Barbara Ganley has posted her complete BlogTalk paper titled “Blogging as a Dynamic, Transformative Medium in an American Liberal Arts Classroom” which, not surprisingly, is an enthusiastic and articulate reflection on her successes using Weblogs in the classroom. It’s another great resource for teachers of all levels.
First, she says that Weblogs offer
“…educators a unique opportunity to engage their students in a dynamic learning environment in which they are at once the actor and the reflector, the commentator and the instigator.”
I like the way that describes the duality of blogging, the read/write relationship.
Arguing that “the world has changed; the classroom has not,” she notes that schools continue to ignore the social aspect of learning that Weblogs offer to a generation that is increasingly familiar with the digital commons, moreso than their teachers. She has a great quote from James Duderstadt:
“They expect–indeed, demand–interaction, approaching learning as a ‘plug-and-play’ experience; they are unaccustomed and unwilling to learn sequentially–to read the manual–and instead are inclined to plunge in and learn through participation and experimentation…They learn in a nonlinear fashion, skipping from beginning to end and then back again, and building peer groups of learners, developing sophisticated learning networks in cyberspace. In a very real sense, they build their own learning environments that enable interactive, collaborative learning, whether we recognize and accommodate this or not.”
She also writes about how for a classroom Weblog to be effective, everyone must own it. Barbara’s use of Weblogs has evolved from a tool for classroom management to individual student blogs to one what she calls “Motherblog” for the class which everyone is responsible for.
For the weblog to work as a facilitator of efficacious learning, it is essential that everyone has an authentic voice and an authentic role on it, that everyone has a hand in creating the medium as well as the message in an environment in which the reader becomes the writer, the student the teacher, the teacher the learner as we traverse boundaries of classroom and real world, our communities forming,shifting and reforming.
One aspect of all of this that Barbara has mastered, I think, is using her own posts to synthesize discussions and to probe and ask questions, all the while modeling the genre for her students.
…the blogger-teacher is using the unquenchable homepage as a place to synthesize the postings streaming in, to ask questions designed to push the thinking forward, to point to particular posts as models, challenging our assumption that learning experiences are essentially individual, private affairs conducted according to time-honored if unspoken rules about student-teacher interactions. It is a jarring and exhilarating, if for some, bewildering experience.
And she writes about the importance of linking in blogging:
In the learner-centered collaborative effort, students learn the value of linking to one another’s work, often taking a thread from a classmate’s assignment or online discussion, referencing it and building on the idea until it becomes something new all while engaging them in a call-and-response kind of conversation with their peers. In so doing, students learn lessons about citation and translating from the informal language and thinking of the online discussion to the more rigorous demands of formal academic discourse.
Obviously there is much more here, especially the part about the students basically taking over the course in the third week. Not sure that’s going to happen on the K-12 level, but it certainly could happen for various aspects of our classes. But what’s inspirational about this, at least to me, is the way in which she has used the Weblog to deepen and broaden the learning of her students. Her effort to make such good use of this tool is obviously enormous, and in some ways daunting. But even with a more narrowed focus and scale, the importance of the ability of Weblogs to help students construct and evolve their own meaning and understanding of course content is not to be underestimated. Barbara gives us a great framework for making that happen.