Many teachers of an older generation are not really familiar with blogs. I think it is important not only for teachers to be familiar with blogs, but also to understand what their significance is in the lives of their students. Now, not all your students will be reading blogs regulary, they will probably fall into (one or more of) the following categories:
- Has blogs he reads regularly and leaves comments
- Has her own blog
- Reads blogs only as he is sent links to entertaining posts
- Visits blogs – but doesn’t even know what a blog is because she just sees them as websites like any other
Let me clarify the last point. I was discussing blogging with my students and I was surprised how many appeared to be confused about what a blog is. That was until we visited a few. I soon realized that they had seen blogs, after all “Web Logs” are about a decade old. Blogs are so pervasive on the web now they don’t remember a time when most websites didn’t have a blog component. Which leads me to my first main point…
1. Blogs Are Already Ubiquitous With a Student’s Online Experience
With 77% of active Internet users reading blogs (Technorati) your students are reading them. But do your students realize the difference between a blog and a website like CNN.com? There are differences (more on that later) that your students need to be aware of. There is the issue of credibility, bias, and fact checking which can be questionable with blogs to say the least. It is increasingly important for students to be cognizant of the source and credibility of online material. To do this, students have to be able to understand what a blog is and how to recognize one. Then teachers can help teach them how to analyze the credibility of a source. Determining a blog’s credibility, however, is also becoming increasingly difficult. For example: If a Physics professor from a University posts to a personal blog, how does this compare to an article in The New York Times? This can be somewhat addressed with point two.
2. Blogs Are Fundamental Shifts in Communication
You may or may not be familiar with most of the different types of online communication. There are so many different sites and services that allow different ways to communicate. At the bare minimum, your students will be familiar with email, instant messaging, websites and social networking. As experts in social networking (Facebook), your students are already familiar with communicating online in an way alternative to reading a webpage. This is the jumping off point for having your students realize how blogs are different. Blogs can have s sense of immediacy. They can be updated quickly, even from a mobile phone. There are many differences, but I feel the biggest is that a blog is more than a dispensing of information. It is a conversation. Active blogs with active readers create something very interesting. When readers comment, the experience becomes interactive; there is a give and take as the person is transformed from reader to participant. For your students, this means that they can contribute, and their input is just as valid as anyone else’s. But unlike a conversation (or group discussion) there is time for your students to articulate properly what they would like to say. No thinking on your feet required. But perhaps the strongest case for helping students to be masters of the blog, is that blogs are changing the communication universe.
3. Blogs WIll Continue to Shape Communication
I should first point out that I despise the word “blogoshere.” It basically refers to the realm of communication going on at the level of blogs and other social networking sites. It was first used in jest, however, mainstream media picked it up and began to use it regularly – usually to describe the online community they didn’t understand. But now the blogosphere has grown so much that it is not so easy to see its boundary. And now the line between “journalist” and “blogger” is becoming blurred. Journalists have long since condemned bloggers for shirking journalistic responsibility, but then again journalists have long since seen there market share shrink to a growing readership of blogs. (More readers means “more eyes rson the page” which means more advertising dollars. Something bloggers and traditional media fight for.)Shel Israel points out:
“Let’s look at this “journalist” word. It is my view that a journalist is not defined by WHERE he or she writes but by WHAT he or she writes. Not everyone who blogs is a journalist. In fact few are. Nor is everyone who writes for traditional media a journalist either. It seems to me that crap is fairly evenly distributed between social and traditional media contributors. So is quality.” (Global Neighbourhoods)
As bloggers have become prefossionals so has their work become professional. The definition of a journalist is already changing and will continue to do so. We may very quickly find ourselves living in a world where we are all journalists. Where everyone is both a producer and consumer of information. It would be a place where everyone is part of the conversation and everyone has a stake in the game. Are your students ready? Are you?
For an awesome look at blogging today, follow the link below to Technorati’s “State of the Bloggosphere 2008.”Sources: http://technorati.com/blogging/state-of-the-blogosphere/ http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2008/07/scoble-brainsto.html