So I’m going to take a moment to once again get defensive about blogs, and specifically blogging. Hopefully it won’t be offensive.
David Warlick pointed to a series of video interviews with ed tech experts at the recent CUE conference in California, and I happened to check out the one on “Ed Tech Trends” with David Thornburg, Hall Davidson and Peter H. Reynolds. First, let me say it’s a great discussion of what’s happening in the world of edtech, and I’m happy to report that blogs and wikis are at the forefront of the discussion. Go and watch it if you get a chance (a long with the other featuring Steve Dembo and David Warlick.) That’s the good news.
The bad news is that to some extent, I think the conversation misses the point. What got me going was when Hall Davidson said “Blogs are online journals when done right” and then added that it’s “not a format that going to pull anything else out of you” compared to more traditional tools. David Thornburg had an equally lukewarm assessment, and while Peter Reynolds I think got it more than the rest, he didn’t get the chance to articulate it very well. (He also said that he considered MySpace a blogging site.)
Ok, I know. Let it go. The thing that gets me is that none of these three are bloggers of any consistency, at least that I can find. Hall does blog at the Discovery Educator Network, but not very often. And I guess I just wish they wouldn’t opine about the usefulness of technologies that they don’t fully understand. Blogs are much more than online journals when done right. They offer much more than the traditional tools in terms of giving voice, building community, enhancing learning not just from a writing standpoint.
To be fair, all three of these guys grasp what’s happening with Web technologies, and much of what they have to say is right on and, frankly, very optimistic and energizing. They really get the sense of community that these tools can create, and they understand the powerful connections that they can bring about. In fact, the best excerpt from the whole thing was when Peter said that from a teaching standpoint, your colleagues are no longer just the people down the hall. They are teachers in Australia and journalists in Russia and scientists in India. What a very cool, expansive way to start thinking about teaching.
Ok, I feel better now. Back to more fruitful blogging…
Brad Hicks says
Hey Will, I understand your frustration, though I am coming at it from the other end. I’m trying to expand my thinking on how blogging can be used effectively and innovatively in the classroom, though I’m really just a novice blogger also trying to encourage my colleagues. My problem is trying to slowly move away from, or adapt, traditional writing to a blogging perspective. Your book is certainly beginning to help me get my head around how blogs can be used to help students become much more critical and reflective in their writing (something I am also working on for myself!). I am also searching for as many real life examples of how this has been done in the classroom, so that I can improve my own understanding and convince others of the worth of giving classroom blogging a try.
Dean R Shareski says
My question remains, why aren’t these guys blogging? They’ve got lots to say, they’ve got an audience, they support blogs, so what’s the problem?
I wrote further about it on my blog, but this really bugs me. I think they don’t quite get it. Not to its full extent. I hope one of these guys responds.
Also, you work with Alan November, he’s another one that should be blogging. His blog seems more of a brainstorming blog. Nothing wrong with that but I’d love to hear more from him.
Mike Arnold says
Brad: I share your confusion, desire to expand one’s mind, about how blogs can have an impact in the classroom. I think that you might benefit from reading an article on Digital Native versus Digital Immigrants. URL is below. The whole idea of getting kids to write might seem like a daunting task, and those of us with ANY teaching experience know the struggle. So, I’d be curious to know how things go for you as you try your implementation process. Right now I teach teachers how to use technology in their classrooms and this whole concept of introducing blogs to them is daunting task on my end. Please keep me (and the others reading this blog) posted on your progress.
Here’s the link I mentioned: http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
Mike Arnold says
There is a general misunderstanding between those of us in the business of educating kids and those who are in the business of keeping tech running as to the importance of making tools available to teachers. MySpace is commonly lumped together with blogs, and podcasts because they all came out at about the same time. As Will pointed out at MACUL, the barriers we have to break down involve FEAR. I wish I would have said that! It’s true. When we introduced schools to streaming video, techies had a fit with bandwidth, server space and other issues. I’m not bashing them in saying this, afterall it’s their business to think about those things. But to deny teachers access to services that are good for kids is not acceptable, tolerable or any other “-able”. The technology will get in somehow, it’s our jobs to help people differentiate between the new technologies and to help teachers model appropriate use of those new technologies.
Steve Dembo says
Gotta throw my two cents in to this one. I won’t speak for Hall, he can do that himself. But after spending quite a bit of time talking to teachers at state conferences around the country lately, I’ve come to a realize a few things.
This may sound blasphemous, but not everybody is a blogger and not everybody is a podcaster. There may be times where a blog happens to be the right tool for a specific application, but it isn’t the right tool for EVERY application. And while I personally get a great deal out of the blogging process, not everybody feels the same. Some of us are writers, some of us are speakers. Of course other people are readers and other people are listeners.
There are so many teachers out there that are cutting edge. They are using 3D models to represent fossils and ancient tools, or perhaps they are teaching lowerschool kids to create animations using Flash. Some teachers have taken claymation and turned it into an art form while others are having students use PowerPoint to create indepth cross sections of every muscle in the human body. However, those same people may not know the first thing about blogging or podcasting. Does that make them any less cutting edge? They could definitely teach me a thing or two.
Different strokes for different folks I guess. I believe that anybody can be a blogger. That doesn’t mean that everybody wants or needs to. I believe that blogging can be a tremendous asset to the classroom experience, but it doesn’t need to fit in to every lesson.
I’m not trying to diminish the role of blogging in education. I think the point you’re making, Will, is a very valid one. Many people get the ‘what’. But what’s still misunderstood to a large degree is the ‘why’. Personally, I’m not 100% that it needs to be all about blogging. Blogs are just one piece of the read/write/remix web. And for the most part, most of what people are doing with blogs are Old Things in New Ways (see Prensky’s recent article).
So while I disagree with the ‘journal’ type comments, I do understand where they’re coming from. Let’s be honest, most blogs that are out there do resemble the remark. In the grand scheme of things, it’s still a budding technology and it’s going to take quite a bit more time and blogvangelism before the educational community at large actually drinks the Kool-Aid. While people are now understanding what blogging is, but most are still figuring out where they should actually use it and why they should do so.
Will Richardson says
Thanks for adding your thoughts. I agree with almost everything you say. Not everyone is a blogger, thankfully. Teachers are doing great things with other technologies. Blogging doesn’t or shouldn’t be in every lesson. Blogs are just one small piece of the Read/Write Web. Amen to all of that.
I think the bigger point I was making, however, is that I wish people who don’t get the “why” wouldn’t try to answer the why question. And just because most blogs out there resemble that remark or that people are just doing old things in new ways doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold discussions and expectations about blogs to a high standard. (It precisely why we should.) These days, I get asked about all sorts of technologies, many of which I know I don’t “get” yet because I haven’t experienced them in meaningful ways. (Google Maps is a great example.) When I do, I try to say “I don’t know…you might want to ask ______.” When people who are at the forefront of classroom technologies start assessing tools they don’t fully understand, I think it can be a problem. Not saying that they don’t have a great deal to offer to our community…
Anyway, while I love blogs, I certainly know they aren’t going to save the world. And it’s the ability to create and publish that makes all of these tools important in different ways. There is transformative potential here…
Dean R Shareski says
It’s not so much about blogging as it is the conversation. I agree Steve that it may be podcasting for some and blogging for others. But simply presenting or speaking at conferences is not about a conversation. That’s what bothers me. That’s the part I think they don’t get. A keynote at a conference is not about a conversation. So whatever the tool is, I think it has to be about a conversation. I think blogging is the easiest way right now to make that happen. And I know there are those out there who don’t blog but comment and even are observing the conversation. That’s fine with me but those who are to be leaders in the field should be initiating conversations, not simply by writing books or articles but by participating in conversation….(did I use the word conversation enough for you?)
I hope we will get to the point where all teachers will understand the importance of Blogging, Wiki’s and Podcasting. It’s not the teaching of technology, its the use of technology to allow students and teachers to break down any of the impediments that have been keeping people from communicating with each other. All of the tools mentioned above allow teachers and students to meet the self-subscribed goals educational literature has been striving for over the past 25 years. 1) Getting kids to write with their own voice. 2) To get students to find their own truth through research and synthesize their own thoughts. I think using the terms ‘remixing’ (like in music) and ‘mashing’ make these tools and their effect that much greater.
Personally, I am trying to get these ideas happening at our school and create a critical mass where this will become the common place.
If you haven’t yet… watch the ‘Googlezon’ video. That will open some eyes.