Yesterday, I exchanged a few e-mails with a former student of mine who just graduated college, and I was surprised and happy that he’d taken up blogging. He’s turned out to be a very good writer, and just the few minutes I spent reading his latest posts gave me this kind of weird pride-like feeling, like I may have had a little bit to do with some of that. Nice.
But the interesting thing is that he mentioned that he doesn’t see how blogs are much of an improvement over discussion boards. I’ve been reading and reflecting a lot on the conversation from a couple of days ago, and some of the outcomes from my workshop this week, and I have to say I think the difference is obvious: transparency. When I post to my blog, it not only has a chance to be read by a billion people, it also lives on in the Google-able and Technorati-able world of content. It also gets linked to by other people having other conversations. And it also creates a real sense of ownership of the ideas and the membership in the community.
That conversation about changing the culture was just powerful, I think. Twenty links and trackbacks to date, each one making me consider and reconsider my own position (except of course the one trackback in a foreign language…) Tom’s street metaphor made sense, and David’s Audioblog suggestion gave me ideas, and Alex’s reflection on his Cyberporn class added a great deal of context. And just about every comment seeded some more thinking.
And Kim! Holy cow! Kim started blogging at my workshop just four days ago and put up an amazing post about this topic.
Let me get this straight. I spent three days learning about wikis, blogs, RSS feeds, and various websites that I found totally intriguing and NEW. Itâ€™s been a long, long time since Iâ€™ve been blown away by a new idea. Now Iâ€™ll admit, I usually donâ€™t have time for those who will tell me why something wonâ€™t work. And there are plenty of people happy to see every change and new idea from that perspective. Iâ€™ve learned to at least listen to them, because they often help me to avoid some problems. But Iâ€™m not listening now. Thatâ€™s right, Iâ€™m looking this whole fear issue, call it cautiousness if you like, and staring it down. Because thatâ€™s what it is when schools filter everything and avoid, itâ€™s fear of the unknown, itâ€™s ignorance, and itâ€™s cowardice.
And that’s just the first paragraph. This is a high school principal speaking out, stepping out, the kind of voice this community might want to nurture and develop.
This is blogging at it’s best, I think, and what makes it so much more powerful than discussion groups. It’s network creation, connective reading and writing, conversation that anyone can engage with. I know I sound dreamy about it…so sue me. It’s what started me down this road over five years and over 2,500 posts ago. And it’s still the most powerful learning I do.
Laura Deisley says
I’ve read your book (thank you!) and I have been following your blog for the past few months. Your recent blog about “the fear factor” within schools and the bravery you noted in Kim’s response reminded me today of a story. One of the things I find is that when we incorporate things we want to teach in the form of a story, it is amazing the level of learning that can occur. This particular story is called Shingebiss and the North Wind http://www.healingstory.org/treasure/shingebiss/shingebiss_and_the_north_wind.html,
and it has Native American origin. The beauty of the story is the powerful message about going against that which has created fear in the general population and using problem-solving to adapt and conquer that which is feared.
I am a partner in a budding digital media company, http://www.augusthouse.com, that plans to deliver and develop stories from around the world with educational components, support for teachers and families, and make it fun and engaging for kids. I also am working with a group of independent schools (my own children have been in both public and private schools) to collaboratively address the safety issues and the importance of parent’s learning and understanding more about the internet and ITS VALUE not just the what is feared. We do need to swim upstream together on this one. And to your point about “content” that our society is subjected to: well, that is just what we’re trying to do at August House. Get better content out there and then build the dialogue to make it community.
Thanks for your leadership-
Ken Carroll says
When I first discovered the world of the blogosphere, I was stunned. Day after day, for weeks I discovered new ways to connect with a relevant audience, new ways to help my business, new things I could achieve with it. And what an amazing set of accessories to go with it: using Technorati to track responses to your posts, counting the incoming links, figuring out how to use tagging, understanding how Google works, and more. I felt a sea-change in my thinking. It was a truly exciting period of learning. To my mind, this learning experience, in and of itself, is reason enough to dive into the world of blogging.
But there’s more. As someone who has worked for 12 years as a marketer of language training programs the efficiencies that blogging created (with a combination of SEO, paid search, etc) alllowed me to reach potential students much more efficiently and cheaply, all in a way that is 100% measurable (try doing that with a newspaper advertisement) and with an automatic PR strategy thrown in for good measure. It also allowed us to listen to what learners were saying to us, to solve problems, to give them a sense of community and align ourselves towards a common purpose. Blogging and the internet generally can be used to change the economics of almost anything you care to do. In my case those efficiencies can be passed on to our customers in the form of a cheaper, better, and more relevant service. I think the economics are another good reason to get involved here.
Neither of these things really apply to the BBS to the same extent. And a blog is, of course, personal, unlike the anonymous BBS. Over time, the blog creates a body of ideas that can be used to influence the world. (You could never use a BBS in this way to influence the world.) Of course, with a blog you need expertise and a defined scope. I think it helps if you have a single, overiding purpose, as you do. I think this consistency can tell an unfolding story like no other format could.
We’re just at the beginning of what all this can do.
Lisa Stewart says
Thank you for your presentation this afternoon at the BLC conference. For the first time, I was able to perceive clearly the extraordinary power of the networked conversations through blogging. Although I’ve been writing and reading on blogs, today my understanding must have been similar to what it’s like to view an entire cosmos through a telescope.
I think the distinction you make between a blog and a message board in this post is useful for thinking about the kind of “read/write net” instruction that you urge teachers to do. We’ve debated at my school whether/when to use the enhanced message board we have and whether/when to use blogs. So far, the discussion has been about protecting our students’ identities. But it occurs to me that one could design a read/write net curriculum with the message board acting as scaffolding or pre-writing/reading before the students actually start to blog. Like riding a bicycle with training wheels. The blog takes it a step further to a larger and more powerfully networked audience, and to more gravitational pull toward its content. When they are ready for that, perhaps they will not need to protect their identities.