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Why Do Some Kill Student Blogging?

I have to admit that I struggle to grasp why we educators do certain things. One of those struggles is the way we approach “blogging” in the classroom so I’m hoping someone could shed light on this topic.

What are your favorite blogs? You know, the ones that you actually look forward to the next post. What are the qualities that make these blogs that draw you in and keep you coming back for more? I’m willing to bet that our qualities are similar: unique delivery, engaging, relevant, etc.

Since many of us can agree on those qualities and “get” what makes a blog worthwhile, why do many of us fail to use these as models when asking students to blog?

When I look at a large percentage of blogs in K-12, I see much of what we love and enjoy about blogs sucked away. I see us killing the power of blogging for students.

Whether blogging has become merely a discussion forum, prompted writing, storage area, etc., the draw and energy of the blogs we read are missing in the ones done by students AND NOT BECAUSE OF THE STUDENTS.

Why?

Part of me believes we want to retrofit everything into what we know in a square peg in a round hole sort of way and we fail to use great blogs as models for teaching students when creating and sustaining their blogs.

What makes us want to make everything fit into our preconceived notions of school assignments and activities? Why do we value and appreciate the great blogs that are out there BUT FAIL TO USE THOSE AS MODELS for students and their blogs? Why do we use models so far removed from what we consider powerful?

This is not to say that every teacher is intentionally doing this but the reality is that it is happening.

I get that not all students will be writing at the level of the blogs we read but that isn’t what I’m referencing when I say use those as models. I mean modeling the qualities that draw us time and time again to blogs.

Again, I’m struggling here and trying to work through why we “make everything school worthy” and in this case, blogging. What is interesting to me is that most of us, I assume, would not want to read these types of blogs and that is the rub.

[Tags] education, school, blogging [/Tags]

  1. Franki01-19-2009

    An interesting question.. but one that I think is common for any kind of writing. Somehow we take any genre or format of writing and make it into “school” writing–taking away the authenticity. I figured that as 21st century tools become more common, we would have these same issues. It happened early when everyone was creating websites–instead of design, the teacher made the template and had kids “fill in the blanks”. Now, it is happening to blogging. So sad. Definitely something we need to think about as we move to many more options for student writing.

  2. ryanbretag01-19-2009

    Franki:

    Thanks for the comment and helping me sort through this topic. As a former English teacher, I knew there was more to this frustration than just blogging and you nailed it: it “is common for any kind of writing” and the example about websites. The annual, or dreaded for too many students research paper, is a great example of this problem.

    The idea of making it about school instead of keeping it about learning is one that is both frustrating and discouraging. Maybe the reason it happens is because it is just easier to bring it into school contexts with its very black and white approach and rigid structure.

  3. Jen Wagner01-20-2009

    Hi Ryan
    When you talk about K12, I wonder some times if indeed you might be really talking about High School Level??

    I see some exceptional “extending the conversations” being done in the lower elementary. Blogs such as Maria Knee’s students or Kathy Cassidy. I guess, in a way, you would not really say they are blogging as much as they are extending their thoughts to an online presence.

    Maria: http://classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blogger_id=51141
    Kathy: http://classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blogger_id=1337&l=1143592742

    I also worry when we try to make a ONE SIZE fits all in how an online tool really should work. And a one correct way.

    In regards to your first question — my favorite blogs are the ones that make me think. (such as yours, dj when he posts, will, beth knittle, shareski, principals page and leadertalk.) But they don’t make me a better blogger, they make me a better thinker….(hmmmm and I guess, in a way, that would overlap into how I blog in the long run.)

    But it would be hard for me to really direct people to what I think is a quality blogs until I knew the grade levels they were working with…..are they look for student examples or teacher examples? Are they looking for ideas to spur change or reflections that cause you to ponder?

    I guess where my thoughts are is that once again, if we try to put ONE “stamp of quality” based on one person’s criteria, (for instance, mine or yours) what might we be overlooking?

    Just thinking out loud.
    Jen

  4. ryanbretag01-20-2009

    Hi Jen:

    No, I’m not speaking to just high school. I have scanned K-12 blogs in particular, while limited, the ones people reference as great blogs.

    I would have to disagree a bit about the statement of making the tool fit one size. This really has nothing to do with that though it seems any time a discussion about a tool arises these days, the immediate reaction is along the lines of there are no rules and don’t tie us down.

    In fact, in my blog, I make reference to each being different. I read blogs that are people discussing through images, photos, and drawings. I read blogs that spark conversations based upon narratives and story telling. I also read more traditional looking blogs.

    The bottom line is that despite how these get their message out, there are characteristics that each has in particular the broadcasting of their unique voice and ideas in a method they so chose, seemingly prompted by their thoughts, exposures, and reactions to the world.

    There is a purity to them, I would say.

    I’m not saying you read blogs to be a better blogger. I am saying that the reasons you read certain blogs can be a model for how to help students find their voice and purity in communication via blogging.

    People can use the blog platform in any way they want. Go for it. I think a discussion forum serves the purpose of “extending a conversation” a lot better than trying to do it within a blog platform, which is a lot of what blogs are used for in elementary, middle school/junior high, and high school.

    In many ways, I guess I don’t get your whole point. There is no stamp being made here by me. When I look around, the blogs that seem to stand out as popular and the ones that have sustainability have certain characteristics. This is not to say they communicate in ONE WAY or WITH ONE STYLE.

    However, when I see many blogs out there, I don’t see blogging. I see an academic exercise and I wonder why. For me, I simply wonder why what makes people read blogs and draws people to blogs doesn’t TEND to carry over to blogging in schools. Why don’t push students to get there with their writing, their blogging.

    As for the examples you referenced, they are just what you said: extending the conversations. Nothing wrong with that and great for that teacher. I’m not sure a blog platform is the best for that purpose but that is simply me and that isn’t the basis for this discussion.

  5. ryanbretag12-01-2010

    @L_Hilt @web20classroom we kill blogging when we try to make it school instead of letting it be what it is http://www.ryanbretag.com/blog/?p=640
    #edchat

    • L_Hilt12-01-2010

      @ryanbretag @web20classroom It’s a tool for learning. A vehicle. Can take many forms and fill a variety of purposes. #edchat

    • web20classroom12-01-2010

      @ryanbretag @L_Hilt I think maybe it is like some other things in Edtech. Some will latch on to using it without fully understanding it.

      • ryanbretag12-01-2010

        @web20classroom @L_Hilt the tools are deceptively simplistic and that usually leads to this. Poor leadership doesn’t grow it 2 better uses

        • L_Hilt12-01-2010

          @ryanbretag @web20classroom Have to focus on the pedagogy, not the tool. What learning will result if students blog/post/reflect/comment?

        • web20classroom12-01-2010

          @ryanbretag @L_Hilt And simple doesn’t always mean better. #edchat

          • mikekaechele12-01-2010

            @web20classroom I use a wiki as a website. I don’t see the problem. I know how to use it “properly” if I need to. GDocs is wiki substitute

          • web20classroom12-01-2010

            @mikekaechele Just curious as to how many educators are using them and think they are fostering collaboration when not. #edchat

          • web20classroom12-01-2010

            @mikekaechele Not saying there is anything wrong with it. Just curious. #edchat

          • mikekaechele12-01-2010

            @web20classroom I understand your point :) I really think GDocs has made wikis less popular. #edchat

          • web20classroom12-01-2010

            @mikekaechele And I would agree. Very easy to use and get kids and teachers into. And it is true real-time. #edchat

          • ryanbretag12-01-2010

            @web20classroom @l_hilt yes – simple setup & use. Not simple pedagogically. Thus, deceptively simplistic. Imp to rem when presenting #edchat

    • web20classroom12-01-2010

      @ryanbretag @L_Hilt Good post. Interesting comments too.

    • NeoAftermath12-01-2010

      @ryanbretag @L_Hilt @web20classroom Good point. My students say they don’t WANT to use #FB for school, it’s for “fun”. #EdChat

    • NeoAftermath12-01-2010

      RT @ryanbretag: @L_Hilt @web20classroom we kill blogging when we try to make it school instead of letting it be what it is https://www.google.com/accounts/ServiceL… …

    • L_Hilt12-01-2010

      @ryanbretag I agree, good post. A lot to think about.

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