Here and now

 I usually resist setting up lines in the sand for our
teachers to have to cross, thinking that a gentle tug or suggestion
will work better.
But I've been pondering this all day, this reluctance to say–yes, all this matters. I just finished reading Will Richardson's post about Writing to Connect.
He's right. It is the sharing of ideas, the learning from one another,
that makes blogging powerful. Other teachers aside, my own learning now
comes from my sharing with colleagues and friends in my network.
When we ask our students to blog, we are asking them to publish in
order to get a response, to be heard. Creating for the sake of creating
or publishing for the sake of publishing is worthless without the
audience and response. Will's comment about the teaching of writing, in
particular, hit home: "I
want a conversation, and that changes the way I write. And it changes
the way we think about teaching writing. This is not simply about
publishing, about taking what we did on paper and throwing it up on a
blog and patting ourselves on the back."

My students were working on their persuasive essays today, an
assignment that asked them to answer the question: What Matters to You?
Listening to them discuss and debate their ideas this week made me
realize that they do want to change minds. They are not writing for me,
they are writing to be heard. And that's what is making the assignment
more meaningful to most of them. So I need to get their writing on the
blogs to give them an audience and an opportunity to share and learn
from each other.
And the teaching and learning doesn't have to come only in the classroom. Jim Groom,
a professor/instructional tech guru from the University of Mary
Washington, wrote on his blog this morning: "I’m beginning to realize
more and more that you teach from where you are, and I’m deep in the
blog right now
. "
Perhaps it is time to draw a line in the sand.

4 thoughts on “Here and now

  1. My wife started her class of 4th and 5th graders on Edublogs. I suggested that they spend 2 night of writing their own posts and 2 night of reading and commenting on others posts. Participating in the conversation is a life skill these students need an opportunity to work at. Society is moving from “shouting” to “dialogue.” The audience isn’t just listening, they are talking back.

  2. The English department is behind you on drawing this line. Thanks for being in the forefront of teaching us these new ways to think and teach.
    Now comes the magic bullet — how do we get people to read the blogs the students post? I know that has been Jennifer’s biggest hurdle and one you have worked with her on. Maybe someone reading this will be able to share an answer for us.

  3. Susanne,
    I think the surest way to have others outside the class engage the blog conversation is to link to other blogs. The magic of trackbacks and pins (just a simple mechanism for alerting others that you are discussing their work) is probably the best way to generate discussion around an issue. It is a really powerful way to bring others into the conversation, as well as to quote the work that is circulating around the web currently. Which brings up a big question, do/should these class and student blogs get searched by Google? For that is why sure way to know others will find your work.

  4. Robert, commenting IS a skill, as I found out when I had my sixth-graders begin to comment “in-house” this year. Once we took them through the steps and asked the to consider what they were saying,the comments were much more thoughtful.
    Susanne, thanks again for your thoughts. See Jim Groom’s comment here–maybe that is the answer? And if we do take them all the way out–make them searchable–is it a “policy” issue or do we just do it?
    Jim, I see your point! This makes sense, so our issue is–where do we start to answer the question? It’s bigger than I can answer myself, but we have a supportive administration. I predict some changes at FA. Thanks…

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