There has been a lot of interesting reading of late coming out of classrooms regarding the reactions students are having to blogs and blogging and reading. Konrad Glogowski and Clarence Fisher are becoming two of the blogs I seek out in my aggregator hoping that they’ve posted about their work. It’s really good stuff, and very enlightening. Makes me want to get back in the classroom…
Konrad’s been writing about what happens when the blog software crashes and there’s a forced withdrawl from blogging. Guess what? The students miss it.
My students got used to inhabiting a space which, as virtual as it was, constituted an important part of their learning experience. When the space became temporarily inaccessible, learning itself seemed to be put on hold.
Whoa. Read that last line again. That struck me on a number of levels, not the least of which was wondering whether or not that was a good thing. (Ok, I admit…the thought passed quickly.) That’s the thing about technology isn’t it? We’re going to have to be willing to depend on it, and we’re going to have to be creative when it doesn’t work, because we all know that at times it won’t. But as we get more and more invested in it, we’re going to have to make sure it works. (And this is where for me at least, the more mature open source solutions are starting to make more sense.) Also interesting is what happened when he got the new blogware up and running:
As soon as they were able to create their new individual blogs, the first question was:
“What about the old posts?”
The new space, I realized, was not really a blog or a community. It was an empty space and almost all of them were overcome by a need to populate their new blogs. They have been working very hard since but many also insisted on transferring their old entries to the new blogs. Their blogging identity, it seems to me, is so inextricably linked to their writing that abandoning their old work seemed somehow wrong. Many were very disappointed that the comments they received cannot be automatically moved with the posts.
I just find this whole reaction to be a powerful example of how important the community building really is. And this is what Konrad and Barbara and others seem to be able to do so well, to nurture their students acceptance and reliance on the idea that there is a network of learners all in this together. It’s not just the teacher.
Clarence too is seeing some interesting things happen, this time with the connective reading his kids are doing. They’re starting to understand how conversations on the Read/Write Web occur, exhibiting the pattern recognition that George Seimens writes about.
My kids have found it interesting now that they have had Bloglines accounts for a few weeks to see the flow of information develop. I’ve had more then one student come to me and say something like, “did you see all of the people who have been talking about X?” They see a pattern, they see a flow, they experience the depth of information around them online, in magazines, on the news, through the music they listen to. They begin to see how some of the puzzle pieces fit together.
Again, I find this pretty fascinating. And, as Clarence says, it’s another argument for making sure the ideas and information stay within our students’ grasp.
This is what we need in education. We want to develop spaces where kids are free to think, to interact, to listen to each other, and to learn in a response cycle where their ideas are shared and then revised as their understandings grow. We need our classrooms to become cyber – bohemias or 21st century cyber – salons.
But to do this, we need to give kids access to tools and information. We must let them become fearlessly part of the flow. Ideas don’t grow, change, and mature in a vacuum, but they do in real spaces where information is wild. We can’t domesticate it for them, we need to allow them these tasks for themselves.
Did I mention both of these guys are up for EduBlog Awards in the Best Newcomer category? Tough choice…