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Learn to Blog… Or Can You?

If someone is going to teach music composition, is it necessary that they have composed a song themselves? Should a drama teacher have acting experience? Do you need to be a poet to teach someone to write poetry?

Should someone who is instructing others to blog actually be a blogger themselves?

Now, before someone accuses me of going over the top on the pretentiousness scale, I’m not trying to equate what happens around here with any kind of artistic achievement.

These are simply questions that have been buzzing around my strange little mind lately as the overly-large school district opens the gates on some walled-garden blogging tools for our staff.

On one hand, I can see where the answer to my question would be no.

After all, blogging is just another form of writing, very similar to essays that students have written for their English teachers over the centuries. Writing is writing, right? At least when it comes to non-fiction.

But then many have associated blogs with journalism, so maybe someone should have a reporter’s background to teach the process. Or that of an editorialist or critic. They award Pulitzers for that kind of stuff.

Possibly blogging is not something that can be taught. It could be a random process where a potential blogger just starts writing, while at the same time reading other blogs, and learns by trial and error.

I’m pretty sure most of us picked it up through a combination of experimentation and following the lead of others.

I have more rambling questions but everyone’s probably clicked off to somewhere else and I’m talking to myself. Happens a lot. :-)

All of this is simply part of the thought process as I prepare a session I’m presenting twice next week about using the new blogs and wikis modules our IT group has bought and shoe-horned into our Blackboard system.

I want to go beyond the click-here mechanical training (especially since the tools are pretty basic) and spend most of our time on why a teacher, or anyone else, would want to try using this form of writing.

And how do teachers and their students learn to use it as a communications tool.

So, I’m off the read more from the bloggers and/or educators I respect to see if there are any answers I’ve missed along the way.

blogging, education, writing

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4 Comments

  1. Seems like you could also start from the other end (the writing process from the National Writing Project http://www.nwp.org/ ) and ask your group to help you puzzle out how blogging and creating wikis supports these steps.

    I think it does, as it makes the steps quicker, gives the writer access to immediate feedback and audience. Wikis are great for supporting group process and democratic student voice.

    These steps are not linear or one-way, so having an electronic “conversation” creates a more organic, student-controlled process than the teacher editing all student writing and being the locus of control and the only audience.

  2. I think one of the reasons why teachers frequently teach writing in very prescriptive, structured ways is because they don’t think of themselves as writers. Reading is different. The great majority of teachers think of themselves as readers and feel more confident teaching reading. Blogging has helped me see myself as a writer and made me participate in the writing process in ways that help me as a teacher of writing (whether I’m having my students blog or not).
    It’ll be interesting to hear how your presentation goes.

  3. Dave

    If I were a certified teacher, would I know enough about the nature of education and teaching to be able to answer your question? Should I? I digress…

    My thoughts are that one can teach what one knows. If someone has thoroughly read about how to blog, common problems, suggestions, etc, they can probably turn around and teach these things to someone else, possibly even shaping them, condensing them, and successfully highlighting important points. They still won’t be able to talk from firsthand knowledge about the psychological impact of personally posting to a blog and receiving comments. Also, learning by doing is, for most people, faster than reading and allows for more exploration — teaching without having done would be much, much more difficult and would probably require a stronger effort from a more skilled person. These teachers could really be ‘skipped’ anyways – why not send students straight to the documents and media that the teachers learned from?

    I’m definitely more familiar with tech (especially web stuff) than with other areas. I think that in most cases where someone without a true tech background is trying to teach tech topics, the results are extremely poor… the foundations of computer skills and vocabulary that more advanced technology skills are based on simply aren’t taught by people who don’t grok technology. Worse, the results last forever in an organization, like hiring a confused manager who hires poor-fit employees for all the subordinate positions.

    There’s talk now and then about students taking time off between high school and college; having to survive in the real world for a year would probably highlight the importance of college. Including related work experience in “Highly Qualified” status for teachers seems like it could do the same, although the logistics of finding teachers like that would be daunting.

  4. Tim, I recently lead a couple of Blogging in Blackboard workshops. The district I worked with did have RSS set up, but not permalinks (apparently the needed to upgrade). I did exactly what you’re talking about and focused on the blogging process. If you’re interested the “external” wiki version of the agenda is here: http://blogifyoulovelearning.wikispaces.com/ousd

    Ping me if you want to go into any of the experience in more detail. :)

    -Mark

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