My brain is still lodged in “how to bring blogging as genre to the classroom in a meaningful, writing-centered way” mode. As I’ve said before, I think there are many characteristics of Weblog writing that potentially make it a valuable addition to the curriculum in a number of subjects.
The most obvious to me is in the area of research. The ability to use hypertext to link to sources is a huge advantage to student and teacher alike in that it makes it pretty easy to check on a student’s understanding of citation, quote or paraphrase, among other things. I think the ease with which linked sources can be accessed also inherently makes for a more careful use of those sources by the student.
Now I know blogging is more first-person, more casual by nature than formal research writing. But one essential skill that consistent bloggers develop is the ability to read critically in preparation to write critically. I’m hearing Jay Rosen yet again: readers becoming writers, completing the transaction of ideas and extending the conversation. Certainly, the best essayists are those that can draw from a variety of sources and bring them together into some coherent, more complete understanding of the subject. Ditto the best bloggers, like Doc Searles, whose post today on the media and politics is a great example. He has obviously taken the time to read a variety of authors, done some meaningful thinking about what he has read, and used it to fashion his own interpretation and ideas. Isn’t that what we want our students to do?
It ties in with another area that really interests me: media literacy. I think Weblogs could be an outstanding tool for teaching kids to observe, think about and then deconstruct the media they are exposed to. And as this pretty interesting article in Technology Review notes, “Media literacy education must be integrated into our curriculum from kindergarten through college. But to succeed, educators need to update and rethink the assumptions shaping many existing media literacy programs.” I think there’s a need for blogging in there somewhere. More thinking on this later, I’m sure, but I see a proposal coming into view…
Tom Hoffman says
This specific post reflects back on Pat’s posts about Tinderbox. If the only use of weblogs in a school are to gather references and notes, then there certainly are more focused (possibly more complex and expensive) tools for that job.
Ultimately, one pivotal question becomes how many functions within the school can you pile onto your weblogging platform? If Movable Type is already managing the school homepage and student reading logs, then it does make sense to use it as an imperfect but adequate tool in research, since you’ve already paid for it, got it running and showed everyone how it works.
Will R. says
I agree. I’m at the point now where the time and idea capital I’ve invested in Manila has put me in a place where I’ll be squeezing what I can out of it for the next few years at least. That’s why I’m so hopeful there will be continued development of it. And I’m not saying those are the only uses of Weblogs. I’m saying that one very apparent skill that blogging may be able to facilitate more effectively than past practice is in the area of teaching research, and that blogging per se goes beyond just gathering references and notes. It may well prove to be a very effective tool in other parts of the curriculum and process as well.