Blogs as conversations

Blogs as conversations
Originally uploaded by jutecht.

Jeff Utecht used this diagram today in his post on the TechLearning Blog. He outlines the problem that most teachers I deal with have with blogging by saying that we have it all wrong if we think blogging is simply online journaling.

I was leading a group of teachers today through some of the basic facets of Web and School 2.0 (at least as I see them), and that point came up: How is blogging different than a journal or a bound notebook that they use as a record of their academic thoughts?

Aside from the obvious digital nature, here are a few key points I would use in that discussion:

  • hyperlinks– the act of writing in a blog is the prime example of connective writing. When I speak to students about linking within a wiki or a blog, I often show them the difference between two paragraphs: one with hyperlinks and one without. I ask them what makes the one with hyperlinks so different? Invariably, they say it gives them options. Linking within a blog gives the reader opportunities to explore and formulate opinions based on the original source–a veritable virtual tour of the topic at hand.
  • conversation– Jeff brings this up in his post as the main differing point between the two. The example I gave to the teachers I spoke with today was that last week I posted an appeal for opinions on what the most cogent points of Web 2.0 for teachers might be. The responses I received helped me shape the course that they were taking. I showed them my post, the responses, and the areas of the world from where the responses came. It’s not monologue that teaches us, I told them, it’s dialogue.
  • Reflection in regards to audience– I cannot speak for the rest of the blogosphere, however, when I write posts for any of my blogs, I am keenly aware of my audience in how I organize my thoughts. When I read any material, because I blog, I digest in a way that leans toward reflection and creation of content. I need to speak about what my processes are, what the world at large thinks of the ideas I come across, and how I can learn from greater minds, or at least the collective mind. A journal with no interaction does not give me that.

This point resonated with my teachers immediately:

You see the problem with blogs is we are not accustomed to conversations extending past 3 o’clock when the bell rings. We are not used to having conversations that include more than the 30 students in our class or can affect others in a different hemisphere.

especially after hitting them with Karl Fisch’s/Scott McLeod’s “Did You Know” video. I think teachers understand the need for an extension of the learning environment outside of the classroom, I mean that is why homework was created.


2 thoughts on “Blogs as conversations

  1. Patrick, you really do nail the pedagogical affordances that, in my book, only blogging offers to developing student literacy–writing AND reading.

    What I’m now experiencing with my own students is this: the idea of being writers is unsettling to them. After 9 years of schooling, they have only written homework and “schooly” writing assignments–have only been students, and never writers.

    So they are resistant to this shift. They don’t want to learn to be writers, because it’s harder. It makes them find their own ideas, instead of hacking out some tired exercise based on ideas that Teacher prescribed to them.

    So students have to be “professionally developed” as well as teachers into what the read-write web means for their learning. It’s new to them too, and just as uncomfortable.

    Which brings me back to your main point: the training I’m pushing on my students now is precisely what you highlight: reading with writing in mind; writing with an audience in mind; conversing with other writers and readers via comments; hyperlinking and connecting.

    Some get it faster than others. All need to hear this: we know you’ve never been a writer, and we know you’re a novice. We’re forgiving that way. This is a long-term journey you’re starting, so start where you are as a writer, and we’ll take you as far as we can in the coming years. Trust that you’ll grow.

    That sort of thing. Enjoyed your post.

  2. Clay,

    Glad you found something in it. I am going to take a page from your book and give you some headline action. Hope you don’t mind.

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