I was recently asked to give a rationale for educational blogging. I thought I’d share what I wrote and invite comment.

Blogs are reshaping our environment. They are beginning to emerge in large numbers in the educational field and offer great potential to transform learning and teaching. It is about new literacies appropriate for this time. The quote below comes from Don Leu, to be published soon in a book by the International Reading Association (http://www.sp.uconn.edu/~djleu/newlit.html) I feel it is a very appropriate focus as relates to the new literacies and blogging for educators. Donald Leu of Syracuse University expresses it far better than I ever could.

“The new literacies include the skills, strategies, and insights necessary to successfully exploit the rapidly changing information and communication technologies that continuously emerge in our world. A more precise definition of the new literacies may never be possible to achieve since their most important characteristic is that they regularly change; as new technologies for information and communication continually appear, new literacies emerge (Bruce, 1997; Leu, in press a; Reinking, 1998). Moreover, these changes often take place faster than we are able to completely evaluate them. Regular change is a defining characteristic of the new literacies. 
 
This simple observation has profound consequences for literacy and literacy education. The continuously changing technologies of literacy mean that we must help children learn how to learn new technologies of literacy. In fact, the ability to learn continuously changing technologies for literacy may be a more critical target than learning any particular technology of literacy itself.” 

There are many skills and concepts that need to be addressed to effectively help teachers learn to use blogs throughout their curriculum to foster these new literacies. It is not just a matter of transferring classroom writing into digital spaces. Teachers need to address writing for a public audience, how to cite and link and why, how to use the comment tool in pedagogical ways, how to read web materials more efficiently as well as explore other ways to consider pedagogical uses of blogs. Blogging requires us to teach students to critically engage media. Students need instruction on how to become efficient navigators in these digital spaces where they will be obtaining a majority of their information.
Blogging is educationally sound for teaching students because:

  • Blogs provide a space for sharing opinions and learning in order to grow communities of discourse and knowledge — a space where students and teachers can learn from each other.
  • Blogs help learners to see knowledge as interconnected as opposed to a set of discrete facts.
  • Blogs can give students a totally new perspective on the meaning of voice. As students explore their own learning and thinking and their distinctive voices emerge. Student voices are essential to the conversations we need to have about learning.
  • Blogs foster ownership and choice. They help lead us away from students trying to find what the teacher wants in terms of an answer.
  • The worldwide audience provides recognition for students that can be quite profound. Students feel more compelled to write when they believe many others may read and respond. It gives them motivation to excel. Students need to be taught skills to foster a contributing audience on their blog.
  • The archive feature of blogging records ongoing learning. It facilitates reflection and evaluation. One student told me that he could easily find his thoughts on a matter and he could see how his thinking had changed and why.
  • The opportunity for collective and collaborative learning is enormous. Students have the opportunity to read their classmates’ blogs and those of others. This is not possible in a regular classroom setting.
  • Blogging provides the possibility of connecting with experts on the topic students are writing.
  • The interactive nature of blogging creates enthusiasm for writing and communication.
  • Blogging engages students in conversation and learning.
  • Blogging encourages global conversations about learning–conversations not previously possible in our classrooms.
  • Blogging provides the opportunity for our students to learn to write for life-long learning.
  • Blogging affords us the opportunity to teach responsible public writing. Students can learn about the power of the published word and the responsibilities involved with public writing.