Dave recently returned from a year-long blog hiatus, the natural consequence of completing a doctoral program, to ask Does Anyone Still Blog?. My first response was to say, of course. There are plenty of us still working in this structure called blogging, even if the term has been largely drained of it’s original meaning.
However, after more thought and a wonderfully thought provoking talk by Jim Groom, Dave’s question becomes more complex and undeserving of a simple yes or no answer.
Jim discussed A Domain of One’s Own and DS106, two projects out of the University of Mary Washington with the goal of empowering students, faculty, and pretty much anyone else in their community, to be a web publisher and, more importantly, to control their digital identity.
It’s not about writing personal posts that are displayed in reverse chronological order. At least not ONLY about that. People Instagram, Facebook, Vine, Tube, pin, and publish their content in a variety of formats, including text-based blogs, using an ever expanding collection of tools.
Jim, and his colleagues, caution that when we add our work to those other sites, we are contributing to their content and thus ceding control of our work to those companies. Instead of, or maybe in addition to, everyone needs their own place on the web to present their digital presence in exactly the way they want the world to see them. And it needs to start before students arrive at college.
Here in the overly-large school district we’ve talked for years about the idea of student portfolios, a place for kids to keep their work from year to year, built as they progress from the elementary years to graduation. The discussion always comes back to the how: what storage system could we use that is both flexible enough to handle any format and is not dependent on location? And never forget security!
Maybe we need to start A Domain of One’s Own far earlier than freshman year of college. What if every child got their own domain when they entered Kindergarten?1 What if we started in elementary school to help kids build their digital presence in responsible ways that reflected their personalities. To learn what it means to publish to a larger audience?
As soon as I typed that last paragraph I could already hear some of my colleagues reciting the usual COPPA this and FERPA that lines.Â I know there are problems to be worked out but it’s a concept that needs to be addressed. Many, if not most, of our kids are already publishing in the real world, while we still live under the illusion that we can “protect” them without actually teaching them anything meaningful about the process of working in that world.
Anyway, getting back to the original question, yes Dave, people still blog. But blogging is just one part of the larger mosaic of tools for expressing yourself on the web.
Oh, Dave also asks if anyone still uses RSS. Again the answer is yes (I wouldn’t have found his post without the feed being in my aggregator), but just as many people are publishing their thoughts, creative works, and opinions to the web without calling it “blogging”, they are also using RSS without that specific acronym.
All part of the wonderfully flexible and malleable structure that goes into publishing on the web.
I don’t know if we’ll get to a point where K-12 is brave enough to give students open spaces on the web that they control in the same fashion as Domain of Ones Own, but I do think there’s a role for expanding core web literacy in our schools. If not the process of building a domain, at least building in curriculum that helps students understand the web far better than simply the social spaces they inhabit. Of course that would require room for new curriculum, a luxury no system can afford with the burden of standardized testing.
I certainly see the fear of this idea in K-12 but the need remains and is growing. However, I’ve been thinking that we could start the process by creating opportunities for families to learn and work together on a site. The need to help parents understand publishing on the web is also there.