Why do you want to use blogs with students?
First off – thanks for a great masterclass. Inspirational PD comes few and far between for the jaded but last night has me firing.
James has thrown me the challenge – to see what emerges from sidelining the discuss.forum and use blogging for all communication. I’m almost prepared to do it but I’m a tad anxious that it might get messy because of potentially conflicting needs. We run specific ‘just in time’ tasks’ – eg. a great newspaper article appears, we put it up with the expectation that all will respond to it in the forum during that week. We run a number forums at the beginning of the year to encourage students to use the ‘langauge’ of the subject and have practice articulating some of the more difficult concepts they are faced with. This is the sort of thing I can see would work well in a blog – perhaps even better as individual reflection. At present I get them to use the blogs for a mixture of new info they find and personal musings. I’m also interested in building in more self reflection about how they learn and self assessment activities – the blog would be great for this too. However, I imagine this will create a monster but then i’m unclear about the ‘mother’ angle. By the way I’m in distance education so don’t enjoy the luxury of f2f contacts – meaning online is vital.
One thing with which I didn’t concur – that teachers need to be bloggers themselves to have authenticity/credability with students. This might be all very well in pedagogical utopia but in the real world its not possible and it would be unfair to expect that teachers are aufait with a technology before they use it with students. We all know that there wouldn’t be a computer in schools if that were the premise on which we embark on innovation and change. Most of learn as we go, stumbling and lurching and we get there in the end. All hail those with balance in their lives! 🙂
PS: I’m now going to our ‘OAC Teachers Only’ site to blog the notes from last night’s session. A few of us are using this medium to document our teaching/learning ideas as a way to share what we encounter and keep track of the bits that will add to the whole. Its also a way to get more teachers to take a look at a blog.
I’m going to be like a dog fighting over a bone but I have to strongly restate my comment from last night that it is important that teachers have experienced blogging prior or at the least, make a commitment to participating in the journey alongside of the students. I don’t live in pedagogical utopia and I have the same number of hours in the day as everyone else and I haven’t delved into student blogging yet because I want to be sure of my reasons for getting the kids on board and make sure that all the true benefits of blogging (connecting to others, reflection, access anytime anywhere) can be implemented. I’m not sure if I understood the “in the real world it’s not possible” statement – blogging can be very opportunistic and not reliant on carving out a big chunk of time. I am not having a go at anyone for disagreeing but from my viewpoint, having invested the time to become a blogger, make connections and broaden my educational perspective globally means I don’t want to shortchange any students by using such powerful personally centred technology for trivial or lip service purposes.
You’ve made some interesting points Graham and there is no doubting the value of a teacher’s investment in taking the time to investigate and experience the technology to then give their students the maximum from the outset.
I guess I’m hoping for some acknowledgement that there is more than one way to reach the goal of providing worthwhile learning opportunities.
It seems that I, like many others, will take the journey along side their students in that we will learn with them as we go and be prepared to accept that at first it won’t be perfect but with each time we will get better at providing the structure and facilitation (cognitive and teacher presence) to make it really hum.
Perhaps its a reflection of my own learning style but I’m a great believer in trial and error as a way to gain confidence and become aware of the often, unanticipated possibilities that technology can offer. I certainly reiterate that if I had waited to develop my own proficiency over the years I might wound up doing very little. From the way my students are using the blog at present I can see possibilities for how I might take adantage if it to support them better. Had I begun with a clearer intent I may have missed this opportunity.
Couldn’t agree more – some of us who have seen “the blogging light” can get a bit on their soapbox at times. Personally, I just want to teachers to see beyond blogs as a tool for just students and maybe they’ll dabble along the side because the amazing, transformative way your own learning can open up using a blog can open happen if you do as James suggested, “create your own personal space.” Look through my blog and you will see a learning journey where my interaction with other educators all over the world (restricted to English speaking, I will admit) has opened up my perspective, solved problems for me and enabled the professional dialogue that so many teachers nowadays complain that they never get enough of. Sure, craft a blog alongside of your kids but consider the possibility that there might something of immense value in it for you as a professional and as a person. Believe me, it’s a way to feel like you’re not just making up the numbers in the system. Whew! Better calm down and get back to other school related matters.
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I’d also ask the question: what responsibility do we have to our students to engage them with tools in which we personally have no interest? Should a teacher who has no interest in becoming a blogger his/herself, deny his/her students access? If we are considering ‘personalised learning’ for our students then blogs may be just the tool that will best met the needs of a small number of students. We need to be open to a wide range of ICT resources that best meet the needs of our students. As Annie mentions, we should of course invest time and endeavour to learn about the tools our students choose to use, just as a good English teacher endeavours to read the novels that his/her students select for their independent studies.
I have spent years convincing teachers to be risk takers – to allow their students access to technologies sooner rather than later. We certainly don’t want teachers to be an ‘expert’ using each form of ICT before allowing their students access.
I agree with Annie that teachers and students can learn together – no doubt some teachers, with the fullness of time, may then see real meaning for blogs in their own professional and personal lives.
The Masterclass was absolutely inspiring. Barbara’s philosophy of entrusting the group to create the boundaries feeds perfectly into my philosophy of learners being responsible for their own learning. I am inspired to establish a blogg in my Yr4/5 classroom at Yankalilla. The metacognion/reflective facility is a component I am particularly interested in. Just a fantastic session. Not to mention the technology that linked us, at Yankalilla to Hindmarsh, Melbourne, Vermont. I feel part of a global teaching, learning and thinking community that will make a difference to my core business-children and their learning. More please?
In response to Karen, Annie and Graham, I always share the journey with my learners. We reflect on what works for us as a learning community and collectively build on our discoveries. My learners are brave and courageous risk takers, especially with technology, and I learn right along with them. As an adult facilitator I aim to provide a framework for success, but I also provide space for, and an ethos of, learning from every challenge. I totally resonated with Barbara’s philosophy and believe I would be holding my students (and myself) back if I believed I needed to have expert status in all new technologies. We are all constructvist learners in a safe and honouring learning environment.
My issues have less to do with the technologies than the purposes they will be used for. James pointed out that blogs as a technology are subversive and that is true, but they are a technology but blogging is a social practice. So my point about being a blogger first before using it with students has got nothing to do with mastering the software. We can’t treat blogs as yet another thing on an ICT continuum – that’s the big issue with social software, be they wikis, blogs, social bookmarking, rss start pages or other Web 2.0 applications, they are a whole new ball game in interacting on the web. Students used to just view the web – in fact, in most schools that’s all that happens – but in their own time, they are contributing to the web quite often without any awareness of the possible consequences. So, it is imperative that educators come to grips with all of this and know what is going on and work out how are they going to model/teach/implement these relatively ways of communication. My answer to Karen’s question is that we can’t afford to not take an interest in these tools. I’m not saying we have to be experts before we implement – but – we must understand what we are implementing and what the benefits will be for the students. I blogged the day after the Masterclass and got a trackback within 12 hours from a teacher in Alaska, who critiqued my post and the comments I and others had left here. That is the power of blogging – it is extremely powerful – in fact I urge you to read Doug’s post because he makes some great points. Now normally, I would remix someone else’s writing in a post on my own blog but this is part of this conversation so here is an excerpt of his post:
As soon as you start a blog you are confronted with a series of questions that demand answers. For example:
* “Should I blog anonymously?”
* “What should I write about?”
* “How much of my personal business should I reveal?”
* “Can I say anything I want?”
* “Who will read this stuff?”
* “What if I get a comment I don’t like?”
* “Why don’t I get comments?”
These are not technical problems. They are decisions about how to act.
How will you advise your students what to do and how to answer these questions if you haven’t worked out your personal stance on them?
I have to respectfully disagree with Susan’s last statement – your classroom may well be the safest place for risk taking but the web is not. You have to be at least ahead of the group of kids crossing the road metaphorically. You have to be aware of what could potentially be beneficial and what could be harmful. That’s why I’ve been a bit hesitant with blogging with my own students. There are many successful teachers using blogs and blogging with their students – I’ve yet to find one who isn’t a blogger themselves. I’m happy to be corrected and I might sound like a wet blanket. Hey, I’m no expert but I like to think that I’m scouting out ahead for my colleagues and my students and being aware is more than agreeing to go on the journey with your students. Also, why would you advocate a risk for your students you aren’t prepared to take?
The subversive nature of Social Software and the ability of the User to direct and control the way in which it is used is well illustrated in the debate raging about group blogs. Maybe we should invent some new terms to cover the subverted use of Blogs. A group blog could be a Glog. I am amused that we are debating whether a Blog should be used in a particular way rather than concentrating on the educational outcomes that have been achieved by fellow educators. We are all learners and as we journey through this maze we are looking out for strategies that enhance and amplify learning. I think it is important that we acknowledge the genesis of blogs. Farmer states blogs are “tools of centred communication”. Some believe this is where they should remain, but others have observed the evolution of these tools in other directions. I may be seen as naive but I think we must be prepared to embrace change and use these tools in creative and variable ways that match the needs of our learners and purpose.
Ah great lessons from comics, and they are always pointing out the obvious.
Whoops wrong article,
A lecturer blog would be great if it was properly maintained and up to date (not likely, being a blog and all) and if students actually visited it and commented and grew an active conversation (possible, might or might not work). If you start a conversation with people from all over the world though, it could definitely be interesting.