Weblogs to go mainstream in schools?

An interesting article from the New York Times titled In the Classroom, Web Logs Are the New Bulletin Boards.
The writer claims that, with the new school year looming in the Norther Hemisphere, blogging is likely to be the new phenomenon, sweeping up tens of thousands of users in the process.
I’m a little more circumspect – while I can see heaps of potential for the use of blogs in education, this article doesn’t really convince me, and conveys more of a ‘hype’ story than one that really portrays just how effective blogs can be as an online community building tool.
In my blog from yesterday I pointed to the multiple ways in which blogs can be used. In this article, that use seems limited to the writing of journals (probably the least attractive option) and as an alternative to using a discussion forum (although I feel a good old threaded discussion engine would have been a better tool to use in the example given.)
Rather than be entirely critical, let me give two examples from my own experience. Two of my own kids recently asked me to help set up a blog for them.
My son (aged 7) was intrigued to see me write my blog entries and, being an avid computer user, was keen to try it himself. His entries tend to be about one sentence long – but the motivation for him to continue comes from the comments that are provided by his grandparents, uncles, aunts and brothers and sisters. This is an example, at one level, of the blog as a journal, but the richness is in the form of the community that is centred on my son’s writing, and the motivation this provides to pay attention to the style and accuracy of his writing.
My daughter (aged 14) discussed with me at some length how she might use her blog, and began with the clear intention of using it as yet another way in which she involves others in her world (adding to her regular use of the cell phone for TXT and the computer with instant messaging.) The first few entries on Madeline’s Blog tell a fascinating tale of her sharing her need for assistance in preparing a speech for her English class, then sharing the speech she’d written and finally sharing how she felt the actual presentation of the speech had gone. Not only are her entries interesting, but the comments offered by her peers make for interesting reading, providing some insight into how comfortable these kids are with the technology.
Another interesting thought – all of this happened outside of school hours, and was not suggested or initiated by the teacher!

3 thoughts on “Weblogs to go mainstream in schools?

  1. I would agree about the lack of veracity in this article, long on opinion but very short on evidence. In particular, the old chestnut of ‘saving teacher time’ rings very hollow from my personal experience.

  2. While I agree that there is a lot of potential for the use of Blogs in education, I wonder if it isn’t another case of educationalists jumping on a bandwagon and trying to bend and modify a ‘trendy’ technology to try and meet their objectives. Perhaps they would be better off spending their time analysing exactly what they wanted to achieve and developing specific tools to do so – and perhaps even lead the trends, rather than follow them 😉

  3. I wonder about Glen’s ‘bandwagon’ comment, and from a teachers’ perspective, sometimes it is worth trying different methods and approaches to motivate our students. If it is successful in providing an audience for students, and in an environment where ‘voice’ has a greater focus than handwriting or presentation, maybe it is worth experimenting with.

    In my experience, when children are involved in a dialogue of some sort (in blogging, it is adding comments), they get so involved in writing that they forget how much they are writing. It can be an effective strategy for reluctant writers.

    For this reason, I see it’s potential as an effective tool for motivated teachers, which can be used in different ways (i.e. the pedagogy). Some schools or classes have blogs rather than individuals, which would not be so time-consuming – but what a neat way for children to have ownership and an audience for their ideas and stories- an alternative to websites. It is interesting to note that some of the examples out there, like Derek’s, the blogs are done in after school time.

    There was an article published in “Leading and learning with Technology” 2004, March ? (not sure if that is the correct name or month) about Primary middle/upper school children blogging. I found this at ChCh College of Education library when down there last, but unfortunately didn’t read it carefully or photocopy it – I will have to hunt it out again and check out some of their references.

    Back to Glen’s comment, I don’t think that most teachers would have the knowledge or time to develop specific tools, so maybe it is communication and continuing to link the developers with the users in different contexts – something that Ultralab has a history of: learning, technology and research. Thanks – interesting reading,comments and links.

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