http://landmark-project.com/images/computers.gif align=right width=300>I've been wanted to write an article about teachers and blogging -- and I really like the phrase Education Arts
, which I saw on a mailing list a couple of weeks ago. Classroom web pages have been with us for many years. One of my very first workshops, after leaving the NC State Department of Public Instruction, was in Asheville, where I had been asked to teach a group of teachers how to create web pages. I taught them HTML, because Claris Homepage, Frontpage, and the other early graphics web editors had not appeared yet. I believe that one of those teachers actually has a classroom web site now that can be traced back to that workshop.
Web building at that time was a very technical endeavor in that we had to communicate with the technology in order to get the technology to communicate with others. Today, the technology has been arranged such that it doesn't really get in the way of the human communication. You click a web button, type in your password, and then start typing what you want other people to read. Submit it, and your message is out there. It's about information and communication, not the technology
Even with this ease of publishing, most classroom web sites remain, what can best be described as "billboards on the information highway". With many spectacular exceptions, our image of the classroom web site remains a place where we simply present a snapshot of the room with a brief and usually not very exciting bio of the teacher, a quick description of the curriculum, some policy, and, if the teacher is industrious about the technology, regular homework assignments. Of course there is a very good reason for this. Teachers do not have "the time", but don't get me started on that.
I maintain that in order for any web site to successfully accomplish its goals, it must become a conversation. When you hear a statement in a conversation, it is a reflection of the speaker's current idea, belief, action, or memory. It is attached to the present, representing a current state of affairs. A conversation is different from what you may read on a piece of paper. When you read the news on the front page of most daily newspapers, you are reading what happened yesterday. You have a literal sense of this if you also listen to radio news, watch CNN (or other 24 hour news network), or follow the news blogs. By the time the paper version arrives, it's old news.
Most web sites are like the newspaper. They include old news. This is not a bad thing. Much information holds its value when it is old, including the bio, curriculum description, and policies. But much of what the web is really good at is sharing current information so that readers feel connected to what is going on and can benefit from the now
of, for instance, their child's classroom. Parents, even of high school students, want to be intimately connected to their child's learning.
This is where blogs come in. The blog, by nature of it title, is a conversation. It is a reflection of what is on the author's mind, right now. This is why blogging can be a very powerful tool, that can help teachers do their jobs. I would like to list a just a few ways that teachers might use blogging to help their students learn:
- At a basic, but valuable level, teachers can use blog accounts to post homework assignments and project descriptions.
- Teachers can post texts for students to read, research, reflect, and then respond to in a formal way using the comments feature.
- Teachers can use their regular blogs to publish ongoing impressions about the context of what is being learned currently in their classroom.
- These articles would describe why the topic is important, what it has to do with students' world, their future, and other topics that they are studying.
- Some teachers are using blog accounts as their exclusive classroom web page.
There are, of course, many other ways that teachers can use blogs to help them do their jobs. If one comes to you, please share it through the comments feature of this article.