The Buzz on Blogs

January 12, 2008 at 12:10 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 26 Comments
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After exploring examples of blogs, what are your initial reactions, questions, and concerns?  What potential do you see for blogs as an avenue for your own professional development?  How might you use this technology to support literacy in your content area?

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  1. After exploring examples of blogs in class today, my initial perception of them has changed significantly. Prior to the class activity, I was familiar with blogs. I had originally thought of blogs as online diaries or journals, used most commonly by teenagers. Now, I can clearly see that they are not. Although it sounds naïve, I really had no idea that blogs were used by adults and professionals as a way to communicate various ideas and topics.

    Brian Smith really opened my eyes to the idea that blogs and Web 2.0 can be used to reconnect the people of the world. It can open up lines of communication between people who probably would not collaborate under other circumstances.

    As I was searching through GoogleBlogs, I came across a wide variety of sites I was interested in reading. I most definitely see how GoogleReader could become addicting. I found myself wanting to subscribe to more and more blogs. One question/concern that came up while I was searching was- what do you do if you cannot find the feed in order to subscribe?

    I know that if you’re using Firefox, you can hit the orange cricket, but in internet explorer it was much more complicated. I ended up not being able to subscribe to a site because I could not find a feed, or paste the url. Blogs are becoming an increasingly more popular way to communicate thorough the web. I hope as people become more accustomed to using them, they will make it easier for other people to subscribe to their blogs.

    As far as professional development goes, blogs provide an excellent way for professionals of all sorts to collaborate. As a teacher, I am interested in looking for blogs in which other teachers are discussing topics relative to my field. I am interested in learning more about motivating and engaging students. This year, I teach an AIS class of seven students who are functioning very far below grade level in mathematics. As a new teacher, I am struggling to find strategies that are effective in increasing the interest and ability of these students. The more ‘colleagues’ I can communicate with, the better the bank of strategies I will have to pull from. Whether the other teachers are in my building, or halfway across the world; working together can make us that much stronger.

    Blogs can be used to improve my ability as a teacher, but they can also be utilized in the classroom as a way to support literacy. As far as mathematics goes, literacy is a huge part of our curriculum. Students are required to read and comprehend word problems, as well as explain their solutions mathematically. This is surprisingly difficult for students at the seventh grade level. As a teacher, I have to do everything I can to encourage students to use reading strategies and communicate mathematically. It seems that blogging could be a great way to open up lines of communication between students. In this technological age, working on computers is a good strategy to motivate even the weakest of students. By using blogs, a teacher hopes to gain the interest of unmotivated students and at the same time, teach their students to communicate and collaborate with each other clearly and effectively.

    If I were to create a blog for my classroom, I could see it being an open forum where students would ask each other questions and provide answers and explanations for each other. They already work together in the classroom, it can’t hurt to give them the same opportunity when they are at home.

  2. Tracy, in response to your question about finding RSS feeds on sites, remember that not all sites will have a “feed”. However, if you know it is a blog and you still cannot find it, that’s hard. As I stated in class today, I think that your browser makes a difference here. I would look to get the updated version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox now that you are accessing and using RSS.

    Glad to read you have shifted your thoughts about blogs from simply diaries/journals to a more dynamic web presence for connecting ideas. In fact, blogs hit the mainstream during the 2004 presidential campaign when a well connected blogger called out Dan Rather, who had reported on a false document produced against George W. Bush. Politics aside, this was a very important moment. The power of the blog and it’s instant access to information and the proliferation of that information brought down one of the most well known anchormen in network news.

    My last comment will be that RSS is more than blogs. It’s about bringing relevant and updated information to you. Oh, one more thing, be sure to look for and subscribe to news and blog sources that push your thinking (even ones that you don’t necessarily agree with). This will help you keep perspective.

  3. In my comment above I mentioned Dan Rather and how bloggers “brought him down”. You can read more about it here.

  4. Hey Brian-

    So, I just clicked on the internet and my homepage opens up to yahoo.com. One of the headlines in there today was “Bloggers Respond to the FBI” so it caught my eye. It was about a guy who is on the terrorist watchlist for the FBI. His name is Hasan Elahi. In response to the FBI monitoring his whereabouts, he is photographing places he goes, time stamping his transactions and posting everything about his life on the internet for people to see.

    When I saw this, I thought it was completely insane (in a cool way). There were a bunch of bloggers leaving comments about it. It really gets you thinking about this crazy thing we call the internet. Every once and a while, I find myself thinking “wow, technology is decreasing the amount of social interactions people have.” We no longer see a teller at the bank, we get fast food at a window, rented movies are delivered through the mail, and now, we can watch this guys entire life online without even meeting him.

    On the other hand, (like I said previously) the internet is also bringing people together that wouldn’t normally converse. How do you feel about the fact that people are communicating more and more through the computer and not face to face… any thoughts on that?

    Plus, I was trying to link that yahoo headline in this comment, but I couldn’t figure out how to create a hyperlink. Apparently I’m dumb.. idk. If anyone is interested in reading about it, here is the link- I think?? lol http://potw.news.yahoo.com/s/potw/59371/hiding-in-plain-sight

  5. My first reaction is that a blended approach is best. Face to face (F2F) interactions are ideal, however, we are not always in contact with those that are most interested in what we are interested in. That said, online communication and collaboration are ideal.

    In education, the blended approach is very effective. We all work at different paces and need our own professional development. If a committee waits until each meeting to get work done, is it more effective because they are F2F or if they had worked in between F2F meetings in an online environment as well?

    Thanks for the article (you linked it well) it was very interesting. Though I think that is an extreme case it does get you thinking about how much personal information we share (think of our MySpace/Facebook conversation).

  6. Coming into class on Saturday morning I, much like Tracy, thought of blogs as a way for people to simply write about their opinions like a digital diary. Walking out of class on Saturday it was clear to me that I vastly underesitmated what a blog could be. I am still slightly overwhelmed by the idea, but I am certainly more comfortable than before. My questions at this point in time are somewhat basic because of how knew this is to me. I would like to find out how to really work a blog well besides just posting on one. Ultimately it would be nice to start my own blog once I begin teaching so my students and I could use it. I’m sure that as I continue to use technology like this more questions will arise. Tracy also made a good point about using internet explorer vs. Firefox to access information. The new version of IE is much better than the older versions. I would definitely recommend that everyone either uses IE 7 or Firefox.

    The use of blogs for professional development sounds like an outstanding idea. Tracy really nails what I was thinking before I read her post. It is the ideal place for the exchange of ideas with colleagues not only in the school I am employed but with others across the city, state, country or even the world. Methods, questions, opinions, and ideas can all be shared in a hearbeat and can be of emense value to everyone. This is similar to the Dan Rather situation that Brian brings up. Something that probably would have gone unnoticed if it were not for the internet.

    As far as a blogs use in a classroom is concerned I think that since children are practically raised online today it would be ignorant to pull them away from that. I found this website (http://awd.cl.uh.edu/blog/) that discussed some of the implications of blogging and education. Student blogs or class wikis about topcis would work very well. In this way students could really make their research and ideas their own while still sharing them with the entire class. The uses for this seem endless. I would also recommend that students all have GoogleReader or a comprable program to be readily informed about subjects, especially those pertinent to class. This would also be a great way for students to participate outside of the classroom.

  7. The one question that I forgot to mention what, how do I link a website on my blog posts? Anyone feel free to jump in on this one.

  8. I felt the same way as Ted and Tracy did at the beginning of class on Saturday. I was really confused as to how blogging would be beneficial in education and literacy. But by the time I left class, it all made sense. My original thoughts on blogging were that they were journals and they were only used by teens. I was definitely wrong. The examples we were given showed me how teachers and educators use blogs as a main tool for there classroom.

    I saw blogs used in 2 ways. The first is for the students. I think students would really benefit from blogs. They can discuss between eachother and learn from one another. Their literacy skills will be improving and they wont even realize it. Like Ted said, kids these days grow up with the internet. They like and enjoy it. Blogging is a way for us teachers to help our students enjoy school, and I think that is very important. The second use for blogs that I see is for teachers. It is a great tool, especially for us new teachers. We can discuss with other teachers different strategies, and we can also share what works for us. I think this will be a tool I use alot when I start teaching.

    I do have one question… I am having trouble subsrcibing to blogs using internet explorer. How to I get firefox on my computer???

  9. You can get firefox at one of my favorite websites….. http://www.download.com Search for Mozilla Firefox and choose either the windows or mac version. It looks like the most recent version is 2.0.0.11

    … I told you guys I was getting addicted to this….. lol

  10. Well, I guess it is time for me to weigh in on this idea of blogs. Coming from the stone ages, we did not have computers to work with when I was in school. Much of this technology and concepts are very new for me. I was in school when slide rulers were used and Texas Instrument was coming out with calculators (i think). I can envision blogs as a way to take isolationism out of education.No longer will a teacher or for that matteer a student be alone with a subject. Blogs allow everyone to be connected to information, whether it be for education or enjoyment. I still an a little old fashioned in that students still need to learn basics without the aid of computers and calculators. They need to learn to write so it is legible. I have problems getting so dependent on machines that we cannot functtion without them. I am sure we have all gone into a store and the person serving you cannot make change without the cash register. Tom Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation” chronicles people during World War Two who were thrown into impossible situations. They analyzed the problem and solved it with smarts, common sense and ingenuity. We still need to nuture this in our students. I realized a long time ago that I needed to learn how to use computers and I think I have done fairly well. This is my first experince with blogs. I think its interesting. I hope I am doing it right but I am sure that will come with time.

  11. Tracy – It’s great the way you are coming back to the follow-up comments to continue the conversations and help others. I’m curious, have you commented on blogs outside of this class?

    You wrote,

    I most definitely see how Google Reader could become addicting. I found myself wanting to subscribe to more and more blogs.

    You will probably find that you will add/delete blogs to Google Reader as you continue to develop your own professional learning network. As this continues to grow, so will the addiction. The power of using Web 2.0 tools to build your network is amazing. Keep reading, connecting, learning, and sharing.

    Ted – I’m glad you are seeking other sources to learn more about blogging in education. I checked out the site you mentioned and found much of it to be dated and had link rot. If you check out this Support Blogging wiki site , you’ll discover great resources and ideas. Your comment,

    I would like to find out how to really work a blog well besides just posting on one.

    is right on track. As you take the time to just read and absorb a variety of educational blogs, you’ll begin to see the different audiences, formats, and goals a blog can take.

    Caitlin – Blogs certainly can be used with students in the content areas and improve their literacy at the same time. However, this will not happen auto-magically. It takes direct instruction on literacy (reading & writing) strategies in the classroom and continued modeling and feedback from teachers, classmates, and outsiders throughout the process. If you are intrigued by students blogging, read this or look at the Support Blogging wiki site mentioned above and click on the list of bloggers to find other examples of student blogs.

    Mike – It is cool to think of how technology continues to change the way people live, work, play, learn, and communicate. In my first job teaching 3rd grade, I had to use a ditto machine to make classroom copies. The “Xerox” machine was in the office and could only be used with special permission.

    The point you make about using blogs to be connected to information is important and it goes a step further to being able to establish a collaborative dialog with others. This aspect of blogging is where the heart of literacy can be found; where the analyzing, comparing, contrasting, debating, synthesizing, and questioning take place.

    You mentioned Tom Brokaw’s book and how people were thrown into a problem situation, had to “analyze and solve it with smarts, common sense and ingenuity.” I immediately thought of problem-based learning experiences for students and how all teachers should be required to implement this type of learning into the classroom (K-12). However, in today’s world the “smarts, common sense, and ingenuity” needed to solve the problem need to be supported by the infusion of technology.

    Thanks everybody for sharing your thoughts.

  12. As I think about blogging, I always come back to a time factor. A person must enjoy and have the time to spend on the computer. I find myself that time is a valuable commodity that must be utilzed wisely. A thought provoking question is if blogging is the future of education will we have classrooms run by computers.All the students will be sitting in front of a screen typing all day. If this is true will we need schools and teachers? It would make an interesting Sci-Fi movie. We need the interpersonal contact between people to make education work. Computers can be so impersonal

  13. Mike,
    Devoting the time to read blogs and develop a network is a concern that has been voiced many times by teachers. A suggestion that I’ve heard is to commit 15 minutes a day to this endeavor.

    I wouldn’t say blogging is the future of education. It is certainly a tool that can be used for different purposes and for different audiences and can increase literacy skills. While I can’t imagine students sitting in front of a computer typing all day, it is interesting to imagine what a classroom of the future would look like. Check out what’s happening in real classrooms right now by clicking here.

  14. The whole “computers being impersonal” debate is a huge one for me. I mentioned before, F2F interaction seems to be decreasing- not only in education but in the “real world” as well. It really is crazy to picture education 10 years from now. Will there be classrooms? Teachers? Will students merely stay in their bedrooms all day every day educating themselves for six hours, shopping online for two hours, ordering dinner from pizzahut.com, and then talking online until it is time for both them, and their computers to go to sleep? Who knows. We can’t even begin to imagine the possibilities.

    We had a good discussion on this topic during GMST’s Integrating Technology course with Kris Green. I’d recommend it highly. One conversation that came up during that class was the idea of a “paperless” classroom. You can check out the experiment at http://www.paperlessclassroom.org Its a real school, that really tried it!

    I guess, in the meantime, all we can do is attempt to keep up with the technology and the interests of our students in an effort to keep them engaged and motivated to learn! Anything that gets them excited about learning and collaborating gets an A in my book!

    Also- Wendy, to answer your question. The only other blog I have posted on right now is that of the Science Goddess. I really haven’t had time to delve further into my newfound little addiction. I’ll post to this one, and the text book blog and then start some more reading for my other classes. Its kind of sad. I just finished reading all of the chapters in our “Subjects Matter” book and it really got me excited about reading, and yet slightly depressed at the same time. It made me wish that I had more time to read books for pleasure, and also more time to find books my students would enjoy. I think a quick story every now and then would be so much fun! Just like the text says though…. “So many books, so little time!”

  15. After reading through everyone’s comments, I have a much clearer idea of what blogging is all about. I had never blogged before and was a little doubtful early on Saturday (as it seems everyone was) and am now really surprised how enthusiastic everyone has been in their comments and how supportive they are of the idea of blogging. The more I think about, and reflect on everyone else’s thoughts; I can see that blogging would be a great way to engage students in discussions and communications outside of class.
    I agree with one of Tracy’s first comments that I did not realize either that many professionals used blogs to communicate with one another. I agree, blogging really is a great way of collaboration. I have done a lot of research both in undergrad and over the summer that posed many questions that could not be answered by faculty around me. I think blogs would have really helped in those situations. I was discussing this class with an engineering friend of mine and he says he blogs and uses facebook all the time to discuss ideas with people around the country and around the world. (He recently wrote an article for the D&C, but unfortunately it is unavailable to link to, or I would have inserted it here)
    When we were first talking about blogging, the first thing that came to mind was a Physics class I took over the summer. We watched a video of Eric Mazur, a famous, experimental Harvard physics professor who researched education. He would require students to read the textbook ahead of time and ask him questions and answer homework questions via e-mail so he knew what topics to cover the next day. I think his style of teaching would really benefit from a blog. Students would be able to post their questions and concerns about material and hopefully find understanding from other students or the teacher, before coming back to the classroom. He knew what to focus more on the following day based on the ability and questions of his students’ responses. Here is a link to his website if you are interested in learning more about his style of teaching: http://mazur-www.harvard.edu/education/pi_manual.php

  16. So my first post was definitely in favor of blogging in school. As everyone has already mentioned, it is a great way to reach students on their level and encourage them to discuss with themselves and see multiple points of view. On the down side, Mike mentioned the time-consuming nature of blogging. I am a little concerned, having been a little busy this week and having to read all fourteen messages at once. It took a little while to read, process, and think about how I wanted to respond that was both thoughtful and not redundant. I think a student who may have difficulty reading or difficulty with the subject may be a little overwhelmed if they join the blog a few days later. Any suggestions? Should I encourage students to check frequently or have separate blogs set up for discussion and then questions?

    Logistically, I was also concerned with the fact that not everyone has a computer nor internet access on home. Would this be something that only students with these advantages can benefit from or are there ways of getting around it?

    I was also wondering how to set up a blog with out advertisements on the sides that may be inappropriate or distracting to students (with out having to pay for them to be removed)? How can I get past parents, the school, and the administration’s security settings for pages like that?

    I think if anyone has any good suggestions to these concerns I would definitely be interested in using blogs in my classroom.

  17. YES I agree with Laurie. I think those advertisements could be very distracting for students. How can we get rid of them?

    Also, thank you Tracy for the help with downloading Firefox. Sometimes I can be very computer illiterate haha

  18. It seems like the general consensus from everyone is that before class we didn’t know much and after class everyone seemed pretty excited. I would have to say that even though we are a small sample of people I think we are very typical of many people around the country. Using blogs, wikis, etc as tools may be strange to some or all students in a class at first, but just look how little we used them in class and how excited we all were about them.
    When Mike talked about being in the stone age it was pretty funny, but in a way somewhat true. Technology is expanding so fast that if you don’t try and keep up you get left behind. I think that too many teachers are being left behind by their unwillingness to adapt their classrooms. The teachers that do change and adapt are the ones that are truly great.
    I think we’re off to a great start so far. I hope the engaging discussions continue.

  19. Laurie,
    You brought up some very valid questions regarding the logistics of blogging with students. A few suggestions – first need to think of your objective for blogging with kids and how it best fits with your subject matter. Also, just continue to subsribe, read, and occasionally comment on blogs. Discover what you like best.

    To avoid ads on a blog, Edublogs is a great place to start.

  20. That is true. Depending on what I want to accomplish with the blog, the logistics may not be as difficult. I think if we find some great reading material that is more engaging and appropriate than the textbook that the blog could work as a great discussion between students on the material. Also, using the blog as question and answer either before class or after could prove to be beneficial as well. I have been checking out a few blogs this week and my favorite would be the weallusematheveryday.com blog and website overall. They have a lot of great activities linked to math topics and TI calculators.

  21. […] is a process.  Click here to take a look at the comments from a group of graduate students after setting up Google Reader to […]

  22. So, I just started my observations, and I couldnt believe it, but the class I observe uses blogs! I was so excited when I found this out! Their blog is a little different though, and I am still trying to figure out how they do it. I do know, from what the teacher has told me, the students love it! They really feel like they are a big part of their class, which they are! Everyone’s thoughts get heard and I think that is so important when building classroom community.

    I have also done a little research on blogging to see how others feel about it. I found through my ressearch that so many people, not just in education, use blogging. One site I found, http://www.daniel-lemire.com/blog/archives/2005/02/10/real-benefits-of-blogs/
    talks about how blogs increased his marketing and they give him news weeks ahead of mainstream press. Its really cool to see how everyone benefits from blogs

  23. Caitlin,
    Please link the blog site from the class you are observing. Thanks!

  24. Yeah… Cait, I’d love to see that class site! Miss ya!

  25. I’m a little late with this, but here’s my two cents on blogging. Like most of you guys mentioned, I assumed blogs were just a diary. Another way for people to complain about something or share pointless information. I never considered the professional applications it could have. Although I do not personally like posting online, for many different reasons (and probably why it’s taken me so long to do these blog assignments), I could see myself reading blogs for the professional idea sharing. I always figured that any questions or problems I might encounter regarding my classroom I would handle through my co workers. Blogs give me another resource for answering those questions.
    I do feel, however, that the blog community can be cliquish. By that I mean that outsiders’ opinions and comments are not as highly regarded as the regular contributors. I think this is part of my resistance to blogging as well. Hopefully, my views will change because I do see how this can be an extremely useful tool for professional development.
    I also can see usefulness in blogging for a classroom. If we as teachers are truly trying to create a community of learners, a blog is a good community forum for idea sharing. One draw-back i see, relating to my reluctance to blog, is students not wanting to contribute, or feel pressured to post, or not taking it seriously and the blog turns into a chat room. And then there is the logistics issue with computer access at home. I think it is pointless to blog during classtime (when the same discussion could be had in real life), so blogging would have to be done as a supplement outside of school. If the students don’t have a computer/internet well…
    Anyways, I have a few things to think about regarding blogs, so hopefully I can find a way to make blogging work for me as a professional.

  26. Brian,
    It is great that you are thinking about the pros/cons of blogging. The concerns you voiced regarding students’ attitudes and effort could really be with any class project/assignment. Developing a classroom climate conducive to learning and sharing together, establishing clear expectations (rubrics, etc.), planning experiences that are authentic and engaging, and providing support to scaffold students’ learning as necessary, will help make students active participants in class.


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