Sometimes I write to just process my thoughts but have no idea where I am going…this is one of those posts…
“And not for nothing, but if teachers using blogs to connect their kids to global others is ‘best practice’ in 2013, then what was it some 12 years ago when we were doing that in my lit and journalism classrooms? Mercy.” Will Richardson
I read those words from Will Richardson, an educator and thinker that has really pushed my own thinking, and they stuck with me last night. To be honest, one of the biggest initiatives that I am behind in my district is a “Digital Portfolio Project” that is pushing blogging as a platform that we want to use in our district for students to share their ideas and learning throughout their entire time in our schools and beyond. If you break it down to the core though, if it is simply a blog and blogging, in my opinion, is a technical skill that can be taught to some level, within minutes.
So is blogging the epitome of what we are trying to do? I don’t think so, but on some level it could look like a very trivial task.
On a much bigger level, there can be so much more to a blog than writing, but the literacy component is an important and fundamental start. As I heard Yong Zhao say once, “reading and writing should be the floor, not the ceiling”, and I am a big believer that if you can get kids to not only read, but to write, learning opportunities will open up in all areas.
That being said, my belief is that a blog will give kids opportunities to share in so many ways other than writing, while developing a strong digital footprint. Videos, sound, images, and basically anything that you can see and hear can be put into a blog, which gives students options in the ways that they can share their voice and their passions. The way the world used to be is that you needed permission to share your voice. Not anymore and we need to work with kids to share theirs in differing and meaningful ways.
Once they start doing this, in my opinion, is where “entrepreneurial spirit” comes into play. As much as people hate someone like Justin Bieber, the reality of his world is that he would probably not exist and have the opportunities he has had in his world if YouTube didn’t exist (yup…I brought Bieber into this). Although he has gone a little nuts lately, if you break down what he has done, he shared what he loved doing through social media, and now makes a living out of his passion. Wouldn’t you want that for your students/kids? We need to teach kids to empower their voice, but also give them opportunities to have different ways to share it.
For example, there are so many educators that believe in the importance of teaching the “arts” (myself included), yet it has been something that people have traditionally gone away from because they don’t necessarily see opportunities for their future in the area. The difference now is that student who has made some amazing pieces of work, that no one might have seen before, can easily post them onto their own space, and if they are great, the opportunities will come their way. My ideal is that we don’t teach kids to work for other people, but that they can learn to leverage their own voice and create opportunities for themselves. If you could go back to a K-12 system as a student yourself, knowing what you do now, wouldn’t you want that same guidance?
If you look past what a blog is, I see something much more than writing on the web. I see great learning, but I also see opportunity and possibility, and yes, sharing that with the world. Does a kid need a blog to share and create opportunities? Not really since things like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr, Vimeo, etc., still create a great opportunity to share many different things, but blogging can incorporate all of these things. We have to give students the freedom to write about their passions and not use that space as a place to simply post “school work” but look at how they can use this space after their time in school.
One of the hurdles to overcome is that if you are going to really any leverage any of these things and make this type of initiative powerful, they take time and longer than a year in any one person’s class. It takes a shared vision at the school and district level to get to a point where a “blog” is much more than a blog. It also takes commitment, dedication, and patience to stick with something that takes perseverance to do well. Many educators talk about kids having short attention spans, yet we too often move on to the “next” thing before we knocked out of the park in any of our prior initiatives.
Should we in education brag that our students can write a blog? Absolutely not. Maybe though, we need to start to look at the opportunity to share in open spaces as more of a beginning than an end.