Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Blogging is definitely an awesome tool.  First of all, its hard to censor blogs.  There is no requirement that you post your real name or tell your boss that you are starting a blog.  You can express your opinion and adopt an alter-ego.  You can write almost anything, but hopefully you are writing something cool.  As the saying goes, "On the internet, no one knows that you are a dog."

Next, blogging is free.  One of the stranger things about the internet is that all this awesome stuff is provided free of charge - Thinkfinity, free, Blogger, free, wikispaces, free.  Hmm, maybe someone should tell Rutgers about this trend...

Blogging is dependable.  It's made by Google, so there are probably like 8 digital copies of everything you ever typed, stored in 4 different locations.  If your computer crashes and you lose everything, all your emails and blog posts and pictures live on in someone else's computer.  Someone way tech-savvier whose job it is to protect your stuff.  Excellent, and did I mention this is free?

Sometimes I think the internet is a giant pyramid scheme.

Anway, how does this all relate to education?  In the article "Conditions for Classroom Technology Innovations," the authors discuss potential pitfalls that were experienced by the teachers in their survey.  On page 409 there was a little nifty circle graph with arrows and whatnot that highlights the forces at work:

So we see that the teacher (aka innovator, we are not being shy,) makes up only one part of a project's success.  There are two other factors that are beyond the teacher's direct control.

Now, teachers have the knowledge and ability to influence and work with these other groups to get stuff done.  My point is that, looking at the benefits of blogging above, it seems like there will be educational stuff posted on blogs that is way cooler than any official, school-sanctioned workshop.

First off, all those factors in the "Contex" box basically go away.  The internet is pretty much magic - super awesome stuff, always works, and free.  So bloggers won't get held back by technological issues.  The most successful teachers in the Classroom Conditions article were the ones who had: 1. The most technological know-how and 2. The most independence.

Blogs lower the technological barriers to entry, and plus, they offer the ultimate in independence.  As Flight of the Conchords would say, "Conditions are perfect."

To summarize: Blogs and other internet tools really sidestep the "context" that held some teachers back from creating the projects they had in mind.  Blogging can (and does) open people up to new ideas and new resources.  This technology be a powerful tool for finding new resources and modifying pedagogies.  There are tons of ideas out there.  It's more than worth a shot. 

Now, I admit, some of those new ideas on the internet are all about putting captions on pictures of cats.  But then again, you never really know who is behind the screen...


  1. Hi Tom,

    I really like the way you utilized the chart to support your argument for blogs. I think you are right that blogs can help to lower technological barriers and that they can help teachers to find ways to "modify their pedagogy."I think it is interesting that you say that blogs allow for the "ultimate in independence." Can you elaborate on this?


  2. Hi Professor,

    To me, blogs offer a great deal of independence for several reasons (these are in general, ie not for a class blog):

    Less self censorship:
    1. You can use a pseudonym
    2. Unless you tell them, your friends/coworkers/boss won't know about your blog
    3. You can attract like-minded people and delete comments you don't like
    4. You have freedom of expression, as long as you stay within the law

    Technological freedom:
    5. You can embed lots of different types of multimedia in the blog with only a little bit of technological know-how
    6. It is free
    7. You can access and update your blog from anywhere with minimal technology requirements

    No oversight:
    8. You choose what you want to post about
    9. No deadlines - post when you want (this changes if you have audience expectations)
    10. Very loose copyright enforcement

    If you are blogging for your own class, then there are more restrictions that come into play, and you have less freedom. For instance, you might need approval to have a blog, you certainly need to use appropriate language, and need to be careful about who can post what in the comments.

    Even so, if you look at the diagram above, using a blog eliminates:
    "The innovation":
    1. Distance from school resources, because blogs are so easy and they are hosted on other people's servers.
    2. Distance from school culture (to a degree), since it is not using class time it might be seen as something "extra"

    "The context"
    1. Technological infrastructure - there might be access issues, but the level of technology needed seems low and most schools have computers and many students can access from home
    2. Human infrastructure - minimized due to the above
    3. Organizational culture - still there, but again blogs can be set up by a single person, which mitigates the effects of organizational culture to a degree

    Hopefully I made the point a little clearer this time around. I suppose your degree of independence/dependence depends on the context of why you are creating the blog. Still, in the end it is this complicated thing that a single person can make by themselves, which is pretty cool/liberating from a technological standpoint.


  3. I like that you analyzed the use of blogs. I think blogs give you the ability to speak your mind and also collaborate with people of similar interests. However, with anything that has a paper trail...I do not think it is as anonymous as it may seem. Did you hear of that teacher that had a blog and did not post her name or her district or any of the student's names...but still was put on leave because somehow the district found her blog and linked it to her. It was recently in the news and really surprised me (although I would have to read the blog to make an actual judgement on the case). I also agree that blogging allows educators to learn more and see many different perspectives...a much larger amount of perspectives than could be gained through professional development. It really is an excellent collaborative tool and makes you wonder...what did we do before the internet?! Ah!!


  4. I agree that blogging allows for a sense of freedom, but I would add that it allows freedom even if you do identify yourself correctly. I'm thinking specifically about students who never don't speak in class as much; which could be for a number of reasons, they get nervous speaking in front of the class, or they take longer to formulate answers and therefore aren't quick enough to keep up with face to face class discussions. Using a blog can allow students to take the time they need to write their thoughts, and the pressure of speaking with everyone in the class looking at them is alleviated by the computer.