Sunday, August 27, 2006


Blogging is participation in conversation - only the conversation isn't happening between two or three people sitting around a table together anymore. The conversation goes on among a diverse group of people located all over the world sitting at a computer, typing, thinking, deleting, reworking the words and typing some more. People are blogging about everything imaginable and almost anyone can join in.

As my own blog has developed, I've been thinking about the experience and what it's meant to me personally and educationally. For me, blogging equals the development of "voice". It is about thinking out loud and communicating with others. It gives the writer a chance to express opinions, beliefs, ideas and insights. It can be a summarizing tool, it can be used to synthesize. Sometimes blogging is responding to someone else's thoughts, beliefs, ideas and insights.

When we begin to teach our students some new skill, we model it for them in a variety of ways. In learning what it means to be a blogger, I turned to a number of edublogger models and started to look at what they were talking about, how they were expressing their ideas, how they handled criticism of their ideas by others. It's also interesting to see the networking that goes one - one question or idea is expressed and pretty soon all of the blogs I'm following are talking about the same thing. This doesn't happen all the time but often enough.

In yesterday's post, I referred to a recent audiocast hosted by MIguel Guhlin. MIguel spoke with several educators (first grade through high school) about the use of blogs in their classrooms and about how they're teaching students to use blogs. As I listened to the audiocast, I began to write down some of their insights and examples of best practices. Below are a few of those...

When we use blogs in the classroom:

  • we provide a way to connect children to the world, to other classrooms
  • we can connect parents to the work of our classrooms
  • we provide another way of connecting digitally to each other
  • we need to teach students how to interact safely in a digital world
  • we provide our students with an authentic audience which changes and transforms writing
  • blogs help students to engage in and understand the social nature of communication: learning to be constructive critics, learning how to challenge each other's ideas respectfully, learning to use critical thinking skills
  • blogs open up new doors for information and communication

In my mind, with any new technology tool, there are always two questions to ask yourself:

  1. "So what?" What difference is the use of this tool going to make in student learning?
  2. "Then what?" Once I start using this tool, what will my students do with the product they're produced or the information they've gathered?

Both of these questions deserve careful consideration with blogs. The social and "open" nature of blogs is the very thing that causes many school districts to block the use of blogs on their networks but the social nature is what also contributes to its use as a good instructional tool. Class BlogMeister, created by David Warlick, is one tool that teachers can use that provides a more sheltered environment for beginning to use blogs. Teachers monitor all postings to the blog and can provide a separate page for each student to use.

In any case, there is, more and more, a need to teach safe interaction in a digital world. Imagine a student behind the wheel of a car without any instructions or training, pulling out onto a highway at rush hour - what might the results be? The same applies to putting our students behind the "wheel" of a blog - teach them the rules of the road, teach them the rules while driving on the back roads before they get into heavier traffic. The NetSmartz website is one place that educators and parents can start to find resources to address this issue.

I'm sure that, as teachers begin to explore the nature of blogs for their own professional practice, we will see more advocates for the use of blogging in classrooms, more resources for teaching safety and more discussions between teachers and district technology administrators about how to manage the use of this tool safely for effective use in our classrooms.

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