Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Do-It-Yourself Broadcasting: Writing Weblogs in a Knowledge Society

Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel have an interesting article about blogging and education, which was presented at a confference in Chicago, 2003, entitled: Do-It-Yourself Broadcasting: Writing Weblogs in a Knowledge Society

In it, they outline a taxonomy of blogs, talk about the relationship between blogs and power, and mention the potential for blogs to become platforms for powerful writing if the author is encouraged to focus upon his/her point of view and identity.

On the subject of school blogs, the authors are highly critical:

"Many student posts to school-endorsed blogs look like being compulsory requirements and linked to student grades for the course. The lively humour and wit of blogger posts elsewhere and the written comments they often attract from readers are missing—few school blogs even have the “comments” function enabled. The quality of writing posted to school blogs varies from the “why bother” to lists of items pertaining to a subject area topic or theme being studied in class, through to essayist texts. There is little evidence of idea development."

As I was reading this, it reminded me of an example where this was completely the opposite, and the reason why I originally became interested in using weblogs with students, through Bee's weblog. The student entries here were personal and came from a desire by the students to communicate. This was so different from the experience found by the authors of this article:

"Some students in this same class have created personal weblogs, but these are uniformly underdeveloped and none of them indicates any evidence of significant personal investment."

Since then (almost a year ago), I have also tried to involve students in blogging with limited success. I recognise that I have resorted to the obligatory (homework and assignment) blog entry that the authors of this article refer to, although I have seen examples of writing which would have been difficult to obtain if I'd asked for traditional assignments. I recognise too, however, that there is a fine line between encouraging students to write in a weblog, and forcing them, when setting assignments.

During the end of one blogging experiment (, I gave students the choice of using the weblog for their assignments , or giving them to me hand-written or typed. Some students continued with the blog, but a lot of them preferred to hand me their work. It was as if they did not trust the technology.

During the last computer class, I asked these students to answer some questions about the blogging experience, and their replies can be found on their student blogs. I haven't had time to compile and analyse the results, but when I do, I'll publish them here.

The authors of the article mention hat it is not their intention simply to criticise the school blogs, but simply draw attention to the fact that although a lot of these are "earnest attempts to meld new technology use, student interest and school work", they "risk killing the medium by reducing its potential scope and vitality to menial school tasks in which students seemingly lack any genuine purpose."

Finally, the article includes a link to the authors' blog they keep for their students, called everyday literacies .

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