Tom has been reading the end of the year wrap ups from blogging teachers and the reports are obviously not good.
It is a little painful reading the trickle of end of semester recap posts coming the self-selected early adopters of classroom weblogging. It’ll get very interesting when the trickle becomes a flood. Will the negative cases overwhelm the positive? Will we collectively learn or just get discouraged?
Will the trickle become a flood? Are we just barking up the wrong tree with all of this? Will we still be at it in two years? Five? Ten?
Last year I was thinking blogs in the classroom were at the tipping point. But Joe Luft, who was one of the early adopters of Weblogs, was a bit more even headed in suggesting this was going to be a long road, one that faced a number of hurdles; access, time, risk averse teachers and students…and more. Pat Delaney, one of the earliest adopters, has really reigned in his enthusiasm as well, saying “the bloom is off the blog” at one point. And my own results this year have been a mixture of some really great moments and a majority of fairly average experiences.
But the thing is there have been enough moments to keep me interested. And I have a handful of teachers who are interested too because their students are showing signs of learning more effectively with the use of Weblogs. They articulate argument in writing, they synthesize what they have read and discussed, and they research more effectively when they are asked to annotate sources and information. Not that any of that can’t be done with a Weblog, and not that it’s happening across the board. But the dynamic has changed enough to be significant, and they want to continue to experiment. None of them have given up. That’s a good sign.
And then there’s Anne, who sees successes every day with her younger kids. Is she wrong when she says “The building of a community through weblogs is exhilarating. It’s truly the best way to learn.” And that’s the thing. For Anne, and for me, this has become one of our greatest learning experiences. And that in itself is motivation enough to keep looking at ways to make this work in the classroom. Will it work for enough teachers and students to make it worth continuing our collective efforts? I guess we’ll see. But I do know that a) there is a great deal of untested potential left in these tools, b) it’s still relatively early in the blogs in schools narrative, and c) I’m still learning.
Blogging is work. Despite its relative ease of use, it’s still a challenge because of all of the reasons and shifts we talk about in this community almost every day. We don’t have time. We don’t all like the transparency that blogs create. Early adoption is a risk. And on and on. But there’s nothing different here than with any other new technology or process. If Tom had comments, I’d ask him if he’s going to give up on all those programs that he’s struggling with, that he sees potential for but that rise up and kick him in the butt from time to time. It’s messy by its very nature. But by blogging his failures he’s making the chances of success greater since he’s sharing what he has learned. Teachers are doing that too. And I think on some level our collective experience is translating into greater learning for our students.
Joe Luft says
Warning; long rambling comment ahead.
I’m still out there and reading along even though my posts have died out. The minutiae of launching a new school is all-consuming these days. As I think about the role of technology in my new school, I have a unique opportunity to set priorities without having to change a pre-existing school culture. I see lots of opportunity for innovation here and will try to exploit it as best as possible. In my new role, I’ve also become hyperaware of the myriad obstacles that will make this a difficult task. Besides the ones you recall from my earlier post, there’s a larger cultural roadblock that goes beyond a few teachers and one school. I’ve yet to deal with it specifically regarding weblogs but it’s part of every decision I deal with. Expanded centralized authority makes it increasingly difficult to implement something so decentralized. The bureaucratic culture is risk adverse and shuns “innovation” that didn’t trickle down from the top (top down “innovation”?; absurd, yes). On a more political note, I wonder about the broader cultural context in which we live these days where thinking differently is considered by many to be unwelcome. In the meantime, I take away valuable ideas from you, Pat, Anne, Tim, and many others. Some of these ideas will emerge elsewhere eventually. In the meantime, I say screw the “tipping point” question and keep innovating.
You say, “And I think on some level our collective experience is translating into greater learning for our students.” I love the fact that adults are very publicly learning along side their students. To me, that’s one of the strongest arguments for what you’re trying to do.
Chris L says
You write: “my own results this year have been a mixture of some really great moments and a majority of fairly average experiences” as if that weren’t indicative of success?
The thing about average experiences is– well– they are supposed to happen most of the time. Perhaps in addition to learning to use blogs, making sense of the public vs private, understanding self-construction, and all the other cognitive and curricular issues, we are seeing a fair amount of outsized expectations about what can (and should) happen.
From this outsider’s perspective the news is overwhelmingly good even if the normal end-of-term vagaries still exist…