Barbara has another great post today exploring the dynamics of audience and blogging and how they work in the classroom. I think the reason much of what she says resonates so much with me is my 20-odd years teaching writing in various guises. I think we both (as well as other writing teachers) feel on some deeper level the potential that blogging can have on students, simply because blogging is an answer to a question that has long plagued us, or me at least: how do I find real audiences for my students’ writing? And having been fortunate to have found a real audience for my own writing has made me even more interested in how Weblogs can serve the kids we teach.
I know that I have said this before, but one of the most important concepts in teaching writing that I tried to stress with my students came from Donald Murray who framed writing as a coversation with a reader. Writers anticipate reader reactions and questions. Good writers put themselves in the readers’ shoes and get inside their brains, even though they’re not in the room. They read themselves as their audience would. It’s a crucial skill. And it’s also incredibly difficult to teach when the teacher and a few pressed-into-service classmates are the audience for a students’ work.
Now of course, just creating a Weblog for student work does not guarantee a wider, more interested audience. But it does guarantee the potential of one. And when you get a teacher who puts some time into finding and bringing people into the conversation (like Barbara,) then all of a sudden audience becomes a much different beast. With students who have very rarely if ever had readers outside of their classrooms, even one or two sets of new eyes can make a big difference.
My disconnect these days comes when I forget that despite how powerful the pull of an audience can be, most of the teachers at my school have never experienced it. I wonder how many of our English teachers have been published to audiences outside the school? Very, very few. But if they did write (blog) for an audience on a regular basis, wouldn’t they feel the potential as well?
As Barbara says:
And if I write for a sometimes phantom audience outside myself, well, the potential of having a readership beyond myself forces me to write to my best, to commit to what it is I’m putting down here, even in this informal, draft-like meditation. Above all, for me, it all comes back to my teaching–it’s about modeling and experimenting and experiencing–if I ask my students to blog and moblog and voblog and mess around big time with media, then, well I had better be doing it myself to feel the fulll effects of what I’m asking of them.
I really think that writing instruction in general would be measurably improved if we gave writing teachers the time and support to write for an audience. Give them a blog block a couple of times a week. Give them time to collaborate with other teachers and classes and reflect on their experiences.
I know, I know…wake up.
Here’s another great excerpt:
…I am, after all, trying to teach my students to see writing as a process, and as an act of communication, a kind of call-and-response with what we read and hear and know. Within our class community, the foundations of which are laid from the first time we meet on the blog and in the classroom, we see the value of blogging as connective tissue, as a way to create Lévy’s knowledge space, his sense of collective intelligence–collaborative blogging does that beautifully.
There’s a lot of learning going on at Barbara’s and the growing number of ed blogs out there. And it’s fun to find more and more teachers taking advantage of it. We just need to keep blogvangelizing…