Friday, December 23, 2005

Challenging the status quo - blogging in schools

Update(18-01-06): This post by Will Richardson, is timely to the discussion about blogs and our children. A emotive example, which shows aspects of teenage living that perhaps parents do not yet fully understand. You be the judge.

Earlier: Came across Scott's commentary on a post at 'I Speak of Dreams', about the art of teenage blogging and the reaction by schools to restrict access by students to these blog/journal sites in schools.

We are still seeing the blogosphere as somewhat emerging in terms of teaching and learning, but already there are some excellent examples of its use in education - you only have to see the wave of edublogs, uniblogs and learnerblogs, courteousy of James Farmer, for one!

How is the Establishment going to face up to this? I put the challenge to Ed institutions out there with Scott's pointers and questions as a starting point! I agree with him when he says:
...providing an open yet supportive environment for student writing and communication may not be as difficult or risky as its made out. But you have to understand students, and understand the emerging teen web culture.
These young adults are our future! And I don't think we get to know our students enough to make value judgements about what we teach them. If we continue to hamper students' development as responsible and civil global citizens, how are we to do so if we continue to cast limitations on them? How will they learn responsibility? How will they embrace the critical thinking skills we espouse in our teaching practices, while at the same time locking up their options?

I am reminded of a tale (told many times over, the origin of which escapes me) where a young boy, a diehard Superman fan, dressed in his Superman outfit - including cape, was convinced that in wearing his outfit he could fly. His mother did not deter him as he climbed the fence - his "launching platform." He of course jumped and fell, hurting himself in the "fly" - but learnt a valuable lesson about gravity (and the lack of human flying ability) at the same time. This story sticks with me as a constant reminder of the need to 'love with open arms' as they say. Painful, yes of course - that's life! We often learn best from painful and involving experiences! Often, in sytematising processes and practices (like education), we find ourselves trying to lighten the blow, removing ourselves one step from the action, objectifying and sterilising the experience.

Perhaps we need to bring such topics into the upcoming 2006 Blog Hui Conference in NZ? What can we do to better advocate for blogs and persoanl learning spaces online? How might such technology be better understood in the teaching and learning context? What do we need to do now in order to better serve our students (and teachers!) of the future?


Lynsey said...

Hi Marg
Thanks for the links to

Marica and I were hoping you'd make it to the conference - it's New Zealand's first weblog conference and we're looking forward to catching up with you.

Looking forward to getting your paper on challenging the status quo (hint, hint) :) - to me there seems to be a nasty predeliction amongst academia to use blogging as yet another assessment device for torturing students. It's not that torturing students isn't fun in itself, it's more a question of 'is a blog the best device for this'?

Imagine if students (or anyone for that matter) engaged with blogging for its own subtle joys and nuances... anyway, ahem, now, Marg, about your paper (nudge, nudge)...


Anonymous said...

Liz here from I Speak of Dreams. At least in the U.S., the state-supported schools aren't banning social networking and blogging sites, really, as much as restricting access from school computers. As far as I've been able to tell, most are doing so for reasons of managing scarce resources--if the schools are supplying the computers, there are only so many hours at the keyboard, and so much connectivity.

The private (non-state-funded) schools are another matter. You really can't speak of them coherently, as in the U.S. some have religous affiliations; some are secular; etc. etc. As far as I've been able to determine, no secular independent school has restricted students' online activity in a way unique to online communications. What I am trying to say is, if an independent school has a rule about respectful speech, that rule has been extended to online speech as well, and so on.

One of the most important things I've done in the last year is developing my own personal blogging principles. I think that is a very fruitful avenue of approach for teachers--to challenge students to develop a personal set of principles for the blogs they keep, and their online presence generally. You can read mine here:
My Blogging Principles

Marg O'Connell said...

Thanks for your comments Liz, highly relevant and shows the grey areas all around the blogging front!

Having blogging principles is a great way to make explicit your own expectations and what you anticipate you will offer to your readers. There are some good examples out there - yours included!

There are so many issues that blogging in education raises I guess...the "internet predator" issue, privacy and duty of care, social and adult 'etiquette', standards and quality, ethics and protocol, and all across the various cross-sections of our communities which overlap with our schools, univeristies workplaces, the lot!

I guess my point is how are we ourselves learning to live 'online'? What protocols and practices are we subscribing to that we are fully aware of in our day to day escapades online? A lot of the technical stuff is blind to us users 'to make it easier for us to enjoy the internet expereince', but we need to be seeing (as examples) those people who do misuse the internet, duely reprimanded by our figures of authority that we have in place to maintain our social 'status quo'. We expect this in our physical lives and entrust our communities to these levels of authority.

At the same time we also need to see good examples of those who are using the net in innovative, creative and productive ways - that progresses humanity in some way - so our siblings and loved ones can learn to do so too. It is not such a big step from my third grade teacher who, simply through her passion for teaching children, still inspires me today to do what my heart - and conscience - tells me to do.

It's a big issue. I think you've covered many aspects Liz and have obviously used your blogging principles to frame your approach.

Perhaps you might have an opportunity to tell more at Blog Hui in March??? (hint! hint!)

Best wishes, Marg