Whenever I bring up the topic of Blogs within a gathering of educators, the comments in response usually include the teacher who lost her job because of blogging. If you are not familiar with the story, it is one of stupidity, disrespect and irresponsibility. It had little to do with blogging. A teacher decided to start a blog and trash her students, parents and her school. It was the content of her comments that was offensive and not the fact that she used a blog post to do it. If she wrote a newspaper article, did a radio, or television interview, or stood on a soapbox on a street corner of her local community, she would still be held accountable for the thoughtless, offensive, and irresponsible comments. It is the intent of the comments which should be condemned, not the media of choice. This incident has served to stall the talks about blogging in the class for the purpose of learning. It gives a great excuse to educators who are reluctant to change a means to delay the ability of students to write authentically in the classroom.
I attended a meeting not too long ago where Higher Ed English teachers were sharing with other staff members what they do to teach writing in their classes. They had the floor for about twenty minutes and reviewed much of what they did in the area of writing. The one point that smacked me in the head throughout the entire presentation was that the words “Post” or “Blog” were never ever mentioned. I decided that day to ask English teachers, whenever I met them, if they used blogs to address writing skills. My second question to the same teachers was “Do you Blog?” Many rattled off multiple reasons why blogging can be dangerous before actually admitting “no” to both questions. Many were clear to state that they felt their job would be in jeopardy if they personally blogged.
Blogging provides a real reason for kids to write. The realization that an audience of more than one would be reading their work is a real incentive. Comments on the student blogs offers the teacher an opportunity to teach critical thinking, as we as reflective thinking skills. With a global audience syntax and grammar have a purpose that is meaningful to the student. It enables students an appreciation for blogs of others giving insights into commenting on others’ blog posts.
There are applications that will allow this to take place in a closed setting for younger children. Class blogs are also a good way to introduce blogging to elementary students. No matter what method is used it is allows students to publish. Publishing on the part of students has long been a dream of many English teachers over the decades. The idea of dealing with publishers or literary agents had always stood in the way. Those obstacles have been removed in the 21st century. There are no longer the dreaded rejection letters of the 20th century. Any student at any age can publish content. How they research, create and communicate that content is the job of the teacher. That is one of the challenges of teaching today.
Every idiot has the ability to publish a blog and everyone does. It is today’s educator’s challenge to teach students the skills needed to publish intelligently and responsibly. This does not happen in a week of lessons or a video of a “Ted Talk”. It happens after it has been taught from elementary school, reinforced in Middle school, and set free to bloom in High School. It is a process not a Unit.
A key factor in teaching is having the teacher model the skills being taught. In that fact lies the rub. Getting teachers to put themselves out there and blog is the challenge. Too many of our educators believe in “Do as I say, not as I do” teaching philosophy. We need more transparency in education. We can make that happen with more thoughtful and responsible educators blogging to the world. We are in a profession in which everyone claims expertise. Everyone has a common experience of receiving some education so they feel that they have all the answers. I am thinking of Bill Gates and Mike Bloomberg.
Blogging by the real professionals can shine a light on our profession and involve teachers in the discussion for reform. I know that, if you want to know where I stand on education and teaching, you need only to read my blog. You will have no doubts. But then again, I believe in blogging as a tool for learning; my learning. Every blogger I come in contact with feels very much the same way. We need to engage more educators and students in this endeavor. Blogging promotes learning.
Blogging is another tool for learning. If we do not take the opportunity to teach kids how to publish responsibly with intelligence, we will have more people like that teacher who trashed her kids, parents and colleagues. But, then again, she was never taught about blogging thoughtfully, respectfully, intelligently. We should be encouraging teachers to blog and not threatening their jobs if they do.We should be supporting teachers to engage students in blogging. Your choice is To Blog or not to Blog? That is the question.
As always comments welcomed.