A Blogger Looks at 50 (All Apologies to Jimmy Buffett)

A Blogger Looks at 50 (All Apologies to Jimmy Buffett)

A number of educators in my school are beginning to look at how blogging could enhance the learning landscape of the classroom. As a passionate blogger and one that believes in their power to transform learning, it comes as no surprise that my excitement level is on overdrive these days. However, it has also given me a chance to reflect and revisit articles that have shaped my thinking on blogging in the classroom — a trip down bookmark lane that continues to drive my thinking!

Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude

Sometime in 2002, I began what I thought to be blogging only to find myself deleting my it and restarting three times that year. Honestly, I don’t think I understood blogs. No, I know I didn’t understand blogs. For me, they were a replacement for journals in the classroom and nothing more.

Within a year, I knew something wasn’t working and began to reevaluate whether I had bought into the hype. Blogs weren’t working for me. Blogs sure weren’t working for my students. I just kept saying “why am I doing this? It isn’t doing anything for my students and their growth”. Staring at my motto Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude, I knew something had to change.

For months, I tore through every article on blogging and began emailing anyone that would listen to my concerns and the answers came, the power came, and the realization came. The realization that my students were blogging. I was blogging. However, we weren’t transforming because I was blogging to be blogging not really shifting my practices and focusing on how blogs are a way to strengthen students’ 21st Century Skills.

It had all become so clear. I had found what it really meant to be blogging and I never looked back in integrating transformative blogging into the classroom.

A Blogger Looks at 50

While I’ve often fought some of the various uses and ways people have come to see blogs (journals, discussion areas, Q&A forum, etc), it is simply part of the process for some teachers when beginning to blog.

Today, my energy today is focused on helping new teachers to avoid these early roadblocks and on helping those facing the roadblocks to shift their focus to transformative blogging. Thus, in the spirit of helping our teachers begin to focu on blogging as a transformative piece in the classroom and not just another tool, here are 50 key reads for teachers new to transformative blogging. For most articles, I’ve put a direct quote from it as a little taste of what to expect.

Obviously, this list isn’t inclusive and is more about what has and continues to shape my thinking in this area or shaping my thinking today. In fact, many are from years ago but still hold foundational value to me and hopefully will help others in beginning to formulate their approaches.

  1. Pedagogical Underpinnings of Blogs in the Classroom: “The trick is to weave the learning and the tool so seamlessly together that the blog is the class and the class finds the blog indispensible.”
  2. Blogs are Not The Enemy: “If we look at blogs as nothing more than electronic journals—replacing written journals—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.”
  3. Blogging and Pedagogy: “Blogs are unique in the ways they offer teachers incredible possibilities to build on the pedagogy.”
  4. Adopted Voices: “The next day, I explained the concept of community- and knowledge-building. I avoided the issue of evaluation and deadlines. I wanted them to immerse themselves in writing and I knew – I had a hunch – that once the sense of community emerged, their questions about evaluation would stop.”
  5. Ten Habits of Bloggers that Win: “Some of them are really getting into the concept of blogging and want to know more. I want to teach them more. This is vital to their future! We’re not educating factory workers anymore, folks!”
  6. How to Comment like a King — or Queen: “I firmly believe that beginners who comment, will receive the feedback that will keep them blogging, push them to excellence, and will make them the Technorati Top 100 blogger of tomorrow.”
  7. The Art of Blogging (Part I): “As a disruptive technology, blogging is altering (or perhaps responding to?) many aspects of information/content creation and use”
  8. 7 Things You Should Know About Blog: “Blogs offer students, faculty, staff, and others a high level of autonomy while creating a new opportunity for interaction with peers.”
  9. A Blog is More Than a Communication Tool: “Blogging clearly illustrates changes in the information ecology, reflecting a user-inquiry stance, facilitating a multi-voiced dialogue flow, as well as supporting the transfer of knowledge (Siemens, 2004).”
  10. A Problem with Blogs: “Too often, educators use blogs as a replacement for journals… 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.”
  11. Weblogging and Teacher Learning: “Weblogs appear to contain a great amount of potential for supporting teacher (or any individual’s) learning both formally and informally.”
  12. Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age: “Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.”
  13. Directing the Cognitive Traffic: “I find that one of the most effective ways of building a class community of bloggers is to talk about blogs in class, look at them in class, and read them together.”
  14. Learning, education, approaches, digital and traditional
  15. Blogging Rationale: “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.”
  16. Blogs = Invitations into Lives: “Blogging may bring us into a new community of learners, but it also drives us from a “regular” place of comfort where the rules are steady, change is slow, and things are predictable.”
  17. Writing with Weblogs: “An emergent genre is making a space for students to publish online.”
  18. Blog Literacy: “If we are going to encourage students to become connected to social networks, we must also teach them strategies for handling the deluge of data they are going to experience.”
  19. Why RSS is crucial for a Blogging Classroom: “Thus, while I would ultimately argue that a successful digital writing classroom would actively employ RSS technology, requiring students to employ feed readers, teaching students to read and write in a way informed by this technology, at minimal instructors and students should be aware of how this technology frames the context of writing in the age of the digital.”
  20. Nine Rules for Safe and Appropriate Use of Web 2.0 Tools: “K-12 schools shy away from classroom use of Web 2.0 tools and applications, often citing concerns about network integrity and student safety. There are several reasons why educators should rethink this decision. Blogs, wikis, social networks, and other Web 2.0 tools and applications are highly engaging and lend themselves well to teaching students 21st century literacy skills.”
  21. Listen to the Natives: “Times have changed. So, too, have the students, the tools, and the requisite skills and knowledge.”
  22. Educational Blogging: Avoiding the Usual Suspects: “Blogging, it seems, is just like making a commitment to lifelong learning; if you don’t expose yourself to a constant flow of new ideas, your own ideas become stale.”
  23. Inappropriate Comments = Teachable Moments: “An inappropriate comment has arrived on a student site. So………. This is a teachable moment. It’s definitely not a moment to shut down blogs!”
  24. Advice for Student Bloggers: “It is my contention that all schools should help both students and teachers learn about blogging and the appropriate use of digital social networking tools.”
  25. Grading Conversations: “What this means to me is that grading blogs (especially at the elementary level) has to be a very holistic process that focuses not only on the quality of their work but also on the extent to which their work reflects the context in which they work. I think that student bloggers should be recognized for writing as part of a larger community of inquirers.”
  26. Blog Whats in Gaston County and Assessing Blog Posts:
  27. Measuring Up in a Flat Classroom: “Meantime, in pockets around the country, some states, districts, and schools are moving forward with innovative initiatives that aim to prepare students for success in the global digital workplace.”
  28. Blogs Help Students Think for Themselves:
  29. Personal Webpublishing as a reflective conversational tool for self-organized learning: “We can observe almost in real-time how individuals use personal Webpublishing technologies to facilitate and feed their own change and learning processes. Watching this rich fabric of learning conversations unfold makes you wonder why people still believe that e-learning is all about content delivery and the production of polished instructional products. People in the personal Webpublishing realm successfully learn outside any institutionally organized system of instruction.”
  30. Blogging: In Their Own Words
  31. Engage Me or Enrage Me: “The fact is that even if you are the most engaging old-style teacher in the world, you are not going to capture most of our students’ attention the old way.”
  32. Are Bloggers Storytellers for the 21st Century: “Guttman’s final statement, “In that way, storytelling keeps us all from feeling alone and lost, abandoned in the wilderness.” Cheryl says, in a similar way blogging allows us connections we never thought possible and conversations which are waiting to be continued. “
  33. Shining Lights, finding nuggets, adding tool: “The ability to connect your ideas with words, thoughts, images, sounds or videos created by others is unbelievably powerful. This is the real power of blogging, in my opinion.”
  34. Making Assessment Personally Relevant: “So, how do I make them see that their ability to direct their own learning and engage in conversations with their peers is much more important than a formal grade?”
  35. Blogs in Higher Ed: Personal Voice as Part of Learning: “he blog, however, provides a context in which personal voice can be “published” by the student, which means that attention is given to content, relevancy, and connection with learning outcomes to a higher degree than a traditional journal submission.”
  36. High Minded Ideas — Down to Earth
  37. Summary of a CMap: “Blogs support critical thinking and connections through linking. When bloggers link their thinking to other websites or blogs that they have read, they are participating in a more authentic research process than allowed for in a traditional research paper.”
  38. Technology Literacy for the MySpace Generation: “Our challenge as educators, parents, and community members? How do we empower and protect our students in an environment that increasingly excludes us?”
  39. 20 Types of Blog Posts
  40. 25 Tips for Battling Blogger
  41. Challenging Students: “In fact, unless you take the time and trouble to make sure that they know how to ask the right questions, exposing them to blogs, wikis and all the rest of it is actually likely to disempower them by providing them with information overload.”
  42. Valuing Student Creativity
  43. How to Bring Schools out of the 20th Century: “Kids spend much of the day as their great-grandparents once did: sitting in rows, listening to teachers lecture, scribbling notes by hand, reading from textbooks that are out of date by the time they are printed. A yawning chasm (with an emphasis on yawning) separates the world inside the schoolhouse from the world outside.”
  44. Beginning Blogging: “But blog for your own reasons, whatever they may be. And don’t let anyone else tell you that your motives are wrong.”
  45. Teacher Bloggers Not Blogging (says Me)
  46. Digital Native, Digital Immigrant
  47. Time’s Person of the Year: You: ” But look at 2006 through a different lens and you’ll see another story, one that isn’t about conflict or great men. It’s a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before.”
  48. Key Concepts for Teaching Weblogs:
  49. Content Delivery in the Blogosphere: “Blogs are useful teaching and learning tools because they provide a space for students to reflect and publish their thoughts and understandings”
  50. The Language of Weblogs

In the spirit of collaboration and conversation, I’d love to hear your thoughts on articles that have shaped your approach to blogging so do share!

Oh, and remember that anyone can blog but you have to choose whether blogging in your classroom will be transformative or just a “neat replacement” for what you could do with paper and pen.

PS: Read We the Media byO’Reilly,  Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts by Will Richardson, Classroom Blogging by David Warlick, Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen, and Knowing Knowledge by George Siemens

[Tags] blogs, blogging, pedagogy, 21stcenturyskills [/Tags]


  1. Wow, what a great reading list! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great compilation of articles and readings related to blogs. As I check my del.iciou.us account and discover more than 250 bookmarked under ‘blogs’, I further recognize the tough job of culling the most important ones! More importantly, your post points out the developmental process inherent in most things worthwhile. For some (most?) who are focused on immediate gratification and/or are impatient, the rewards of the end product are never fully conceived as the process was not understood, appreciated, or perhaps even completed! Thanks for sharing!

  3. So now I I guess I have a lot of reading to do. What a great resource you created here.

  4. Thanks for compiling this list! Every day I look at a new site and from there find a dozen more, all related to teaching English with technology.

  5. Wow! What an amazing list of links. A great reference for all teachers.
    Thanks for putting it together.

  6. Thanks for this excellent list! I’ve started a blog for my 6th grade students this year, but definitely want to keep it relevant. This list is sure to help 🙂

  7. Stunning list, Ryan. Wow! This is great. I sent it through my feed. Wow!

  8. An avid Parrothead myself, your post title of course immediately drew me in. Wasting away from one Buffett song to another, the message seems to be that a change in latitude (the way technology runs the world today) necessitates a change in attitude (an acceptance of and embracing of the possibilities). The real message about this change of attitude is in the resources listed so I’m glad you annotated each one for future reference.

    When I clicked to find out more about Ryan Bretag, I discovered, much to my surprise, that you are an administrator at GBN in Northbrook, the school from which my own children graduated. These little personal connections somehow help me begin to feel a part of the cyber world of educators. In exploring the “blogosphere” for a doctoral class in educational technology, this first foray into educational technology blogs was a great way to start seeing my effort to “run and catch up” as more than the futile endeavor I feared it might be.



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