Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Why Blog?

One of the important questions in class so far has been why anyone would want to blog anyway. I think it is always important to question received assumptions (even when, as in this case, the assumptions being questioned are mine!), so I'd like to explore this a bit and get input from others who are new to or committed to blogging. Greg Van Nest and Cindy O'Donnell-Allen are good friends and colleagues who both vowed to start the blogging habit within the last year. I've enjoyed reading what they write because they help me better understand and consider what I do. But they are not strangers. Reading their blog is, for me, another way to get some quality "conversation" time with busy people who, in Greg's case, are not geographically nearby.

The blog of Bud Hunt, also a good friend and colleague, serves a little different purpose because Bud is so well connected. I like to tap into his networks occasionally (as well as his thinking), and his blog helps me do that. Likewise, the blogs of Will Richardson and Bruce Schauble appeal to me because I can connect to conversations I wouldn't otherwise be part of. So maybe that connectedness is a third reason to blog.

What else should we be thinking of?


Bruce Schauble said...

To me, perhaps the best argument for blogging is that the act of writing is a Way of Learning. That would be true to some degree of any writing, but there's something different, at least for me, about knowing that whatever you decide to write is going to find some kind an audience. The last three months, during which I've been blogging, have been the most consistently productive period I've experienced in my life as a writer. Part of that is because I sense as I am writing, even before I am writing, the looming if intangible presence of a world of readers out there. So I'm trying to make sense, not only for my own benefit, but potentially for theirs as well.

I've kept a journal off and on for years, but the only one who read it was me, and I tended to be very forgiving of myself if I decided to slack off for a month or two or six. But by establishing a blog I am in some way establishing a context of expectation, and some sense of responsibility to my audience, even if I don't know who most of them are. The frequency of posts - once a day, once a week - is obviously a matter of personal choice, but I think it makes sense to try to strive for some sort of consistency, otherwise people will find you by accident, come back once or maybe twice and find nothing there, and disappear.

Maybe I'm just being obsessive or arbitrary about that. Maybe there are lots of bloggers out there who blog on a whim occasionally and who could care less who, if anyone, reads the blog. But it seems to me that the very act of blogging is an act of putting yourself out there in public view, and entering into a kind of unspoken compact with your readers: I am going to do this. (If I were to decide ultimately that I was NOT going to to do this, I think I'd just quit.) But I guess what I'm driving at is that if it's worth doing, it's worth doing regularly, and that regularity is what produces the benefits in terms of self-instruction and productivity.

Ben Bleckley said...

I think blogging is also an opportunity to share classroom ideas - sort of like a very informal journal. By sharing the ideas and lessons we use in our classrooms, other teachers can use the successful ideas or help us improve our less successful lessons.

Bud Hunt said...

One reason to blog is to share your unique experiences with those of us who can learn from them.
I blog both because I like to reflect on my experiences, but also because I believe the information that I'm writing about is of use to others. I am really eager to read about your multimodal course, both from you and your students, because I want to learn more about the subject. I do not have enough time to explore what you are studying, but I know that y'all are probably able to share work that's important to me and to my teaching.
Maybe you'll even create a few materials that will have value to me, too. Hint, hint.
There are other reasons, but that's why I'm hoping your class will blog.

Cindy O-A said...

As you've pointed out in your post, I'm new to this blogging game, so my reflections are still pretty provisional here. But I've actually been thinking about this quite a lot. At first, I thought that I would blog regardless, that I was actually doing this more for myself than for any audience out there...but the promise of comments is pretty seductive, and I have to admit that I like visiting my blog and discovering that even one other person is reading and responding. I journal regularly, too, and know that I've certainly been more conscious about what and how I say things when someone else besides me might be reading them.

As for writing, I'd like to build on what Bruce says in his comments about a "context of expectation." He implies that this expectation of a potential audience keeps him writing and accountable to someone other than himself, but I'm discovering that it's also creating a writerly sense of expectation for myself. In other words, the occasion of blogging prompts me toward metacognition so that I'm often stepping apart from my thoughts and thinking, "I really ought to blog on that" (hmm...is blogging metacognition made visible, made interactive?).

Last thought: it's certainly a form of exploratory writing. It's felt okay for me that my ideas there are half-baked. Like Bruce says below, it's a Way of Learning. Maybe someone should tell Howard Gardner....

evn said...

i have found since returning to school that most of my learning has occurred through one or both of two means: writing and social discussion. bruce and cindy, your considerations of blogging as a way of routinizing, formalizing and experimentalizing writing are spot-on, though these qualities can be found in many other linguistic forms and contexts as well. i have been blogging for less than a week, and already i feel like communication in this or similar form will soon serve as the primary mode of idea exchange within professional communities. i have noticed a particularly addictive element in this process. cindy, you said the promise of comments is "seductive" and i agree completely. with so many different viewpoints and ideologies floating around the web, the ability to easily set out a sweet morsel of thought potential on which others can feed and grow and give back so much new perspective is too tempting to pass.
the take it or leave it pressure reduction that an awaiting discussion germ embodies, also tends to free up some of the channels of exploration that more formalized contexts often stifle.
blogging seems to add a layer of insulation between participants that allows some room to breathe, to help protect our cradled egos against the sometimes harsh weather of public experimentation. in varying degrees, we become less concerned about the potential backlash of our ideas and allow them to flow out of us as easily as they welled up in our minds. barriers are cleared while progressive potential remains, fortified by the vastness of possible collaborative energy, increasingly circulated through online social interaction.

A.M. Strzyz said...

I am new to blogging and at first wondered what value this would have for me. I have utilized teaching websites for lessons. I still find these valuable, but after a few weeks of blogging and exploring other blogs, I find more value in reading and responding to other teachers. This communication is inspiring to me. I enjoy looking at issues that other teachers are concerned with. I also enjoy seeing what others respond to in my blog. I look forward to more discussions with people I know and know only through a shared profession.