USA Today says “Teens wear their hearts on their blog.” Isn’t that special. Just ’cause I don’t think it can hurt anything to make the point again, what follows are not descriptions of blogging:
“…mostly they simply relay the details of their daily lives.” Not blogging.
“Girls, who dominate blogging, use it especially to talk about personal feelings.” Not blogging.
“Rypkema uses her blog to communicate with friends and as ‘a way to pour out my emotions.'” Not blogging.
And some ironies in the descriptions:
“‘I feel like family and close friends shouldn’t be reading my diary in secret,’ she says.” Ah-HA! Not blogging. Diary-ing.
“While famous political bloggers have thousands of readers…” So, are they simply relaying the details of their daily lives?
“Experts are divided about whether and how parents should treat the journals — especially when it comes to teens over 13.” Double Ah-HA! JOURNALS! A different genre.
I know, I know. Let it go. Lost cause. Never win the battle. Etc…
But this portrayal is exactly why schools start banning them (even though they know they’re journals) and more importantly, why they don’t think of them as potential learning tools.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled blogging…
Douglas Johnson says
So I’m confused. I naively assumed “blogging” was content neutral – a format and technology rather than a prescribed type of writing. I’m guessing, Will, you would have an entire generation and news media that would disagree with you. Even the Wikipedia, says “Blogs range in scope from the diaries of individuals to webpages run by political campaigns, media programs, and corporations.” And if you can’t trust the Wikipedians, just who can you trust?
I have to say that I appreciate your concern that is a medium that is being damned educators by recreational use. So what’s new? Cell phones, mp3 players, personally-owned laptops, e-mail have all been viewed suspiciously and have been banned by some schools. Is there a natural cycle to technology adoptions by educators that must begin with the technology being outlawed?
Personally, I think . pencils have no place in schools
Oh, as you can tell, I’ve taken your recent posting to heart when you quoted “So how much commenting are you doing? If you feel you are not getting enough comments, are you giving?” –Alan Levine.
ALl the best and keep up the good work.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for the comment Doug. Really glad you stopped by as I think your blog is great.
So I’m gonna nitpick. The Wikipedia quote you used says nothing about blogging. Absolutely right that blogs can be diaries. That doesn’t mean that people who use blogs as diaries are blogging. They’re journaling, chronicling, emoting, whining, pining, whatever. But very rarely are they blogging. Blogging is read, think, write (and link) and read some more. I’ll just keep getting blue in the face with this, I know. (And, Tom, you don’t have to leave the usual comment.) But I want to champion this new form of exposition, if you will, that people en masse haven’t been able to do until blogs have come along.
It’s an important distinction and I can keep making it if I want. So there. (Takes blog and goes home.) ;0)
Jay Pfaffman says
I share Doug’s bewilderment about people’s strong feelings about what blogs are. I too think that blogging software is an incredibly convenient way to publish stuff on the web. In spite of being a pretty decent HTML coder who runs a web server on his workstation, I’d pretty much stopped creating web pages about 5 years ago. When I started using Drupal I found that I was much more likely to publish stuff on the web (http://learn.occ.utk.edu/node/25).
I’m no literacy expert, but I think that if we want kids to be able to think well and write well it’s important for them to write considerably more than they do. As someone who knows something about motivation (but a few years away from what I think an expert might be), I think that it’s important for kids (or humans, for that matter) to produce stuff that more than just the teacher will see. Blogging software seems like a good way to address both of those issues.
I post stuff on a Drupal site a few times a week. I don’t think that I’m blogging. I’m not sure what it means. I have friends who blog and they too seem to have very specific conceptions of what blogging is. It’s clear that you do too, but I can tell only what you think isn’t blogging.
Will Richardson says
Jay, Fair enough, though I think I started to get to it in the comment above. Here’s what I think is and isn’t blogging posted earlier this year. Hope that helps.
Posting assignments. (Not blogging)
Journaling, i.e. “This is what I did today.” (Not blogging)
Posting links (Not blogging)
Links with descriptive annotation, i.e. “This site is about…” (Not really blogging either, but getting close depending on the depth of the description.)
Links with analysis that gets into the meaning of the content being linked. (A simple form of blogging.)
Reflective, meta-cognitive writing on practice without links. (Complex writing, but simple blogging, I think. Commenting would probably fall in here somewhere.)
Links with analysis and synthesis that articulates a deeper understanding or relationship to the content being linked and written with potential audience response in mind. (Real blogging)
Extended analysis and synthesis over a longer period of time that builds on previous posts, links and comments. (Complex blogging)
I would add, also, that while it’s implied, I should probably have been more clear that it all starts with reading. We’re writing about what we’ve read, and that’s a crucial difference.
Finally, I should have referenced David Warlick’s post Why do we have to “learn how to blog?” from today in this discussion as well. David says:
He’s right in that this is about communication more than anything else. What I’m saying is that blogging the way I define it (and I admit I feel a little out here on the ledge alone by jumping and up and down so much about the distinction) is a new way to write, based in exposition, grounded in reading, supported by linked references, requiring critical thinking and excellent communication skills to do successfully. And, I want to stress, I think it’s a type of writing that we could not do before blogs came along. Maybe I’m the only one that sees it that way, and I will entertain any and all attempts to be persuaded otherwise. But it we’re just doing the same types of writing that we were doing before blogs, then I don’t think we’re blogging. And extra finally, I am not saying that those types of forms are any less valuable or important. But this stuff we do is different, and I want it to be noted as different.
Lois Scheidt says
I think the reason you are blue in the face is you have set your definitions too exclusively and others don’t see the distinction you champion. To put it simply if one is keeping something that can broadly be construed as a blog then they are blogging, just as those who write are writing. I’ve never met anyone who “fictions” though I have met more than one fiction “writer.” To say that there is a distinct difference in the act of producing a blog seems academic, and not the good kind of academic.
I have to say that even in the teen diary blogs I research I see very good things happening. Teens are learning to put their feelings and thoughts into words. They are traversing one or more communities, learning others opinions and further developing their own. They are learning to substitute visual signifiers like mood indicators and pictures for text in meaningful ways. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater and say this isn’t blogging, when it is.
I understand that you are pushing for a more academic form of blogging to be adopted in schools. I agree that there are valuable things for both students and teachers to learn from those uses; however history has told us that teens co-opt tools and use them for their own goals. Why rile against their uses rather why not rethink the model and find a way to use the tools in ways that satisfy both goals? No I am not one of those folks that always think popular culture should find its way into the classroom, but neither do I think that popular culture has nothing to lend to education.
My final comment here is that gender differences play a significant part in all of this and to limit expression to one facet of the style and form of blogging, may create a bias. I don not believe that is your intent but it does deserve to be recognized that point of view varies between males and females as they mature. While some of this may be cultural insribed it is fairly clear that the totality of the issue is not limited to cultural immersion. My research (http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/women_and_children.html and http://ella.slis.indiana.edu/~lscheidt/publishing/Adolescent_Diary_Weblogs_and_the_Unseen_Audience.pdf ) has found that teens, particularly girls, produce more diary genre blogs than any other. While I can see the creation of school or class based blogs that work toward more of the academic goals you put forth I can also say that our research (http://www.blogninja.com/DDGD04.doc ) has shown that all long term blogs contain significant personal elements that make them mixed genre or potentially diaries.
p.s. Don’t take you blog and go home, debate is how we grow. *w*
Tom McHale says
I don’t know that blogging constitutes a new way of writing, but I do see it facilitating excellent communication skills. What bothers me is that although students might learn to “blog” in school(in the way Will defines it), at home the technology is used almost exclusivley for diaries and online chat rooms. And while the content on these sites (I’ve mostly looked at myspace.com) is insipid, the visual and audio they post can be stunning. Which makes me wonder about the future of this technology. Yes, it will be about communication, but will it necessarily be text based communication? Could read/think/write take a different direction? I certainly hope not, but I have a text bias that I don’t think my students share.
Or maybe I’m looking in all the wrong places. Can someone point me to a great teen blogger? Seems to me that at this point some should have emerged.
David Warlick says
Would I be too far off if I suggested that the definition of blogging is a matter of context. To a teenager, alone in his or her bedroom, “relaying the details of their daily lives,” “talk about personal feelings,” “pour out (their) emotions” are all blogging. Or maybe Lois is right, that blog should not be a verb.
I do know that the distinctions that Will is making are important — for the time being. Twenty years ago, Al Rogers, from the San Diego area, wrote a distributed bulletin board system called FrEdMail. It ran on Apple IIs as the host computers, and it became so important to educators that it took Y2K to finally shut it down. At one point, there were 37 of these host computers (or nodes) just in North Carolina. We were e-mailing before anyone I knew had even heard of the Internet.
In the school district I worked in, we watched children composing text at their computers (using FrEdWriter), who you couldn’t get to write their names in a classroom. I remember one especially moving instance where at-risk 7th graders (we didn’t call them ad-risk then) were challenged to use FrEdWriter to write a children’s book. They wrote with zeal, and then e-mailed their books to first graders in a local elementary school. The first graders printed the books, read them, illustrated them with crayons, and two weeks later, walked up the street to the middle school library, where the seventh graders sat behind tables to sign their books.
It was a powerful example that may well have changed some lives. But it wasn’t because they were e-mailing, it is because they were communicating. They were writing to an audience, knowing that that audience might respond in some way.
To a person responsible for preparing children for their future, I believe that blogging is exactly what Will says it is. In communicating through their blogs, students “read, think, write (and link) and read some more.” It’s exactly what we want them to be doing to develop information skills. Almost immediately after teachers started using Class Blogmeister, they were writing to me, “I can’t believe that my children are begging me to let them write.” It’s not because they were using technology or that they were practicing literacy skills. It’s because they were communicating. Without authentic avenues for communication (like e-mail and blogs), then writing instruction becomes something like technology instruction. We teach them the rules and procedures. When they are writing and reading (and researching, and evaluating, and synthesizing, etc.) with an audience, or within an audience, then they are conversing, and this is something that people do.
I’m preparing to deliver an address to educators in Arizona about how different our students are today. (Not a surprise to any educator, it’s just something that keynoters are asked to talk about sometimes.) But one of the things that occurred to me, while thinking about the digital divide between tech savvy children and children who come into schools with little outside technology experience, is that there is an significant difference between the digital divide of today, and the literacy divide of the last century.
If you were literate twenty years ago, then you could functionally read the text that publishers made available to you. If you are literate in a networked digital information environment, then your function extends far beyond being able to consume content. You become part of the content, part of the conversation. The difference is that the digitally literate are networked. They are a community of power, where those without, are just individuals. I’m not sure, but I think that blogging is part of that community of power.
This probably doesn’t help much.
“Blogging is read, think, write (and link) and read some more.”
I’m going to do this next with my class blogs. Beautiful. THX Will.
Lisa Williams says
People who want to bash blogs deride them as “the blathering of thirteen year old girls,” and that some bloggers want to define a typically teenage girl activity as “not blogging.”
The end effect of this attitude is sexist — it devalues the contributions of young women.
Douglas Johnson says
Back again. This post has been haunting me a bit. It’s a fascinating discussion and I appreciate the observations and commentaries of others.
A couple things bother me:
Will, you stated: “Blogging is read, think, write (and link) and read some more.” and later expanded this to say “I would add, also, that while it’s implied, I should probably have been more clear that it all starts with reading. We’re writing about what we’ve read, and that’s a crucial difference.”
Where does blogging about practice, experimentation, or real-life observation come into this equation? To be a true Blogger must the intital impetus for writing begin with the written word? My experience is that today’s kids get very excited about what old librarians might call “primary source” information – artifacts, surveys, experiments, interviews.
I hold folks like you, Will, who are practicioners with dayjobs in real schools, in highest esteem. It’s not just theory, but what happens when the rubber hits the road in tech applications, that has value to me.
Finally, both Dave Warlick and Andy Carvin (among others) use their blogs to talk about places they go and experiences they’ve had there. Does this put them in a different category than Blogger according to your definition?
If we can allow that true bloggers can use personal experiences as the genesis of their writings, it seems to me that kids who write about personal experiences may well be blogging – just about their own lives rather than things of what we might call “academic interest.” Again, to back to Andy, I found his experience of having his camera stolen while in India to be pretty interesting and I’m glad to have read about it – although the entry wasn’t “academic.”
The other thing that sort of has been messing with my mind is that we as educators seem to be disparaging when kids reveal their personal feelings in blogs/online journals/whatever. Not only am I an old librarian, but I’m also an old English teacher, and as one, I subscribed to Ken McCrorie’s I-Search advice that expressing one’s feelings about a topic created a lively paper.
Again, I’ll go back to the blogs I like to read. These things have personality! They are commentary, of course, but I enjoy not just the orginal thinking about professional topics, but those glimpses we have into the writers’ personal lives. I like that John Pederson at pedersondesigns lets us into his kids’ developmental stages, how his sports teams are doing, what he’s reading, etc. How exactly, except in maturity level, is this different that teenagers telling friends about what’s is happening in their lives? (John, this is NOT a criticism – I “blog” myself about my children, grandchildren, travels, non-professional reading, etc.)
Should we be asking kids to keep feelings and experiences out of their blogs? Do we ask (or want) adults to?
Douglas Johnson says
Oh, I have NO idea how the links to Blogger got into my previous post. – Doug