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.