Blogging is Pointless in Education

11/10/2007 10:36:00 am

How is someone writing their diary online, for everyone to read, going to help anyone learn anything? I mean, who cares about what you did today? Why on earth would I be interested in the minutiae of someone's personal life? Who they like; who they don't; where they're going this weekend; what they ate for breakfast; or ... any of it?!?

How do you reply to people who feel this way? In my experience the best answer is to point them to the ever growing list of excellent educational blogs published daily. We have class blogs, individual student blogs, teacher blogs, professional development blogs, course blogs and the list goes on and on. There are many good reasons we blog.

Along comes twitter. The stupidest idea you've ever heard: "What are you doing right now?" People everywhere sharing the minutiae of their daily lives as it happens. Ridiculous! Or is there something more to it?

My first reaction to twitter was: "Huh? Why would anyone want to do that?" I watched it take off across the edublogosphere, amazed. Why are people doing this? Who has time for such nonsense?

Alan Levine wrote a series of blog posts about his enthusiasm for twittering. I finally asked him, in a comment, what's the value gained from tweeting. His reply essentially said: Educational Technology is not a spectator sport. We learn by doing. Alan's recent presentation Being There, underscores this perspective quite powerfully. (I highly recommend taking it in via the flickr set.)

Some of the advantages I've found from tweeting:

• Links to resources like walk2web, fauxto, screencast-o-matic and many more.

• I've made new friends (one of many) who share their resources and contribute in meaningful ways when I give PD workshops.

• It's intimate. People say good morning and good night.

• It's very personal and it's very professional. It provides instant access to a community of practice where people share knowledge and expertise and also provide support and encouragement and problem solve together.

There are many more example of all this in Nancy White's wiki. (A great resource; thanks for that Nancy!)

Twitter has become very much my staffroom where I connect with a variety of educators (teachers, principals and superintendents) across the spectrum of teaching domains, age groups, socioeconomic and geophysical contexts. There are also a number of consultants and others working in education whose job descriptions don't fit neatly into any box. All these people have become integral players in my ever growing community of professional practice.

Joan Badger and Ben Hazard in the SmartBoard Lesson Podcast: Episode 72 talk about twitter. They seem to be sitting at the start of Alan's Twitter Life-Cycle. Like Alan says in his "Being There" presentation about edtech tools in general, you can't judge the worth of a tool by watching someone else use it; you have to use it yourself to understand it. You won't appreciate the true value of twitter until you jump in with both feet. Maybe try something like what Bob Sprankle did in July: Tweet regularly for 30 days ... then see how you feel about it.

I started writing this almost three months ago. This week Ben Hazard added me to his twitter stream and I added him to mine. Maybe this whole post is now moot but when Ben added me to his stream (actually, twitter is more like the Mackenzie) I was inspired to publish this post; the first of 23 posts I have sitting in draft. Thanks for the push Ben, you got me writing again. ;-)

By the way, if you've not listened to the SMARTBoard Lesson Podcast I highly recommend it. I've been a regular listener for about nine months now. Always engaging, always good for a laugh and a great model for collaborative professional practice and development. If you use an interactive whiteboard in your teaching then you'll get a lot out of listening to the podcast. In the meantime, I'm going to try to get my "SMARTBoard Tip" in for the contest before time runs out. (Listen for the podcast to find out more.)

Cheers Ben and Joan!

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  1. I assume you have seen Alan's extra notes for his Being There presentation on his Cogdogroo wiki? If you have not check out this wiki I strongly recommend it as he has lots of great presentations on it such as 50 ways to tell a story.

  2. What started off as a comment here, ended up as a post in my blog:
    How do I tweet thee?...

    By the way, I'm glad to see you back in the staffroom and tweeting!

  3. Here is a great smartboard resource you may find of interest as well - Edusim - a 3D environment for the smartboard

  4. Sue: Thanks for the link. I have seen Alan's wiki and 50 ways to tell a story. Fantastic resource that!

    Claudia: I looked at your blog and followed the link (took me to a tweet of Darren Drapers') but haven't found your blog post yet. Let me know when it's up. ;-)

    Anonymous: I have been playing with that off and on for a couple of weeks now. Looks like an interesting environment but I haven't found or thought of a way I could use it in my classes yet. Of course, suggestions are welcomed. ;-)

  5. Darren - The "Why would you want to do that with students?" and "How does that help students learn?" attitude is one of the issues holding so many back from implementing technology tools in their teaching and learning. The difference (as opposed to "A Difference" I guess) is that many of us have that initial reaction, but then tuck that away and watch for how others end up using it or we see an effective use for it later. I've started making that point over and over lately with teachers. Remember there has always been reluctance to new technology ... even if it was switching from bark to slate or quill to ballpoint.
    : )


  6. Hi Brian,

    You're right, many teachers are intimidated by learning new technologies and ask: "Why should I do this?"

    (A bit ironic really, given how important "modeling" is.)

    I've never claimed to have all the answers but I'm going to share some of my answers in my next post. It'll be a voicethread so I encourage you to add your own as well. ;-)


  7. I love the response from Alan Levine that we learn by doing...

    One thing we asked teachers to do at an introductory web 2.0 workshop was to pick one web 2.0 tool and sign up for it. We were trying to show that web 2.0 is interactive, that you have to give something to get's an interaction.

    Initially I had the same response to twitter, but after I saw how it was used at the SXSW conference here in Austin to connect people, I figured that I had to turn it on for NECC. It's a great tool for connecting people.

    I'll never forget sitting in the Atlanta airport, getting tweets on my cell phone from other people stuck in the airport who were trying to connect while waiting.

    Twitter has become an invaluable part of my practice, and as you mention, I learn about new tools daily (like WizIq, Elluminate, Voice Thread, Ustream, and on and on) and it's also great to get to "work" together across time and space with people all over the world. It's just fun :)

  8. My first reaction to Twitter was exactly like yours. It took months for me to finally give in and try it out. So many people I respect were using it. It has taken a few weeks for it to became a must for me. Within the first 2 days of twittering I was recruited for a podcast and published an article for Cable in the Classroom. It makes my virtual learning network a part of my everyday life. I feel connected and supported.

  9. I have to agree with you both. Twitter has become very much like a virtual staffroom. I can't always make it in there but when I do the welcome is always warm, there is always something new being shared and something new to learn.

  10. Anonymous27/7/08 07:30

    Thanks for your very thoughtful blog post and the links your referenced! Although I found twitter too fragmented and couldn't get going on it, I joined Plurk just a few weeks ago and I'm astounded! My networking and resources have multiplied exponentially; I have more professional contacts from around the country and the world in only a short amount of time than I do in real life, with instant access to more helpful information and ideas than I can actually sort through (my delicious and diigo accounts are getting enormous!).

    The downside includes: (1) effective organization and filtering of info, (2)the distraction and time-drain of plurking - I do better work when I focus, without stopping to plurk or check email, (2) the ADD-like meandering caused by link-hopping makes me wonder what I was doing when I started out, (3) my real-world colleagues are totally out of touch with what I'm doing and what I'm learning about. In my district, web2.0 sites are blocked, and any websites that include the "blog" in the URL address or title are blocked! This frustrates me!

    In my opinion, we have a huge challenge to address these issues along with trying to recruit our colleagues to join the web2.0 movement.

    We need to admit that for a lot of teachers, immersion in the virtual world takes much more time than they feel they can afford. I personally enjoy being immersed, but I'm a geeky weirdo according to many of my friends and colleagues!

  11. Anonymous27/7/08 08:00

    Hi Sharon, you've made some excellent points. I thought I might share how I deal with the downsides you mention:

    (1) Twitter, and reading my aggregator, can be like drinking from a fire hose. I've stopped trying to stay on top of it all. Sometime I just click "mark all as read" in my aggregator and let the twitter stream pass me by. No one can really do it all. It's sort of taught me to get comfortable with letting things pass me by; it hasn't been an easy lesson to learn. I'm still working on it really. ;-)

    (2) When I have papers to grade or lessons to plan I stay out of the staffroom. I think of twitter (and plurk, jaiku, pownce, plaxo, friendfeed, etc.) in much the same way.

    (3) I often feel the same way. However the value added from my virtual staffroom: the amount I learn, the resources shared, the community support, the professional development that goes hand-in-hand with being part of a professional community of practice, keeps me coming back. ;-)

  12. Anonymous9/10/08 16:25

    Twitter could also be benificial if all of the staff at your particular school was involved with it as well. I have had no experience with it at all, but what you've said about it has made me excited to get involved and learn more. This seems to be a way to get a broad spectrum of input and ideas about whatever you happen to be doing or talking about. Students could use something similar to this along with their teachers to encourage discussion about homework or the day's work..or if a student misses a day they can essentially see a little bit of what is going on if the teacher uses twitter throughout the day. I may have understood it wrong, but from what I can tell this could grow to be a very benificial tool. Thank you!

  13. I used to think twitter might have application in the classroom, and some teachers have found wonderful ways to do that, but now I think of it as a tool just for me. It's my always on, online staffroom.