Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My worlds are colliding!

I'm working on a book project about barriers to technology in education--mostly about the barrier of fear, but other institutional barriers as well. One of the articles I read for that had some applicable ideas for my blogging article. It was an article on experiential education. My own work has used Bruffee's ideas of collaborative learning, which, like experiential education, points back to Dewey in many ways. I think of using blogs in writing classrooms as providing authentic writing experiences for students. During class time, we reflect on that experience and I often have students do so formally at midterm and at the end of the semester.

That article overlapped with my own thinking and also with that of Jill Walker's in "Weblogs: Learning in Public." Walker's students' experiences with blogging seem silimar to what I see in my classes. Students don't "get" blogging at first. They are surprised when they get confirmation that people are reading their work and that this realization often leads to more motivated writing.

Walker also discusses the relationship between the ethics of the blogosphere (the gift economy) and the ethics of academic work. She speculates that instead of going down the road that both the music industry and academics have gone down in the form of increased punishments, technical solutions, and the like, we might, she says, "also explore the possibility that there might be some merit in a promiscuous sharing of content." She goes on to comment about the way that the blog genre allows for students to learn how to "connect to the ideas of others while being explicit about the connections they are making." Although she mentions emphasizing the difference between linking and academic citations, I think it would be good to use the blogging medium as a transition to learning how to cite appropriately. Teachers may need to be very explicit that blog linking and academic citation are really the same thing: giving credit where credit is due.

Walker also addresses the ethics of blogging itself, not just of what it means to have students blogging in public, but also of having students write about other people's blogs, who may be hurt by what students have to say. I believe that we should have conversations with our students about what it means to write about others, to emphasize that those people may in fact read what they have written. I think this is an important lesson, not just in terms of classroom blogging, but in terms of our students' current and future networked lives. Many of our students still haven't learned that they can hurt via Facebook or anonymous forums. As Walker says at the end, "The Internet is not a game."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blogical Construction rides again!

{is thing still on? ahem.}

Has it been this long? Really? For months, I've been meaning to return to this space as a place to write specifically about writing pedagogy and new technology. I had plans to force myself to read journal articles and critique them here. Well, that never happened, obviously. But now, it will. I'm working on some writing projects about teaching writing using blogs developed primarily out of my dissertation (finished over a year ago now!).

My current project involves writing about blogging and its connection to academic writing. A good chunk of my dissertation focused on the benefits of blogging for teaching writing (especially for first-year students), but I want to both narrow and broaden that topic. First, I want to narrow in on the link as the key element to creating a good blogging environment and for creating effective writing practices for students. The link turned out to have the most impact on a student's writing development. I want to look at that further, both in a blogging context, and also beyond that, in a social networking context. What links are important to make? Are links connections or something else? What's important about the context we create for that link? The link is the base element, but leads, I believe, to the networked environment that we need to help our students create and participate in. We also need to show them the relationship between that environment within the classroom and beyond and how they can continue to develop that network their whole lives.

Those are initial thoughts. I'll be thinking further over the coming weeks. Comments and ideas are always welcome!