30 October, 2008


There is a problem that I see arising with blogs in the classroom. A problem that has many educators looking at blogging and not understanding why one would want to blog, how it benefits students and how it engages them in the learning process.

There is a problem with blogs: The word Blog is short for Web Logs or Web Journals. If we look at blogs as nothing more than an electronic journal and it only replaces the written journal, than I can understand why educators do not get how blogs work. Blogs as journals do not engage students any more in the learning process than a regular journal would. A journal is simple; a student writes, the teacher reads. An online journal is much the same. The students write on their blogs and the teacher and the world reads.

There is a problem with blogs: Blogs do not make the grading of journals any easier. In fact, many teachers find it more time consuming. Slow Internet speed, the constant clicking from one blog to the next or the typing of URL after URL reading blogs does not make the grading process an easier.

There is a problem with blogs: We cannot protect our students from ‘bad people.’ Anyone could stumble upon our student blogs and we are not sure if we want a stranger reading student journals. We do not know these people; we do not know where they are from, or what they do.

There is a problem with blogs: We do not understand them.

Anyone who has a blog understands that education has it all wrong. If you are not a blogger or are still trying to wrap your head around blogs in education, let me see if I can help.

The problem with blogs is that it is not about writing, it is about a conversation.
If you think of blogs as conversation vehicles, then it becomes easier to understand how blogs can be very powerful in education and the classroom. Too often, educators use blogs as a replacement for journals, when really what blogs should do is extend conversations from within the classroom to a wider audience. Those conversations should then be brought back into the classroom for further discussion. The word ‘blog’ might be short for Web Log, but the power of blogs is not in the writing, it is in the thoughts, the comments, and the conversation that they can start, sustain, and take into a million different directions.
Just because blogging is a writing activity, does not mean it is about writing. Blogs are about extending a conversation outside the walls of the classroom into a social-network where thoughts are shared with other classmates, other students, or yes even complete strangers. I have seen teachers give students an assignment on their blog to write the answer or their thoughts to a question in class, yet those thoughts, those conversations are not brought back into the classroom to enhance the conversation within. Sure, it is great to read how students answer a question, but if you do not bring the conversation that blogs start back into the classroom, they are no different from an assignment written on paper and handed in to the teacher for a grade.

The power of blogging comes in the conversations that can be carried on within them. Yet very few teachers give their students time to read, reflect, and leave comments during class or even as homework on other’s blogs. Yet those comments either made by classmates or by others, can deepen the conversations taking place within the class.

When blogs are viewed as a conversation vehicle, they bring on a completely new meaning to the term blogging. They no longer become journal assignments; they become thoughtful discussions that extend well after a lesson ends.

If you are blogging with your students, or you are thinking of blogging with your students, I encourage you to not think of blogs as a writing assignment, but instead to look at them as conversations. Conversations that can give you both feedback about a lesson, or continue a conversation well after a lesson has ended. Blogging brings a new dimension to the classroom. You cannot blog and not change the structure of your classroom. Two great examples of this are Mark Ahlness and Clarence Fisher, both of whom have seen blogging completely change the structure of their class.

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.

So really, there is not a problem with blogs, the problem lies in how we utilize the power of the conversations that they create to engage students in the learning process.


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