Thursday, April 19, 2007

Blog culture: Making connections & Making sense

Inspiration for today's post: Moving to the Public: Weblogs in the Writing Classroom. Lowe, C. & Williams, T.

In this article, Lowe and Williams discuss the impact of blogs in the writing classroom. I especially enjoyed this reading, as it addressed the public vs. private debate with substantial research by both professionals and teachers. Writing about the use of blogs as a journal or as a more public conversation tool, Lowe and Williams state the following: "However, to use blogs merely as a tool for private journaling is to privilege our understanding of journals as private writing spaces without considering the benefits of weblogs as public writing" (¶ 2). Well said. This topic has come up on my blog before, but it's worth mentioning again as I must consider all sides to blogs before implementing one in the classroom.

Lowe and Williams go on to list several ways they use blogs, ranging from answering questions about a particular reading to exploring personal thoughts. They argue that blogs allow students to approach thoughts in a comfortable arena from which they can learn and gain insight. Consider this idea: "Because of the benefits of social interaction, most writing teachers would agree that students sharing their writing—making their writing public—is important" (Lowe & William, (¶ 11). Absolutely. As a writing teacher, I see such growth in student writing when they observe their peers, discuss work, and create final edited versions. The difficulty with face-to-face communication among students young and old is the grouping of students. When a shy student is paired with the most outspoken student in class, the shy kid might squirm into his or her shell and get academically bullied by the loud one. That's a definite plus of blogs. They allow the quietest child (or adult for that matter) access to the same space, the same time, the same passion as anyone else. Each student can easily achieve the feeling of belonging and equality, unlike in the classroom.

I'll end with my thoughts about a question posed by Lowe and Williams: "Isn’t it possible that the paradoxical situation of creating a risk-free space in which to enable risk-taking has led compositionists to forget a primary purpose of privacy, which is to provide a comfortable writing space, comfort which can also come from community?"

I guess I never thought of it that way. While I do believe there is a great place for journals and I would never, ever put my most personal thoughts and deepest emotions out there for all to see (that's just not me), the beauty of the blog as a learning tool is that it provides an outlet for open communication that extends beyond the walls of your community. I've arrived at this conclusion; The decision to use a journal vs. a blog should be based on purpose. Journals certainly have a place in our lives, especially when recording private thoughts. You can keep a public journal without any communication purpose, but it seems like you are missing out on the greatest opportunities for growth. I've learned so much from the commentary on this blog...I would argue that my peer comments have directed me to new knowledge faster than many of the readings. That is by no means meant as a knock on the articles I have read. Instead, it is a testament to the power of discussion, interaction, and a complete affirmation of the potential for intellectual growth when blogging.

1 comment:

Richard Wells said...

"The decision to use a journal vs. a blog should be based on purpose."

Well said, Laine. I think it's imperative that educators -- especially those carrying out or implementing "professional development" -- spell ou the purpose behind the technology being used. Without careful consideration of objectives, the most wonderful technology cannot, will not be as effective as possible. Learning might happen by accident, but deeper understandings don't happen by accident for most of us.

And herein lies the problem: if most teachers do not know the proper (I'm using that term loosely) use of the various tools students are using, we will inevitably end up with situations in which students are communicating improperly given the situation or context. This is why the abbreviated language of IMs and text-messages shows up in papers students write: not because this new literacy is destroying English, but because students just don't know any better.