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on the problem with blogs

March 17, 2007

Jeff Utecht on the Tech Learning blog writes about the problem with blogs which starts with some standard objections like they don’t make grading journals any easier especially with slow Internet connections, and we can’t protect our students from drive by commenters.  However, he says the real problem:

The problem with blogs is that it is not about writing, it is about a conversation.
If you think of blogs as conversation vehicles, then it becomes easier to understand how blogs can be very powerful in education and the classroom. Too often, educators use blogs as a replacement for journals, when really what blogs should do is extend conversations from within the classroom to a wider audience. Those conversations should then be brought back into the classroom for further discussion. The word ‘blog’ might be short for Web Log, but the power of blogs is not in the writing, it is in the thoughts, the comments, and the conversation that they can start, sustain, and take into a million different directions.

This is a challenge I haven’t yet come to terms with.  I am still at the point of making writing assignments that I comment on and urge students to comment on though they don’t seem to see much need for it.  Perhaps I could incorporate blogs in the ways he suggests when he writes:

If you are blogging with your students, or you are thinking of blogging
with your students, I encourage you to not think of blogs as a writing
assignment, but instead to look at them as conversations. Conversations
that can give you both feedback about a lesson, or continue a
conversation well after a lesson has ended. Blogging brings a new
dimension to the classroom. You cannot blog and not change the
structure of your classroom. Two great examples of this are Mark Ahlness and Clarence Fisher, both of whom have seen blogging completely change the structure of their class.

If I could achieve this, I think the writing would be served well because the students would work to communicate more clearly than they do now where they see the blog as a one shot deal.  I wonder how I can change the structure of my class and assignments to facilitate these kinds of conversations. 

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 17, 2007 3:42 am

    Great reflection. I wrote that post as I too am working through just how these blogs change what we are doing. I keep coming back to what Marc Prensky wrote in his article Adopt and Adapt. We need to be doing “new things in new ways.” By journaling we’re doing “old things in new ways.” Although it might make life easier for a teacher, I don’t think it moves us down that road of high order thinking, reflection, and conversations.

    Thanks for the conversation,

    Jeff

  2. March 21, 2007 8:09 am

    Yes, I agree that blogging only really becomes a powerful tool when it is used to communicate. Yet I find the road to that communication bumpy, to say the least, and it’s a long road. I’m glad there are such excellent role models out there such as Clarence Fisher, but each educator needs to take the steps themselves.
    My experience is that the students, especially adults, need to be lured out into this space. They need the thrill of being ‘heard’ or read by others outside the classroom. I don’t really see why we should discuss something on a blog with the same people we see in class, but opening up the communication brings in a whole different dimension.
    Great post!
    Illya

  3. March 30, 2007 7:30 am

    Yes, I agree and thanks for the link to Jeff’s blog. My students (the ones who have taken to blogging like ducks to water) treat it as conversation. The journallers are much more reticent!

  4. April 1, 2007 4:11 pm

    I agree with what Jeff has said, “We need to be doing “new things in new ways.” By journaling we’re doing “old things in new ways.”” But I also agree with Illya, “I don’t really see why we should discuss something on a blog with the same people we see in class, but opening up the communication brings in a whole different dimension.”

    When I started blogging with my students, I used it for writing journals online. Then, I realized that I am really not doing anything in a more effective way. The argument that learning is ‘enhanced’ really does not appeal to me as it suggests that what we are doing without technology is not effective enough.

    What I am trying to do now is to combine blogging with other tools (wikis, flickr, etc) to create online spaces for students where they can CONNECT to resources and to others online. I’ve come to a realization that it is all about connecting and dialogue (just what we are doing now, here). How else would we exchange our thoughts on blogging or met? That’s a new thing for me.

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