Blog Reading: Moving Beyond the Walls of Higher Education

I found it interesting to read on Clarence Fisher’s blog that he’s pulling some edublogs from his Bloglines account and adding blogs outside the education world:

The information tools we’ve used this year in my classroom have been the main focus of this change, but I also need to better understand content, curriculum design, informatics, programming, scientific development, geographic literacy, game design, etc., etc., etc. A basically endless list. Education in a constant state of being in beta. This need for a clearer understanding of societal change has been the major driving force behind the change in my reading habits. Hopefully it will allow me to become better at what I do; teach kids.

I agree that it is essential that we look beyond our classroom walls to the wider world, especially when we are–at least we think we are–preparing students for lives of learning and living within that world, especially as rapidly changing, complex as is ours. It is particularly important, I think, for those of us who are pehaps the most removed from it in our institutions of higher education to get out there. Literally and bloggerly. That’s one of the reasons I so appreciated meeting people like Roland Tanglao and Suw Charman and Lee Bryant at Blogtalk a couple of summers ago–for their perspectives from outside these walls. It is also why forty hours on planes to spend a mere four days in Melbourne at The International Digital Storytelling Conference was so valuable– artists and activists sat side-by-side with school teachers, professors and museum educators as we considered the ways in which digital stories could change our lives and our communities.

I also read the BlogHer blogs: arts journalism blogs and artist blogs, news blogs and political and activist blogs, former students’ blogs, and of course, foodie blogs. What a pleasure to meander about the world of ideas and arts and action. What a relief.

But I also read a wide array of edublogs:

The second-language teachers (yes, I know I mention them often) such as Barbara Dieu, Marco Polo and Aaron Campbell–all of whom are blogging from places about as far from where I am on the planet as you can get. Staying up with their thinking and their use of technology pushes me to approach teaching anything–creative writing, Irish literature, composition– as though my students are learning a new language.

Elementary and secondary school teachers: I learn from Bob Sprankle and his kids in Maine and and teachers and kids in New York City and others teaching in primary school, a place where there tends to be more creativity and joy than what I see in the upper levels (as well as frustration, to be sure). And of course I follow the secondary school teachers such as Bud Hunt and Vicki Davis and the blogs of teachers of teachers and of those thinkers in the field I mention here all the time. Their blogs offer me a window into what’s going on in creative classrooms across the grades in spite of the stresses of the system–and knowing where my students are coming from helps me to understand them as learners rooted in place, time, circumstance and culture.

Reading widely around the edublogosphere keeps me in touch with the fact that my job as a college teacher is to put students in contact with my subject matter and with the realities of the world in ways that promote their growth as community-centered, involved, self-aware, open-minded, skilled citizens. I am much more fluid in my teaching, sensitive to the nuances of the classroom and the course blogs because of what I read from the teachers of the earlier grades. I want to know if blogging is being co-opted by the privileged. I want to know who is being left out. I want to see how it is working in as wide a variety of schools as I can, for as diverse a range of students as possible. When was I able to have such an open laboratory spread out in front of me before the advent of blogging?

For similar reasons I also make a habit of cruising the blogs of my counterparts in Australia, Scotland, The Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Egypt–wherever I find them–to follow the development of the thinking about technology and about teaching and learning in other systems, in other cultures. Again, looking at education but from a different angle has helped me to question and deepen my own teaching practice. It keeps me honest and fresh and startled and open and self-aware (hmmmm….just what I am hoping my students are feeling….)

I also cruise the high-end researchers’ and thinkers’ blogs in educational technology to stay current with the research and tools. And then I look at those who do a little of everything, like Mark Bernstein, for one, whose blog is a pleasure to read because you never know if his latest blogpost will be about hypertext or Tinderbox or cheese sandwiches, or the bit of veal stock in his refrigerator or a movie.

I read as much as I can, online and off, and then I try to bring back to my students the bits I’ve carried away with me, to give them the incentive to turn their collaborative course blog and their individual blogs into powerful vehicles for their particular education within this course, and their general sense of connectedness to fuller, deeper, and wider conversations in the world. It took me a long time to find the blogs that teach me and delight me and surprise me. It has taken my students six weeks to blast open the blog, to question openly assignments I give them, and to grapple together, in writing, via blogging, what they really think of this work we’re doing. It is at this point in the semester–when they are pushing back at me–that I realize how interconnected all this work is online, and how much I benefit from all kinds of blogs as well as all the books lining my walls.

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One Response

  1. It’s the hybrid ones that I like reading best: the ones that know how to be serious and funny, thought-provoking and silly, useful and frivolous, pedagogical and na├»ve ….

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