Confessions of a blog disciple

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Warning: this post is opinionated, self-revelatory, and full of more questions than answers — all the qualities that people who hate blogs cite as reasons for hating blogs.

Confession: I was once a blog-hating person.

When I first started keeping a blog, it was to fulfill a course requirement last spring. I even asked aloud in class, “Does the world really need another blog?” I honestly can’t remember the professor’s response to that utterance, because by March it didn’t matter. I was hooked.

Last night after an agonizing few days of emailing back and forth with a local community leader in which I tried to express the shortcomings of our school system’s web publishing policies, which seem to discourage student- and teacher-generated blogs, I sat at the dinner table feeling a bit demoralized. “I am so far removed from my original intent when I started graduate school. I don’t know what I’m doing anymore,” I told my husband.

How did I become this strident techno evangelist, selling salvation to sinners who think file sharing is the same as an email attachment and who still worship PowerPoint as the new posterboard?

Confession: I still use my cell phone strictly for making and receiving phone calls, every time I try to send a text message to my brother I screw it up, and until very recently I thought LOL meant “lots of love.”

Originally, all I wanted to do was learn how to build web pages. At my former high school, which hasn’t had a student newspaper since the 80s, I longed for a space where kids could publish for journalistic and literary purposes — a web-based newspaper, or possibly a literary e-zine.

If you could only read the statement of purpose I submitted with my grad school application 18 months ago! Here’s a snippet:

At the very least, I am hopeful that my coursework will equip me with the technical skills needed to develop a digital-age scholastic journalism program at Fulton High School, where I have taught since 1999. It is a personal and professional goal of mine to assist Fulton students in launching a journalistically sound online newspaper.

Not one mention of podcasts, wikis, or blogs. Why? I didn’t know that stuff existed!

Now “blogs” is tied with “Web 2.0” as the third most populated category on ThinkTime. I’m obsessed with these tools and how to leverage them for my own personal and professional growth, and I want to share that excitement with others without alienating them or freaking them out.

But sometimes it seems I’m thinking more about the blog than through it. (As I compose this post at 10:30 on a Saturday night, I should be drinking a glass of red wine and watching Blades of Glory with the hubbie.) And, since making the decision to relocate, rename, and reformulate this blog a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking even more about blogs:

  • Should I maintain anonymity, cultivate an online personality, or just be myself?
  • In addition to being a university student, I am also a parent, a part-time employee at a nonprofit with deep ties to our local school system, and a former employee of said school system: should there be a disclaimer on ThinkTime in which I claim my opinion as my own and no one else’s? (I finally decided to follow Christian Long’s advice.)
  • Would my learning improve if I spent less time on my personal blog and more time in high-traffic forums and online communities like those found in Classroom 2.0?
  • Will the passions near and dear to my heart — writing, publishing, language arts and media education — ever gain foothold on the pages in this site?
  • Am I contributing to the the ripe environment or just whistling in the wind?

Confession: I am an unapologetic teacher/learner on the upside of the learning curve, and I am having a blast!

And the more I read, the more convinced I am that falling under the spell of these powerful tools is a normal step in discipleship. In this post at LeaderTalk, a school administrator recognizes the learning curve and “wow” factor that must precede any new venture on the read/write web. And I take great comfort in Bud the Teacher’s post, in which he acknowledges the need for play and experimentation before the teacher/learner can connect technology effectively to his or her classroom practice.

So, once again the question is: should we teach about the tools or through them?

The answer: Yes!

What do you think?

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

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7 Responses to “Confessions of a blog disciple”


  1. 1 Scott McLeod 16 September, 2007 at 3:33 am

    One of the reasons blogs are so popular is that they can give folks a chance for their voice to be heard, particularly folks who never would have such a chance otherwise. Celebrate finding your online voice and joining the digital, global community.

    We all have to wrap our head around new things. Take all the time you need (and thanks for sharing along the way).

  2. 2 Ms. Whatsit 16 September, 2007 at 8:52 am

    I too am surrounded by colleagues who hold litle regard for blogs, wikis, and 2.0 technology in general. It is frustrating as heck. I would like to experiment with a class blog for an honors class, but the district tells me “not until you’re trained by us!” Problem is that the training doesn’t exist yet. When I talk with other teachers in my department at my school, they roll their eyes and count out the most negative reasons why all of this technology is evil. They are so hung up on how kids “waste their time” on MySpace and how they not only put themselves at risk to predators, but that they verbally abuse each other. My contention is that while we must be careful with internet safety, the truth is that the fears many adults have are blown out of proportion. These adults take the worst assumptions as absolute truths, shut their eyes, and condem everything web 2.0 as without merit. In the meantime, I’m so confident about the possibilities, that I know that one day they will see the light.

    To me, the conversion will take place when those of us who believe can successfully disprove that web 2.0 is a dangerous place.

    I have so much more that I could add here, but what I’d like to say most is “bravo” for such a great post.

  3. 3 jlubke 17 September, 2007 at 9:28 am

    Scott and Ms. Whatsit,

    Thanks for listening. I have two friends who also write blogs — one writes about her work in ministry, the other is a stay-at-home mom. We have such different contexts, purposes, and online voices. Sometimes I think the edublogger has more (or just different) walls to overcome. I appreciate your support.

    Ms. Whatsit-I’ve been keeping up with your efforts to use blogs with your English students. I think we come from similar teaching contexts, so I am keenly interested in your process, your hurdles, and the solutions you seek. I bookmarked your Technophile post — I suspect that same scenario would play out at the school where I most recently taught for six years. I am hoping some day to steal your line, “Now do you believe me about Web 2.0?”

  4. 4 Anne 17 September, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    I am a 15-year classroom teacher in a “failing” inner city school. It’s 12:30 a.m., and I’ve got more work to do related to my job than I possibly can ever finish. I also fantasize about having a blog and using technology in my classroom beyond my own and my students’ searching of the internet and making of powerpoint presentations. I do know what a wiki is (vaguely), but I have no idea what web 2.0 is or what the other tools/toys in the tool/toy box even begin to look like.

    It has been a coup at my school this year to get everyone using e-mail. And I can’t even begin to describe the lack of tech support in my building. How is it that revolutionary technology is not being put into our schools? How can we not “allow” advanced tools of connection and communication in the hands of young people when the very world they live in is full of them and using them?

    My students find ways to attack each other, be inappropriate, and open themselves up to worldly dangers without having a MySpace page or a blog (or even a computer, for that matter). Many of them see “the iternet” as a playground, not a workplace, not a place to think and share their thinking. So the online world is reduced in their own estimation of it, plus their access to it is limited–not only access to the machines themselves but also to blogs and other places on line that have been deemed “inappropriate.”

    One of my jobs is to model, teach, require, and facilitate professional communication and connection between young people. It seems to me that nothing is harder than doing that face-to-face. To suggest that young people can’t learn to use professional tools professionally is counter-intuitive to the purpose of education in the first place.

  5. 5 Jennifer Lubke 18 September, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    Anne,

    What frustrates me to no end is when I consider what I would be doing right now with technology if I had never left the classroom. Probably the same stuff I was doing in 2004-05, plus adding grades at home at midnight (like you) using a newly adopted web-based gradebook.

    Isn’t it interesting the powers-that-be will consider web-based approaches that facilitate data collection but not innovation, collaboration, and reflection by teachers and students?

    Even if I had stayed in the classroom these last two years and somehow managed to accomplish my original goal (to design web pages), where would I be right now? I would be at the mercy of network administrators who without warning might decide over the summer to reconfigure the school’s servers (where my and my students’ web pages are forced to reside per school board policy). Oh, and assuming all is well with the servers, I would still be the only one able to access and upload files, as students are not trusted to do so.

    I would have a bunch of static, non-interactive, teacher-centered web pages updated once or twice a semester, if that.

    Two years ago, these publishing practices would have mostly made sense to me, and I guess I would have made the best of it. But knowing what I know now . . .

  6. 6 Anne 19 September, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    And here’s the real kicker: We cannot access our web-based gradebook from home. So, I’m still doing double work, recording grades in a paper gradebook at home at night and then finding time at school to enter the grades electronically. It’s a poor use of my time, but I haven’t figured out the alternative yet. My plan period is at the end of the day, and timely feedback demands that after grading at night, papers go back to students during class. If the grades aren’t recorded somewhere, . . .

  7. 7 Ms. Whatsit 19 September, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    “I would have a bunch of static, non-interactive, teacher-centered web pages updated once or twice a semester, if that.”

    Jennifer — Yes, that’s the kind of thinking I keep running into, but I keep getting the impression that the messengers in my world seem to belive that those kinds of web pages are state-of-the-art.

    In the meantime, I now have the ClassBlogmeister blog, but it’s just sitting there waiting until I’ve got the “ok” to use it with students. Part of me is seriously contemplating going ahead with the project anyway, while another part of me is worried that I could lose my job over it.


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