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Why Teachers and Schools Should be Blogging 12 April, 2008

Posted by paralleldivergence in blogging, Brad & Phil, children, education, Internet, Life, My Thoughts.
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MANY of our students leave school in the afternoon and go straight on-line as soon as they get home. They immediately start chatting with their friends on MSN, often holding down multiple conversations at the same time, seamlessly changing subjects and maintaining discussion threads as they swap from one chat window to the next.  Their typing speed continually improves and in just one on-line session, they might type more text than they handwrite during their lessons at school in a whole day.

When there’s a break in the discussions, they’re busy updating their MySpaceFacebook or Bebo sites to let all their friends know what their day was like and what plans they have for the week ahead.  In the wheat field of six-billion people on the planet, these individual children have a voice, a profile and a status – identified by the number of on-line “friends” they’ve accumulated.

So what part are the teacher, the school and even the parent playing in this scenario? Unfortunately, very little. The parent’s main assistance is the provision of the computer and the internet access – but what their children are using the resource for is totally beyond them – as long as it keeps them quiet. To the teachers and the school, this is something very foreign. To the student, school means having to “power-down”.

But it isn’t all rosy for the students. Issues such as cyber-bullying show that students do not use the social web as appropriately as they should - or could. Without any guidance from parents and schools, students are busy publishing without being aware of the ramifications of their publishing. And a potentially global audience is overwhelmingly underestimated by our children.

Teachers and schools have been busy shielding children and teaching them how to avoid inappropriate content on the web – when the real need is to teach them how they can publish appropriate content themselves.

But how can teachers achieve this if they don’t model it themselves? How can schools be relevant to students if the education they provide is a world apart from the one students actually live in?

Using blogs in schools is an achievable step that teachers can take that will allow them to practically demonstrate responsible publishing with students. It can be the catalyst for starting discussions about issues surrounding the social web while at the same time taking the classroom to the outside world and bringing the outside world into the classroom. Have a read of “The Trouble with Web 2.0” for more.

With a little planning, a class blog can be created to provide your students with an opportunity to globally publish their best work. The blog then becomes a motivational tool in the teacher’s kit that sits alongside more traditional teaching methods.  And of course, the blog is just the start. As well as posting writings and artworks, the class blog can host student videos, podcasts and presentations, making it a true multimedia prosumer resource.

If your school isn’t using blogs as an educational activity, what aspect of the read-write web are you using?

Part Two: Getting Started with Class Blogs
Part Three: Still Interested in a Class Blog?

Brad & Phil #25

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Comments»

1. Emily F - 12 April, 2008

We really need to get this message out to schools. In my state, school education is truly in the dark ages. Sure, we have computers, but almost no teachers use them educationally. They have been a real waste of money for the government without major efforts spent in changing teacher perceptions, skills and the curriculum they are forced to teach. This is a start and we have to start somewhere.

2. Janet Free - 13 April, 2008

Great article PD. There has alwasy been a concern abotu teachers who publish blogs on their own, but I suppose that some concern should really apply to everybody – what is someone in “authority” allowed to post? But you’ve turned the concept on its head here and brought the blog into the classroom as a class resource. I think it should be a REQUIREMENT that all teachers blog. Now what we need is the educational authority to provide us with an effective, supported, safe blogging platform to work with!

3. Brad Hart - 14 April, 2008

I think a lot of teachers miss a great opportunity to connect and further their own goals by staying out of online activities. Not only are they not connected and knowledgeable about what their students are into they lose a valuable communication tool and lack any sort of insight into the generation of kids in front of them.

4. The Other Blog » Blog Archive » » links for 2008-04-14 - 14 April, 2008

[...] Why Teachers and Schools Should be Blogging « Parallel Divergence (tags: blogging education) [...]

5. paralleldivergence - 14 April, 2008

@Emily F – It really is all about the people and not the computers. Governments keep buying computers because to the electorate, it seems like what schools need to be seen to be getting. But until we can teach the teachers and school administrators why and how they should be using ICTs, it will alwys just be a waste of money.

@Janet Free – Yes, some education authorities do frown upon teachers stepping outside their defined boundaries, but the point is that is exactly what we NEED them to do!

@Brad Hart – I think what needs to change is the curriculum – whilst ever it’s rigid and referring to contexts, teachers will hide behind their security blankets of blackline masters and teacher reference documents. Curricula needs to refer to concepts only and be much more open in nature.

Thank you all for your comments. This post is now a podcast over at the new Podcast Lane site: http://podcastlane.wordpress.com/2008/04/14/why-teachers-and-schools-should-be-blogging/

6. Podcast Lane - 15 April, 2008

..and what an excellent podcast it is too!

7. graeme - 20 April, 2008

The problem with blogs is the child-protection issue. See “This blog has been disabled in compliance with DECS wishes (Department of Education and Children’s Services – South Australia)” at

http://alupton.edublogs.org/

-graeme

8. paralleldivergence - 21 April, 2008

Hi Graeme. Thanks for the link. It certainly is a sad state of affairs from an Education Authority that clearly has little understanding of the benefits of the class blog Al Upton produced and the measures he took to protect his students’ privacy. There’s a good podcast here supporting the issue of student security and privacy:

http://podcastlane.wordpress.com/2008/04/20/students-blogging-in-class/

9. Getting Started with Class Blogs « Parallel Divergence - 21 April, 2008

[...] Tags: blogs, classroom, education, schools, students, Web 2.0 trackback In the article “Why Teachers and Schools Should be Blogging“, I discussed the reasons and benefits of blogging in the classroom, but for the [...]

10. Still Interested in a Class Blog? « Parallel Divergence - 22 April, 2008

[...] I’ll assume you’re still interested in creating a class blog at your school. In part one, we concentrated on WHY teachers and schools should be blogging. In part two, we looked at WHAT had [...]

11. Liam Alexander - 30 April, 2008

I’ve been involved in interactive online activities for some time now. I agree there is a definite need to engage students and educate them in using web 2.0 features, but I’m not sure blogging is an appropriate classroom activity. To me it just seems too public. Why do students’ ideas needs to be accessible to the online world? Considering the lack of understanding most teachers seem to have it seems a possible recipe for disaster.

For many years I used yahoo groups as an interactive online tool for my students. I could control what the public could see, who could respond, what was displayed etc. Other teachers at my school used MSN groups. The DET has now blocked these features. I now use a bulletin board (SMF) which I host on my own domain. It’s very popular with kids and a convenient way for me to distribute notes etc. I have complete control over the whole thing and won’t let people I don’t know post. Most boards are only available to those logged in.

Blogging has become incredibly easy. No technical knowledge is required; so what do students actually learn by doing it? Bulletin boards are also easy, but using a little code can make a post much more interesting. Sure, students can write about social issues, but would I hand out their written work to passers by in the street? A class blog seems akin to this.

The NSW Police release information for kids as podcasts, but how many kids actually listen to them? They’re much more interested in Snoop Dog’s latest or whatever happens to be currently cool (definitely not the police). This initiative shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the medium. Just because you’re using a popular technology doesn’t mean your content will be popular. The subversive nature of content that interests many teenagers is a large part of its appeal.

Sorry this post sounds so critical, but I’m quite prepared to be enlightened.

12. paralleldivergence - 4 May, 2008

Hi Liam. You raise many of the issues that teachers in general seem to feel – “what’s the point?”. In this series of articles, I’m referring to class bogs rather than individual student blogs. I believe there is a place for individual student blogs, but I don’t think most teachers are ready for them. Firstly, the kids are already “blogging”. MySpace, Facebook, Bebo etc. By having the teacher and the class blogging, we start to model appropriate and responsible self-publishing. But many teachers are under the impression that the blog is just an electronic journal – and you’re right! Who wants to read the electronic journal of a classroom? What I’m referring to is far from a journal. The whole point of blogging is to connect to others. We’re all here to raise and discuss different points of view. Widespread communication is the key to a good blog – you have to attract a readership and generate commentary. This is not a simple skill to teach and responding appropriately is a valuable lesson to learn. I’ll be discussing this a lot more in my next post.

13. Liam Alexander - 4 May, 2008

Hi Stu, “What’s the point” is not the meaning I was trying to convey. As a computing teacher I’ve been using web based resources with some level of intereactivity for years and as I said; they’re very popular with students.

What I’m questioning is the public nature of blogging. Does the general public need to see the work of a class? Commenting, responses, polls etc. etc. can be carried out within a secure system only open to users with a login. This seems to me a safer and more responsible method.

Regards, Liam

14. paralleldivergence - 4 May, 2008

Yes it can Liam, but it’s a two-way street. We also want the class to read other blogs critically and to comment on their articles. If it was a “closed” network just within a school, I’d question the value (and the purpose of doing it at all – when you can just talk face to face. If it were closed to say all schools in the whole department of education, then yes, that would be great, but at present it doesn’t exist. Our students are Web 2.0-ing in the real world now and our schools are not modelling it in any way and are not giving them the guidance that they need. Taking classrooms to the world and bringing the world into the classroom are REAL experiences we can provide our students today. They don;t need sheltering, they need guidance and direction.

15. Liam Alexander - 5 May, 2008

Hi Stu, I see what you mean. If properly managed I can see projects like this being of great value. Another problem however is the number of obstacles the DET puts in place. As someone with some knowledge of computing, I can usually find a (legal) way around things that are blocked, functions that are unavailable etc. The average teacher finds these things very frustrating: they throw their hands up in disgust and there it ends.

The Rudd government is now proposing filtering at an ISP level. While I have no desire to see inappropriate content on the net, I am concerned that such filtering will also restrict legitimate and useful resources, just as the DET portal does.

If the management of student’s internet access is not approached in a more workable way, I can’t see ideas like yours delivering the full benefit. They’ll be doing their true ‘Web 2.0ing’ s soon as they go home to an unrestricted connection.

16. paralleldivergence - 5 May, 2008

Yes Liam, I very much agree that Education Authorities need to be more open-minded about Web 2.0. The vast majority have a block-mentality because they are not yet ready to manage Web 2.0 properly. All we can do is keep chipping away at them.

17. Rashid Faridi - 20 July, 2008

great article indeed.

18. Podcast Lane - 31 July, 2008

Here’s a great post full of links aimed a teachers wanting to know more about teachers blogging. And who are they by? Teachers who blog.

http://www.teachingtips.com/blog/2008/06/30/50-must-read-up-and-coming-blogs-by-teachers/

19. Del.icio.us links for 2008-04-14 :: The Other Blog - 22 October, 2008

[...] Why Teachers and Schools Should be Blogging « Parallel Divergence (tags: blogging education) [...]


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