Words To Live By

Inside the ring or out, ain't nothing wrong with going down, it's staying down thats wrong. (Muhamed Ali)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Case Study 2

Why blog?
What’s the big deal about blogging? After all, we’ve been able to find and read information online for a long time now. And, if you know how, anyone can create a webpage and post information to the world. So why is everyone so excited about blogging?

Blogging, is part of a new phase of the Internet because of its interactive nature. Anyone can both read and post their own ideas onto a blog, and you don’t have to know html code or learn to use expensive software to do it. Blogging allows sharing and collaboration instead of one person serving as the “great and almighty imparter of knowledge." It can provide a real audience for student writing.

Anyone can read or post? But isn’t that dangerous?

Certainly we have all read or heard horror stories about bad guys who misrepresent themselves to get personal information or teens who reveal too much information/include inappropriate photos/slander their classmates/etc. on sites such as “myspace”. And yes, these are scary incidences and not to be taken lightly.

But does that mean we should avoid using blogs with our students for good, positive, educational purposes?

First, a reality check:
Whether we incorporate web technology into education or not, students are already out there blogging, instant and text messaging, emailing, and so forth. The only demographic more involved in social technology than adolescents are the 20-somethings.(Pew Charitable Trust). So if our students aren’t already blogging, they will be soon! And often, they are making poor choices in how they go about this.

Our students are living in a world where they will continue to have more and more powerful communication tools. Isn’t it our responsibility to teach them how to use these tools for positive, productive purposes while helping them learn how to navigate through these technologies while also protecting themselves?

“One of the reasons we fear blogging technologies is because we as teachers don't yet understand them or use them. But the reality is that our students already do. It's imperative that we be able to teach our kids how to use the tools effectively and appropriately because right now they have no models to follow.” (Richardson)

Of course, it’s also wise to set safeguards in place for students’ protection. Many blogs have controls that allow monitoring at varying levels. And, of course, vigilance on the part of those of us who host blogs is a necessity.

But it’s unnecessary and unwise to throw out this powerful educational tool out of fear.

Some are suggesting that those of us who are educators need to involve ourselves in exploring the use of Web 2.0 technologies for our own lives and purposes. Viewing ourselves as learners, as we discover the value these tools can have in our own lives, we’re less likely to fear them and more inclined to see effective and powerful uses for them. One comment on Will Richardson’s blogging post entitled, “Why is it so hard for educators to focus on their own learning,” from teacher John Gale states:

As an outsider beginning to work in K-12 for the first time a few years ago, I noticed the same thing. Most teachers did not want to learn using the same methods that “best practice” suggested that they should want their students to learn. They weren’t walking the walk.
Teacher/Astronaut Barbara Morgan has an interesting comment on this, answering a question about why she stayed in the shuttle program after the Challenger accident, she said because she wanted to model for her students what grownups do when there are problems and difficulties; that they don’t (some of them, anyway) just quit.
So what I try to do now in teaching teachers is to model problem-solving and self-directed active learning, and then explicitly meta-talk about the modeling (”What did we do when we didn’t know how to …”) in the hope that they’ll do the same when they get back to their classrooms.” (Richardson).

Perhaps he is right. The first step for us educator-types is to immerse ourselves in the power of blogging and other social technologies in order to better understand their power –the learning, collaboration, and articulation that can come from using these new mediums.

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