Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Belated Appreciation for Blogging in Education

I've always felt that writing is important. Which may explain why I can't bear to throw anything written away--from my own grade school papers, to any book I've ever bought. It's a great frustration to my wife, who (accurately) asks the question: "When will you ever even look at this stuff--in bookshelves all throughout the house, or stored in boxes in the attic or garage--again?"

I believe there is a significant power in thoughts, and writing, for me, is the most vital way to try to understand, communicate, and record those things in life which have the most meaning. I can imagine living without a lot of things in life, but not the written word. There are thoughts that I can identify that just having been thought, or encountered, changed my life from that moment forward. The complex structure that makes up my understanding of life and what kind of person I am supposed to be are built on a framework of ideas, most of which have been captured and expressed by someone who wrote them down for me to encounter later and to make a part of who I am. A couple of years ago I determined to record what I thought were the most important ideas that guide me in my life. The list got very long, and for several months I would remember one or another new one each day. It has been a fascinating experience.

I've also been a pretty regular journal-writer for much of my life, which I have always felt gives my day-to-day experiences more profound meaning, and allows reflection and perspective. So it is surprising to me that I wasn't really aware of blogging as an academic tool until just the past couple of weeks. And as I have "Googled" the topic and read enthusiastic reports from teachers, I've come to a belated appreciation of blogging as a educational tool. In fact, I would have to say that I can imagine blogging ushering in a significant era in education. Which makes sense to me--I don't think it's usually the glitzy technologies which really make an impact on us, but the more simple, profound changes that a technology allows, like blogging.

So what is it about blogging that is so profound, and makes it such a powerful teaching tool? I think it is because blogging re-invents writing as a dynamic, active method of communicating ideas. And communicating ideas requires that we refine and purify those ideas if we want others to understand them and communicate back to us. Certainly, watching the incredible desire to communicate that is released by sites like has to remind us of how much each of us wants to express ourselves to others. While the more disciplined and structured blogging of an educational setting may not have the immediate excitement to students of MySpace, it still brings the important element: an audience, that is, eyes that will challenge and provide feedback. It's hard not to see some significant good there.

I've had my share of concerns about the Internet, technology as an addiction, and the difficulty of being only a few clicks away from pretty bad stuff. But blogging has me enthusiastic again.

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