I’m still a little peeved at that Vermont school principal who says that blogging is not an educational activity. It’s just such an uninformed statement that I hope it’s a misquote. I’d bet the farm he’s never blogged, never commented, never even read a well designed classroom blog. Instead it’s a knee jerk, blanket assumption drawn from the bad habits of a few kids who have not been taught to do better. And there is enough blame for that to go around. But don’t blame the blogs. The fact is, Myspace is less a Weblog site than it is a community of adolescents making a lot of sexual innuendo who love the color pink. (I can’t even figure out how to post an entry to the account I just created there.) It’s journaling, flirting, posing…none of which comes close to what it means to blog.
What’s doubly ironic is that there is less and less doubt that writing ability is among the top factors in predicting a student’s success in college and afterward. To improve your writing ability you need to write consistently for real audiences. No tool that I know of does that better than Weblogs. In addition, bloggers improve their reading and critical thinking skills and become more information literate in the process. Blogging is most definitely an educational activity.
Blogs are getting a bad name in educational circles because those who disparage them think sites like Myspaces are representative of the technology and aren’t taking the time to understand their potential. We need to make the case more clearly that a) much of what is happening in these online writing spaces is clearly not best practice, but that b) best practices and real learning can occur when employed by teachers and students who have embraced blogging (v) and, finally, that we can c) keep our kids safe by practicing common sense, modeling appropriate use, and making sure our students understand the rules of the road.
Frank Whitestone says
I read your first piece on the school principle and agreed wholeheartedly with it. I decided to actually email him with the following email:
I read about your blogging ban in the Rutland Herald and thought you may be interested to read this blog posting below.
For what its worth, I think you have taken completely the wrong direction with your decision, and putting in place a ban is not really the right solution. Let’s be honest, banning access to blogging sites while at school is hardly going to stop kids publishing information on the internet. You will always be playing catch up with a list of banned websites, not to mention that are easy ways to circumvent blocked websites.
I think it is a shame that you missed a great opportunity to educate the kids about a) the education benefits of blogging, and b) safety issues on the internet.
A few hours later I received the reply which read:
I am not sure you understand what we have done here and have missed an opportunity to understand our school community.
Proctor Jr. Sr. High School
Proctor, Vermont 05765
Speaks for itself huh. I don’t think it’s a misquote as you say in your later posting, just the guy is very ignorant and narrow-minded of blogging technology and benefits.
Great blog, keep it up.
Will R. says
Thanks Frank. Actually I spoke to a friend today who said that a mother had come up to him before a presentation he was giving on blogs and said there was no way she would ever do blogs in schools because she saw what her son was doing on his. After his talk, she came back up and said her whole mindset had changed. The good news is that she was willing to listen. That doesn’t seem to be the case here.
It’s interesting that parents and administrators are so uptight about blogging, but it’s perfectly OK for kids to have their names/pictures in the newspaper…especially since most newspapers publish those same stories to the web!
I love the quote from the principal: “As soon as someone has a name and a general geographic location, it can take an Internet predator 20 minutes to find their address and directions to their house,” he said. “Any time a teen puts their own photo or biographical information on a Web site, it’s something that parents at least need to know about.” And we’re not putting that info in newspapers on a daily basis?? I wonder if he’s seen this article from Florida. It’s just a little ironic…
Will R. says
You want more irony? They’ve posted pictures and full names of all the basketball players on their site. Now I’m assuming parents know about this and that somehow makes it “different.” But if all it takes is name, location and 20 minutes, why would parents approve???
Robert Rozema says
I’ve been reading your blog for about a month now and really appreciate your advocacy of edublogging. My own English education students at Grand Valley State University (Allendale, MI) keep blogs to record their perspectives on class readings and the larger experience of becoming a teacher.
Your talk of “best practice” in blogging makes me think you might be interested in an article I’m currently working on, in which I align the best practice principles in writing (established by Hyde, Daniels, and Zemelman) with blogging. Bits and pieces of it are published on my own blog, http://2worlds.blogspirit.com, which is partially serving as a “back-up brain” as I formulate my argument.
Drop in and see what’s going on sometime.
Thanks for your work,
Will, I am appalled by this principal and I too sent him an email. I referred him to your site so that he could see for himself what educators are doing with weblogs. Whether or not he takes a gander at this site, I do not know. However, I for one am so thankful that I have a supportive principal who is willing to allow my students and myself to make this journey. In fact, my principal was even willing to take on the filter service that our state uses. I’m sure I wouldn’t find that in Vermont.
I’ve got to add one thing. I was looking at this school’s site and I noticed a principal’s report. This principal noted that “Technology has been a focal point this year.” Apparently he thinks buying a few computers means that they take technology seriously at their school. You can download this report at http://www.proctorhs.org/phs_links.htm