When educators find a single activity that engenders critical thinking, reading, writing, technology—they take notice. Blogging does just that. I’m puzzled why more educators, especially English teachers, haven’t embraced blogging. Why are they not clamoring to their keyboards, rushing to sites like Edublogs.org to sign up their students and get them blogging? Sites like Edublogs are free and they offer a safe environment created especially for students and teachers and they make the technical aspect of blogging simple and when we do encounter problems, they offer tutorial videos, discussions, and feedback aimed to help educators.
I’m convinced the obstacle is not technical know-how but instructional know-how. Granted, teachers still need help with the technical details: where to host a blog, how to create a blog, how to get started blogging. But, even greater, teachers need help to understand the instructional implications of blogging. As a classroom teacher, I need practical advice for starting and managing blogs:
o What do I have students do with them?
o How do I grade them?
o How do I monitor the barrage of posts and comments?
o Where do they fit in my curriculum?
o How do I manage class time?
o How do I teach students how to be safe online?
o What can I do to keep students from getting burned out on blogging?
If teachers had someone to work with, someone to guide them through the set-up and management of blogs, to show them how to implement them in their classrooms, with their students, with their curriculum—would more teachers be blogging? Would there be greater numbers experimenting with wikis, podcasts, video production?
Lately, I’ve been pondering these questions as I prepare (I’m in the early stages of preparation) a series of workshops on blogging. Rather than getting bogged down in the technical aspects (which would be difficult for me since I’m not a techno guru!), I want to focus on the teaching not the tool—on the curriculum planning and the day-to-day classroom management that teachers always want and need to know. I want the blogging workshop not to become another dusty binder on teachers’ shelves, another workshop participants sit through, file, and forget.
Beyond giving them the practical strategies and ideas for implementing and managing blogs, I’d love to be able to join them in their classrooms, to meet their students, to work alongside them as they encounter hurdles, to help them find solutions and to collaborate with them to design activities that excite, engage, and challenge students.
And then, it occurred to me—what I’m describing is an Instructional Technologist. More and more schools across the country are adding these technology/curriculum specialists—educators who can work alongside teachers to support them and encourage them to undertake adventurous technology-rich activities, activities like those described by Clarence Fisch where students interact in “live blogging” to discuss Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind.
If more schools hired Instructional Technologists, would more teachers be clamoring to the keyboard, rushing to web 2.0 sites, designing activities that allow students to design, create, produce, evaluate, synthesize, publish?