David Jakes, in his post “One Big Giant Taffy Pull,” questions the potential value of the conversations in the blogosphere because they don’t seem to be resulting in actual changes in the real, non-virtual world. He asks some good questions:

How many of us that blog receive comments on our posts, other than spam? Comments, in my opinion, are as just as important as posts. But how many of us take the time to comment on the posts of others? How many of us take the time to offer some piece of information, based on what we have seen in our schools, with our kids, that will matter to that person asking the question that could make all the difference?

The blogsophere and web 2.0 is changing the world now, because it is changing the way participants view the world and get information. We are only on the cusp of this change, but it is significant even though we are in the early stages.

I think the practical, classroom impact of our participation in the blogosphere should be helping students become content producers and publishers. This act alone turns traditional education on its head. Traditional, transmission-based education views the learner as the passive recipient: the vessel, and the content is poured from the textbook and the mouth of the teacher into the head of the learner. When the learner becomes an author and publisher, learning can become more authentic and qualitatively different.

An interesting thing to note, however, is the desire people have (even teachers in workshops, I have noticed) to mostly copy and paste text from the web when they are blogging or researching. Why? Because coming up with you own ideas is challenging! It requires the use of higher order thinking skills on Bloom’s Taxonomy. And many students (as well as teachers) conditioned within a very pervasive traditional school system don’t jump into this situation naturally. They want to find the answer, copy and paste it, and be finished with the assignment.

I have started listening to the Bloggercon2004 podcasts published by IT Conversations on my drive to and from work. Yesterday I listened to Larry Lessig’s discussion session on law as it pertains to blogging from November 6, 2004. A discussant pointed out how important blogging and podcasting are to this broader fight which is ongoing between old media and new media forces, battling over control and intellectual property rights issues.

We want our students to be blogging and podcasting fundamentally because we want them to perceive themselves as active authors and content publishers, not merely passive consumers of someone else’s ideas and knowledge. This is what constructivist learning theory is all about. Information does not become knowledge until it passes through the mind of a learner, and often it is transformed in this process (if it involves authentic higher order thinking: reflection, synthesis, etc.) We want our students to actually think and learn, not just regurgitate and do enough so they can be dismissed to third period. This is a radical proposition for the existing academy (higher education) as well as traditional K-12 schools.

Student publishing is key. David is right, we should be very concerned and focused on blog COMMENTS as well as posts. We should focus on the conversation and the discourse by actively and regularly commenting on the blogs of others. And we need to have our students doing the same things.

As I wrote last week in the post “Edifying Student Bloggers,” we should look at the activity of reading and providing constructive feedback to student bloggers as an essential educational task for ourselves and our students.

The Boy Scouting movement encourages scouts to “do a good turn daily.” I am simplifying the reasons for commenting on student blogs quite a bit, since this rationale can be developed in a much more complex way, but this is one way to look at it: Do a good turn today. Leave an edifying comment on a student’s classroom blog.

Why? Well, for starters, your comment (after it is moderated so the student can see it) will potentially impact that student’s perceptions about writing and his/her own skills in the craft of literate discourse. That’s a very important payoff, and everyone can be a part of this process.

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3 Responses to Student publishing is the key

  1. Vicki Davis says:

    I agree that it is through the use of constructive commenting, whether it is through actual comments or trackbacks, is important to the betterment of the person who is taking the time to post.

    I find that by creating watchlists on Technorati that I am able to quickly read some of the latest information in the areas to which I am drawn. (That is how I found you.)

    It seems we should be able to create a tag for student work so that those of us who will commit to help other teachers encourage writing (via blogging) can easily find works of students in order to comment. I think this would be very helpful.

  2. Wesley,
    Thank you for leaving comments on two of my students blogs last week. On Monday, one of them came bounding into the classroom, excited as can be, saying;”Guess what Mr. H, I got a comment from Texas!” Just wanted you to know, your well written, positive comment left a very positive impression on a young learner. We should all take the time to do the same.

  3. Wesley Fryer says:

    Mike, you and your students are most welcome! As I teach more teacher education classes, I plan to teach my pre-service students how to do this and require it of them!

    So glad to hear that one of your writers was enthused to get a comment from Texas! I am speaking next week at our state convention on the topic of student blogs, and am going to exhort attendees to leave comments on student classroom blog posts for specifically this reason!

    Vicki, I have created a del.icio.us tagged list of classroom blogs: http://del.icio.us/wfryer/classroomblogs. If other people will post using this same tag (classroomblogs) then the following URL will show all the aggregated links with this same tag: http://del.icio.us/tag/classroomblogs

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