:

I am seeking . . . to teach blogging, the verb, and not just writing blogs, the plural noun. 


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