The art of blogging is something that few can understand unless they’ve experienced it for themselves. All the reading in the world, all the conversations with bloggers, and all the conference sessions can only give you so much. The practical side, the “street smarts” as some would say, comes from engaging in the process. While it is possible to offer great resources, suggestions, and even approaches without ever blogging, the key to making blogs a transformative part of the classroom requires an intimate knowledge of blogging not just the knowledge gained from “sitting on the sidelines.” Ryan Bretag
I stumbled onto the gold mine this morning when I checked the NCTE Talkies ListServ and clicked on Ryan Bretag’s responses about student bloggers. Ryan explains, “…my work with teachers and students on transformative blogging/connective writing/whatever starts with reading and commenting.” In reading his TechLearning article Get off the Sidelines and into the Game and his extensive reading list for bloggers, I thought about the one-day workshop I did last week for EDCOE on blogging. As has happened many times before, yet another group of teachers set up their Edublog sites as a class website. But I’m ok with that because at least they have taken a first step.
I currently offer a two-hour workshop for my own district entitled Blogging for the Absolute Beginner, during which teachers read blogs and do some commenting. I’m thinking of extending it to a full-day workshop, so that after they’ve had a few hours to read and comment on other educators’ blogs and to reflect on the personal and professional benefits of blogging, I would then introduce them to Google Reader, so they would leave the workshop with a self-selected community of blogging mentors. Day two would be the Going Live with Edublogs workshop (currently just a 3-hour session) – with breaks throughout the day to check their Google Reader.
The good thing about Edublogs, for instance, is also the bad thing because as Ryan points out “Blogging is challenging yet blogs are easy to setup. IMHO, this is part of the challenge because the needed investment in learning and potentially rethinking our thoughts on teaching and learning are passed by in the excitement to just get a tool in the classroom.” But that’s exactly how I entered the blogosphere. I was fully into three-years’ worth of facilitating student blogging projects before I became a blogger. It was a post by Wes Fryer that brought me on board. Suddenly I got it – that I could truly be a part of – and contribute to – conversations in ways not possible before “getting off the sidelines and into the game.”
*Image from Derek Wenmoth via Ryan’s blog.
NWP colleague Kevin Hodgson is a guiding light in many ways. For several years now, he has sponsored the Youth Radio project, a podcasting project connecting classrooms across the nation and world as students share topics and projects from their own classrooms, neighborhoods, and regions. It’s been my privilege to connect with the YR project locally by joining A3WP colleague Jim Faires and his students as they listen to, respond to, discuss, and even take to a worldwide audience YR topics.
In the blogging workshops I currently teach, I always direct teachers to Kevin’s classroom blog. In every session, there will always be a teacher or two who, after touring the Electric Pencil, has a whole new understanding of how blogging can benefit teachers and their students.
Now I have a new resource to share in my workshops. I’ll be directing workshop teachers to Kevin’s NWP article Bringing the World to My Doorstep: A Teacher’s Blog-Reading Habits article. Often in my workshops, I realize that teachers leave all setup with their own blog (an Edublog), but without an understanding that blogging is all about reading – reading other bloggers’ thoughts, ideas, and challenges – and responding. Kevin’s article makes visible “how the world of blogs enriches his teaching, supports his tech liaison work, provides opportunities for his students, and keeps him connected both to his NWP network and to a wider network of educators.”
His article also explains so well the power of RSS, another topic I rarely get to in a 2-3 hour workshop, but I think by having teachers read Kevin’s article, I’ll have a great starting point for introducing RSS early on in my upcoming day-long and week-long summer workshops. I’ll also be introducing the term social media literacy.
“Social media literacy refers to the ways in which bloggers connect and stay informed of each others’ work. One blogger, Chris Heuer , suggests that RSS could be “the fourth “R” in our conception of literacy , noting that RSS-based social media literacy “enables any individual to step into the conversational flow—to not only follow what other people are communicating, but ensure what the individual has to communicate is heard by other people who care about the topic.”
One more time, I want to thank Kevin for his innovative teaching practices, his commitment to bringing others on board with Web 2.0 best practices, and his willingness to mentor 24/7.
Because I am still very much a learner in understanding all the tools available to teachers in Edublogs.org, one blog I’ve added to my reader is Mike Temple’s Edublogs Tutorials. For anyone seeking advanced sessions on Edublogs, Mike’s site will most likely meet that need. So I loved this week’s post with an embedded video on a rationale for blogging in the elementary classroom, along with instructions on how to embed a video. Thanks, Mike, for a helping hand and for great resources! And, James, that’s pretty impressive to see the Edublogs/WordPress embeddable thingie in Teacher Tube
I’ve followed a few of Will Richardson’s Weblogg-ed posts regarding his switch from Manila blogs to WP. I am making the same switch via edublogs. Many thanks to James Farmer for offering a free site for educators. My only suggestion would be to offer a theme or two geared to elementary classrooms. The WP interface is user-friendly enough to bring teachers on board with blogging within a two-hour workshop. Jumping in to edit a theme’s CSS, however, is definitely for the advanced user.