Category Archives: Pedagogy

Rationale for educational blogging

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.

A special welcome to EDLA 7550 Class Members

I want to welcome you to the world of educational blogging. You are about to enter a journey that will take your learning to new heights. I am so impressed with your professor’s blog, Bridging Literacies. The objectives she has listed on her welcome post are excellent. I have to admit though that this one filled me with delight:

To model to our students meaningful, respectful, and thought-provoking collaborative learning with modern technology tools;

Now I know that you are on the path to becoming a teacher and may not have given a lot of thought to the importance of modeling for your students but you have a wonderful opportunity here to create a vibrant example of learning for your future students and your future colleagues. You can create a community of learning unlike any you have had before. It is in your hands. I know you will rise to the occasion! It is an opportunity that not many students at the university level get.

I can’t wait to show your blogs to my elementary students. They will be most anxious to comment on your blogs. They are always most interested in what “teachers” and “teachers-to-be” are learning and thinking. I can’t tell you what it means to them to see their learning talked about in respectful and insightful ways by other students who could even one day be their own teacher!

Course educational blogs have distinct purposes. Educational blogging is positive, transformational technology that should not be confused with social sites like Myspace. They serve different purposes. The best educational blogs are rich in ideas and set the stage for active exchanges and critiques.

Your professor has put a great deal of thought into the development of the criteria for your assignment with blogs. This is so commendable and exciting to me. You will be using the power of technology to enable deeper learning. Educational blogs should set an example of learning for others to follow. Your professor is entering new territory herself with her willingness to explore the pedagogical promise in blogging. Join her in making the journey one to celebrate!

You will be writing your thoughts about what you are learning. You will be contributing your ideas. You may provide links that add to the conversations. In turn, your colleagues will be doing the same. You get to reflect about your own thoughts as you pass them through the light of your class members’ postings. Then all of this is open to a much larger community and other readers will join the conversations. Making your thoughts explicit moves the discussion beyond the literal. Blogging leaves a record of the conversations and learners can return to posts to reconsider and improve their own understandings. Blogging can be a powerful tool for discovering and developing meaning. Enjoy the journey!

Blogs and Pedagogy

The Wikipedia definition of pedagogy is the art or science of teaching. Pedagogy is also sometimes referred to as the correct use of teaching strategies. I also found these definitions of pedagogy on the web. There are several at this link.

This one resonates with me:

The strategies, techniques, and approaches that teachers can use to facilitate learning.

I particularly like this definition. Facilitating learning is our job. As I have been exploring the world of blogs over the past four years, I believe that my strategies, techniques, and approaches have improved due to the very nature of blogs. I’ve tried to capture the right word for these “pieces” of blogging that enable us to improve our instruction, techniques and strategies in ways that are not possible without the tool. In a way it’s like a new approach to learning that has been given to those of us who teach. I’ve called these pieces components, attributes, aspects, traits, elements. None seem to fit perfectly but I think attributes comes closest.

These attributes foster the promise of good pedagogy. Blogs are unique in the ways they offer teachers incredible possibilities to build on the pedagogy

For instance, blogs can provide an opportunity to change our writing instruction to make it more meaningful and relevant for our students. Many times our classroom assignments are assignments where students reiterate or restate information they have read with an occasional opinion. Generally just the teacher will see the paper. Blogging lets many more become engaged. Blogging can be a place where we can make connections and dig deeper into how and what we are learning, both student and teacher. Sharing these thoughts and discoveries with others builds networks of learning that can cross continents. We get to toss our ideas out, have reactions to them, receive suggestions to build upon them and many more become involved in the process. It becomes more personalized and certainly more meaningful. Students are creating meanings that make sense to them because they are constructing them, not having pieces delivered to them that they just repeat.

Blogging has helped me view each of my students as constructors of knowledge who need frequent opportunities to be involved in the process of creating meaning. Blogs can be short, quick writes that give them the practice they need to learn from putting their thoughts down and then engaging in the dialogue about the process, both online and in the classroom…

So on to the attributes of blogging that show promise for developing our pedagogies in whatever content area we teach:

Audience & Comments Having a worldwide audience who can read what students write brings forth recognition for students that can be quite profound. Students are used to the teacher being the only audience for their work. The realization that others think that what they have to say is important is empowering. They are amazed. I recall one student whose highlight for the year was having a high school student say that his writing made a difference. In another scenario I had a group of elementary students who were concerned that their writing would not be good enough for a group of high school students who were reading their blogs. It’s not that they didn’t want to try but what was important to them is that their writing be good in the eyes of their audience. We cannot create that with an audience of one.

Voice – Blogging can give students a totally new perspective on the meaning of voice. They can 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 give students a place for that voice to be heard by many. Many students that would be hesitant to speak in a classroom will share their ideas on a blog.

Conversations & Dialogue – The dialogue that goes on in our classrooms about our learning through blogging is the key to getting conversations and then postings that promote critical thought by students. Here the teacher is the catalyst for helping develop an atmosphere that encourages and respects the learner and their ideas. Ideas have to be nurtured, explored and discussed. Blogs put us on a learning path together with our students where we can shape new learning environments for the future. Blogs also offer incredible opportunities for dialogue and the social construction of meaning.

Ownership & Choices – Blogs help lead us away from students from seeking to find what the teacher wants in terms of an answer. Students feel more compelled to write when they believe many others may read and respond. They want to do better. Giving students a choice in making their own connections about their learning on blogs paves the way for blogs to be constructivist tools for learning. These attributes are compelling and powerful motivators that help us shape the pedagogy.

Archives – Having records of the learning that is ongoing facilitates learning and evaluation in a much easier and efficient matter. One student put it to me that he could easily find his thoughts on a matter and he could see how his thinking had changed and why. This lets us approach evaluation in reflective ways.

So in closing I’d like to share one of my previous posts that speaks to pedagogy and is my vision of one way blogging could really make a difference.

Picture tomorrow’s schools…

My day began by reading this quote…..

“Write daily for 15 to 30 minutes. Many scholars believe that writing requires big blocks of time. They’re wrong. Research shows that scholars who write daily publish far more than those who write in big blocks of time. The problem with big blocks of time is that they’re hard to find. In contrast, when you write daily, you start writing immediately because you remember what you were writing about the day before. This leads to impressive production. “

This came from Tomorrow’s Professor Mailing list. The author is Tara Gray. This reading led me to this thought and hope….

Picture tomorrow’s schools. At schools across the nation writing is considered of paramount importance. The day begins with everyone writing on their own personal school blog. The first 15 minutes of each day is reserved to reflect on what they have learned, what they wish to learn, or to explore some aspect of their learning. Teachers, staff and administrators do the same. Writing is valued by our society. Time is provided for discussion about what is learned from the writing. Blogs are viewed as places to have honest, open dialogue about issues of the day. Writing helps the students become better readers and thinkers. Students and teachers are learning from each other as they reflect critically from available information and understandings. Assessments of student learning are easily made through these blogs so the need for standardizing testing as a single unit to measure achievement has been eliminated, Previous time spent testing is now spent writing

I would welcome any ideas, inspirations, thoughts you’d like to share about the attributes of blogging that show promise for developing our pedagogies to facilitate learning.