Pedagogical Underpinnings of Blogs in the Classroom

As I presented my blogs at CET for the Social Software Workshop this morning, midway into my hour-long talk about how I’ve been using blogs over the past four years, I was feeling more scattered than usual, a little off-kilter with the grounding I was providing, which, of course, surprised me given that I have presented at CET numerous times as well as at conferences and workshops all over the place. Certainly there is the reality that every year I have more blogs to show, more assignments and experiences–the choices the choices! And it wasn’t that I didn’t get across the essence of my experience with blogs, because I think I did.

It was the very smart and equally perceptive Sarah Lohnes who helped me put my finger on what’s up. The deeper into this classroom blogging I get, the more I cannot disentangle the pedagogy from the blogging–to talk about blogs means to talk about student-centered learning, collaborative knowledge spaces, constructivist pedagogy FIRST. Teaching with blogs the way I do–which means not applying them piecemeal but integrating them fully in all their messy, flexible, fluid promise– means you have to let go of control of the classroom, give up the stage and create opportunities for learning magic to occur. The trick is to weave the learning and the tool so seamlessly together that the blog is the class and the class finds the blog indispensible.

Of course, all over this blog I go on about pedagogy and classroom blogging and teachers blogging (for example, here in November and here in October). It’s not a new topic at all here, but it is rapidly becoming THE topic. During a phone call yesterday with Cyprien Lomas about the upcoming NCII conference we talked about higher ed situations conducive to social software, and why some in higher ed resist blogs altogether, and we, too, circled back to the role of pedagogical leanings. I think I decided after that conversation to soft-pedal the pedagogy in my talk today, to see if just putting the blogs out there and the assignments and the different ways they can be and are being used would entice and inspire but not scare people off. After all, how many people even understand what we’re up to on the arts writing blog much less want to try it out?

(I’m particularly interested in feedback from anyone attending today’s CET workshop, if you happen to read this posting.)

As Sarah puts it, constructivist pedagogy has not caught on in higher ed the way it has in K-12 (mostly, K-6), and until it does, well, blogs probably won’t catch on in quite the way I’m pushing them. So what does this mean?

It’s time for me to make some decisions about how I want to talk about blogs in the future. Do I do so gently, subtly, hoping that through a gradual acceptance and use of blogs, fellow educators will also embrace the notion of the classroom as a community of practice constructing knowledge collaboratively, aided by the blog? Or do I just come right out there at the beginning of presentations and say, okay, don’t bother with blogs unless you’re ready to step off the stage and into the circle of learning?
Pedagogy first, blogs second–or–blogs as the vehicle to the pedagogy?

I hope we hone in on this topic in tomorrow’s social software users group meeting at CET–I am looking forward to meeting other liberal-arts-college bloggers and hearing what they’re experiencing in their classrooms and on their campuses.