Blog On

One of the best ways to annoy me is to come up to me in mid-conversation with someone about the benefits of blogging and drop this line," Blogging. You've obviously got a lot of spare time." It annoys me on a number of levels. Firstly, because it dismisses blogging as frivolous and as a spare time hobby not worthy of serious time commitment. Secondly, it infers that I'm not working as hard as everyone else and have the before mentioned time to "fill". So what makes blogging, especially the educational type, so compelling to me?

A chance to reflect on my daily work. Since I started this venture last August, I have left signposts of my work along the way. I have thought back on successes, how I would do things differently, recorded steps in processes and resources that I have utilised in my classes. I can check exactly how I was travelling at a particular moment in time, and if I need to construct a report, all of my raw ideas and data are waiting to be moulded.

A chance to build valued connections with other educators globally. Through this medium I have had conversations with other bloggers from all sectors of education, from all corners of the world. I've commented on their posts and they have repaid me many times over with their observations, counsel and insight in my comments section. As I scan through my blogroll, I read online colleagues who have chosen to be a part of my professional learning. I wouldn't be presenting at CEGSA with Al if not for blogging or have met Bill Kerr. I wouldn't have crossed words with Alex or Leigh, or shared anecdotes with Doug from Alaska and Doug from Minnesota. My ideas and writings would not have been remixed in other blogger's posts - this helps to build on my understanding.

In a fortnight's time, Technology School Of the Future here are holding a Blogging Masterclass featuring the wonderful talents of James Farmer and Barbara Ganley. I'm going and I have heard that it is almost totally booked. Today I found the link to the official blog for the Masterclass put together as an example for the session. Before I stuck my big nose in, 16 people had already posted a response making the section read more like a forum. I'm glad this class is happening because I have some concerns about how blogs are viewed currently in our education system and the comments section reflect that to a certain degree. People seem to be worried about moderating and filtering, and that a platform that looks as good as WordPress does must be complicated, and only viewing as a vehicle for their students. My comment summed up my thoughts when I got to the end of the comments:

I’m really looking forward to the Masterclass but my initial response to this post (still very much like a forum, a blog in full flight has many different characteristics) is that we need to look at how we as educators can use this tool ourselves first before we think we are ready to plug it into classrooms. I strongly feel that unless you invest the time to really develop your own blogging skills, what hope do you have of using it to be a transformative tool in the classroom? There is so much opportunity using a blog to improve your practice in terms of gaining a better perspective of education globally, reflecting on your own work and making connections with others worldwide. You have to be a reader of other people’s blogs as well, otherwise you may as well write your thoughts up in a Word document. In summary, until you become aware of the power of a real audience that can potentially come with a blog, you won’t be able to harness that power effectively for your students and blogging runs the danger of becoming a short term gimmick. I think that Barbara especially will emphasize this point of view. See you all there.

I shouldn't be so concerned - after all, these are the educators keen enough to take time out of a busy term, grappling with common report expectations and surely, surely the light will click on as it has for me and the edublogosphere will benefit from their reflections, connections and participation. So blog on......

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12 thoughts on “Blog On

  1. Thomas Sheppard

    I like you comment about blogging and education. I am a tech teacher in a junior high and I am looking into using blogs in my class next year. I must admit my first thought (and those educators that I talk too about blogs) was about “moderating and filtering” concerns. My second was which blogs offer the best services for using blogs in the classroom. There is a lot of background work and practice needed before bringing it into the classroom.

  2. Terry Freedman

    People who make those sorts of comments would make them whatever the subject. It’s a reflection of them and their level of consciousness rather than a reflection of what they think about anything in particular. As the Sufi saying goes, “When a pickpocket looks at a Holy Man he sees only his pockets.”

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  4. Karyn Romeis

    Don’t forget to blog about what you learn at the masterclass so that the rest of us “with a lot of spare time” can learn vicariously from your experience!

  5. greg carroll

    I agree about the value of blogging to organise thinking and collate on-line resources, etc. I have been blogging as part of my role for most of this year. I have found it a great thing to be doing and is now very much part of my day – as is checking out my blogline.
    It is interesting the things that have been fed back to me that other people have found useful from my blog – cool feedback. The perpetual challenge is to get people to respond and contribute so it becomes a conversation and interactive rather than on-way.

  6. Graham Wegner

    Thanks to all of you for your comments – I now have more blogs to fit into my Bloglines account. The comments section of a blog is crucial to linking conversation and I think my post overlooks that important component to some degree. Comments alert the blogger to readers and their online spaces that might otherwise remain anonymous and I always think that if someone takes the time (not necessarily spare time!) to comment, it is my duty to take the opportunity to comment back with those readers. And as all of you have done, I should also let other bloggers that haven’t had previous interaction with me know that I’m reading by commenting on their posts. I am still constantly amazed that people (many of whom are in higher and more advanced employment than me) are reading the everyday trials, tribulations and thoughts of a local primary school based practitioner here in humble old unexotic Adelaide.

  7. Karyn Romeis

    Ah, but what you don’t realise, Graham, is that humble old Adelaide is most exotic to some of us!

    One of the seminal moments for me as an immigrant to the UK was to see fruit from my home country (South Africa) on the “exotic fruits” stand in the stores. What was also weird was that only some of the fruits appeared there: physalis, pineapple, papaya, mango, granadilla (passionfruit), litchi. Apples, oranges, pears, plums and bananas were together with the “normal” stuff. So what is the criterion for exotic? Some of the stuff you do will be normal to us, but some of it will be way out there. And the dividing line will differ from person to person.

    That’s the beauty of blogging your experience – you never know what someone else is going to find valuable.

  8. Al Upton

    Hi Graham, it’s wonderful to see you using your ‘spare’ time so productively, creating such a useful and reflective resource. I delight as you continue building your ever increasing network and profile as an educational blogger.
    Your post and its accompanying comments reflect well the value of using blogging to help develop educational dialogue.

    I wish you well Thomas as you consider using blogs in the classroom and dare advise you not to ‘hang back’ too much while the ‘background work and practice’ takes place before using it with the learning you’ll help facilitate.

    The Sufi saying via Terry is timeless (actually I suppose it isn’t:) and reminds me of the one where someone ill-informed (read ‘pickpocket’) can’t even see the Holy Man (‘forest’) for the trees. 🙂

    Thanks Karen. I feel better living and blogging in Adelaide. It’s also quite empowering to know that my blogging ‘diet’ and perspective (a great analogy) could be seen as exotic to (or even just contain some tasty tidbits for) others.

    Greg ‘the perpetual challenge is to get people to respond and contribute so it becomes a conversation and interactive rather than one-way’ Carroll is right-on-the-mark as well. So often I see visitor’s maps celebrating the number of global visits to a variety of blogs. Blog stats are held high and credibility claimed. Might they reflect reading/scanning/reflecting? Is that really the point? ‘I’m writing but is anyone reading?’ has been raised before. What are the implications for us as educators? How can we discern the relevance placed on this by our students? My kids seem to get a huge kick out of seeing themselves and their thoughts published on our blog.

    I think we need to delve more into this aspect of multifaceted blogging. Perhaps for our CEGSA presentation we can also consider the transformation of a read only web to read/write still lacks the other ‘R’ = ‘Respond’. [I’d claim these 3 R’s as original but reckon they aren’t and would love to see further discussion regarding them] I occasionally comment on others’ blogs but still spend literally hours most nights after school reading/writing and responding. Getting the balance right is the thing for me. In the classroom my kids are doing this increasingly right now. [check out their early attempts at http://alupton.wordpress.com/2006/05/30/leeroy-jenkins/ ] Working with the kids and exploring the potential of blogs better informs me as an educator. This in turn I share with other educators. Gently I hope there will be a transition to this dialogue happening more within and beyond a South Australian blogosphere.

    Graham, I always enjoy your thoughts as an educational blogger and contributions to blogging as professional learning. I think the balance we provide has great value. “You may as well write your thoughts up in a Word document” leads me to agree that it certainly is beneficial to be a reader of blogs. Many would say imperative.
    To further our discussion and presentation please allow me to insert IWB language for that of blogging in a quote from your post …

    “In summary, until you become aware of the power of a real audience that can potentially come with aN INTERACTIVE WHITEBOARD, you won’t be able to harness that power effectively for your students and INTERACTIVE WHITBOARDING runs the danger of becoming a short term gimmick.”

    How do we go about becoming aware of this power? 🙂

    I think there is a strong argument for educators (including leaders) developing their blogging skills and getting them happening at the same time in the classrooms enhancing the opportunity for students to connect with their learning.

    It’s a great debate and learning curve. I’m glad we’re on the same journey.
    Cheers, Al

  9. greg carroll

    Hi again….
    I don’t see the the clustr maps so much as a gimic as a tool for tracking audience. A good way to get a feel for who is interested and out there, and particularly interested enough to come back. I know for our kids at school the power of them came from seeing that there genuinely is an audience and that some of them know who a particular dot represents – family members etc.
    We ahve quite a proportion of ‘absentee parents’ and people with families all around the globe. They use the various web presences to keep track of what the children are doing. Thats the power of the technology!

    Whiteboards are becoming a bit of a fad here too and I like to remind people about a victorian era classroom and get them to make the comparison with an interactive WB. Some of the practices I see are not much different – real ‘sage on the stage’ stuff. In other cases they can be powerful facilitators of learning. It all depends on how they are used. They CAN just be a way of making average teaching a whole lot more expensive to run!

  10. Al Upton

    I agree Greg. There is a lot of value and power (empowerment) with the use of cluster maps. You give some good examples where additional information/evidence supports the use of them as a valuable tool. Often they could just indicate someone dropping in (deliberately or accidently) which, of course, is also part of the power of blogging. The awreness of and ability to track your audience is important.

    I still am raising questions re the predominance of ‘Add a comment’, ‘Be the first’ and ‘Comments (0)’ at the end of so many posts. Should it even be a concern that so many blogs aren’t attracting comments? Perhaps it’s enough to accept that blogs (and individual posts therin) serve a variety of purposes. Some seek/’require’ response and dialogue. Others are a record or reflection. More still are multifaceted etc

    BTW good comments re IWBs. I’m not agin them. I think they are part of the process as we move toward personalised interactive and individual tools for each student. For the analogy I could just as easily have used data projectors. I encourage educators to get blogs in the class and computer rooms (and as part of teacher good practice) asap seeking their potential as a learning and communcation tool in a variety of ways NOW. This of course includes and supports Graham’s comments re reading other blogs, investing time, developing skills, networking, thinking/acting globally etc Cheers, Al

  11. Rachel

    Hi Graham
    If only there was more time to keep up with blog stuff – reading & writing! I really value blogging for my professional learning – through reflection & sharing with others. I value it so much that i made it one of my professional learning goals in my annual performance appraisal – once i had explained to my boss what blogging was…

  12. Barbara Ganley

    Hi Graham,

    I’m glad that James pointed you out during today’s Masterclass and that you asked the question about teachers needing to blog, to understand blogging before they go about putting blogs into their classrooms. And I know that my fuzzy-five-a.m. head didn’t answer you very well. So now that it’s 12 hours later, I’ll try again.

    I agree. Absolutely. In principle. But I also think that it is okay for a teacher to blog alongside the students for a while, in a pilot project sort of way to try things out within the group situation before winging off onto his/her own blog–as long as the teacher is blogging in some way with the group, as long as the teacher is reading blogs and thinking about them. But you’re right, it is much better if the teacher has been trying out the feel of blogging before she pulls them into the classroom.

    I actually didn’t fire up my own professional blog, bgblogging, until the spring of 2004, and yet I had started blogging with and in my classes in the fall of 2001 by keeping a side-blog related directly to the course only, called bgdaily or bgnotes. And yes, I stumbled a few times along the way because I hadn’t embraced my own “real” blogging practice first. But I learned a whole lot from those mistakes, and I think I came to bgblogging when I was really ready to say something, to try to contribute to the wider conversation, and when my students asked me why I didn’t keep my own blog. Duh. I’m a real example, I guess, of “do what I say and not what I do”!

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