Posts Tagged 'blogs'

What is your favorite online “affinity space”?

Cross-posted at the Classroom 2.0 forum.

An affinity space is any place (virtual or physical) that ties people together based on a mutually shared interest or endeavor.

For me, it would have to be the “mommy” blogs that I read daily. I’ve got about four where I lurk and occasionally comment. I am really inspired by the way these women merge their varying interests in politics, civics, and, of course, technology, with the everyday challenge of parenting. I am even thinking of starting my own mommy blog as the birth of my second child is quickly approaching in mid- to late-June. It’s time to start adding my voice to the conversation, and the lazy days of summer seem like a good time to undertake this project!

What is your favorite online affinity space?

My question is inspired by a book I recently finished reading, New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel. It was assigned reading for a spring semester seminar on multiliteracies, and it has given me a lot to think about.

The authors’ basic purpose is to shed light on the concept of “new literacies,” and to invite educators into conversation about “how the new might best be brought into a fruitful relationship with the already established.”

The last chapter is a recommendation or challenge of sorts to readers. Lankshear and Knobel think the first step toward merging conventional schooling and the world of new literacies (remix, blogs, podcasts, social networks, mobile technologies, and so on) is for educators to actively pursue firsthand experience with the social practices of digital “affinity spaces,” a term borrowed from James Paul Gee.

I am posing this question to the Classroom 2.0 community as well. Classroom 2.0, an international social network of educators interested in collaborative technologies, certainly is an example of an affinity space. But I was wondering about other virtual “hang outs” enjoyed by CR 2.0 members, places perhaps that are not defined by professional interests and obligations but more by hobbies, passions, or guilty pleasures.

And, if you are an occasional or even accidental reader of this blog, the question probably applies to you, too!

So, reader, where do you participate on the Web when you are not consumed with work, school, business, or other obligations? And do your interactions and exchanges within digital affinity spaces intersect with and inform your views and vision for education?

For more reflections on the challenges and opportunities presented by multiliteracies, read my other posts on New Literacies, mindsets, and mashups.  More to come!

YA Lit 2.0

Cross-posted at the Media Literacy Ning and Classroom 2.0.

This is the last in a series of posts about things we can do in honor of Support Teen Literature Day 2008, which is today, April 17.

In previous entries, I’ve discussed book talks and read-alouds and blog-based literature discussions. These and many other activities are featured at the official teen lit day wiki presented by the Young Adult Library Service Association (YALSA).

The wiki offers more than 30 things to do in celebration of young-adult (YA) fiction. Additionally, the YALSA homepage links to a wealth of YA booklists and professional development opportunities for teachers and librarians.

As I first perused these resources, I was reminded of just how influential YA has been in my own reading life.

And I was also struck by the utter transformation that has occurred within the YA genre since that summer, more than 25 years ago, when I made the profound and life-changing leap from children’s author Beverly Cleary to Judy Blume, the celebrated YA author who wrote Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

For one, the options, in terms of authors and titles, have increased exponentially. The topics and subject matter are also darker and edgier, with more potential for cross-over appeal among adult audiences.

But without a doubt, the most profound change is technology driven. Digital technologies are transforming the very nature of what teens read as well as how they read. From within computer-mediated environments, youth can discuss, nominate, and vote on their favorite new YA titles, participate in surveys, and even chat in real-time with YA authors and readers from around the country.

I remember reading Judy Blume for the first time. I was maybe 10 years old and felt so privileged and so awakened to the fact that books could serve as more than a pleasant diversion from life. Books could also be topical and relevant to my own life and experiences. Wow!

I devoured Blume before moving on to other authors — Betty Miles, Paula Danziger, S.E. Hinton. My favorite, dog-eared books might have been called “feminist fiction for girls,” with female protagonists in various stages of social, emotional, and physical development — all the typical pubescent pangs.

Good stuff. I was engaged, and I stayed engaged until right around the start of high school when I gave up YA almost entirely to take up the “serious reading” of a college-bound student. I did not resume true pleasure reading again until well after college, in my mid-20s.

How much richer my reading life might have been had I had the opportunities that youth have today to connect, communicate, and form communities around favorite titles and authors, to possibly even interact in real-time or asynchronously with the authors themselves.

In the 2006 article YA Lit 2.0: How Technology is Enhancing Pleasure Reading, author Anita Beaman documents the impact of web-based and interactive technologies on how modern teens read for enjoyment.

Citing the work of Eliza Dresang, who in 1999 wrote Radical Change: Books for Youth in a Digital Age, Beaman highlights how books for children and young adults have evolved new formats such as novels in verse, screenplays, multiple narrative perspectives, and graphic novels.

Beaman writes, “It was becoming obvious that the mouse-click generation was going to be looking for something new in print.”

She goes on to present evidence that, contrary to conventional wisdom, adolescents are reading, especially when given opportunities to reach out to authors and other teens in media-rich, interactive environments that include email, blogs, iTunes playlists, and MySpace pages.

This is the new playing field — YA 2.0.

Asserting that “YA Lit 2.0 is a sign that books and reading remain relevant to teens in a digital world,” Beaman concludes with advice to librarians who want to develop programs that are relevant to teen readers: download the playlists, read author blogs, create blogs, visit MySpace, and “share the entire reading experience” with teens.

For Beaman, a high school librarian, the implications are clear: if librarians want to be taken seriously, they must revitalize their programs and immerse themselves in these digital environments, right alongside the teens.

Certainly, any literacy educator would do well to heed this advice.

What do you think?

YA literature and blogs

Cross-posted at the Media Literacy Ning and Classroom 2.0.

This is the second in a series of posts about Support Teen Literature Day 2008, which is April 17.

Sponsored by the Young Adult Library Service Association (YALSA), teen lit day is intended to support librarians in their efforts to raise public awareness about the value of young-adult (YA) fiction, but I think any YA fan will find inspiration among the more than 30 ideas for supporting teen literature listed at YALSA’s wiki.

Suggestion #7 deals with book talks, a topic I took up in yesterday’s post.

I also am intrigued about the tremendous potential behind idea #27: create a YA book discussion blog.

I recently completed a review of the literature on web-based and social media in the secondary language arts classroom. One theme I explored was the pedagogical benefits of using blogs to enhance traditional practices such as writing instruction and literature discussion circles.

There is ample research evidence to suggest that blogs and other web-based media can breathe new life into that tired, old classroom staple known as the book discussion. In a 2003 English Journal article Will Richardson documented his first foray into classroom blogs, which involved students in his Modern American Literature course who were studying a best-selling, contemporary novel The Secret Life of Bees.

Richardson wanted to extend discussions of the novel by giving students time to reflect and comment on classroom activities. To that end, he set up a centralized class blog and asked students to post reflections and add quality comments to others’ reflections as well.

During the project he observed increased motivation and improved close reading of the text by students. The blog provided another dimension of assessment by allowing Richardson to see the extent to which students were following along with oral discussions in class. Ordinarily reticent students opened up and articulated thoughts more easily on the blog.

In a notable departure from literature discussions held in real time and space, blogs make it possible for real-world, authentic audiences to join students in conversation.

Using web space provided by the National Writing Project, Shelbie Witte devised the “Talkback Project,” a collaborative blog in which preservice English teachers and middle school students discussed young adult novels. (See Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, October 2007.)

After a few refinements, the Talkback Project flourished in its second semester, with student effort and collaboration exceeding Witte’s expectations: “The middle school students appreciated the preservice teachers’ thoroughness and the time they were spending to respond to their questions and reflections about the texts.” Word about the program quickly spread, and a father stationed in Iraq began reading the novels and contributing to his son’s weekly blog discussions.

Richardson also reported on the ease with which others outside his Modern American Literature class could engage in conversation with his students. Parents and even the author, Sue Monk Kidd, contributed to the discussions and enriched students’ understanding of the novel. Richardson wrote, “In many ways, the Web logs allowed them to see the work in a real-world context, not just as a classroom exercise.”

Authors and publishers are getting in on the act as well, harnessing Web 2.0 tools and platforms to create interactive environments for YA fans. More on this trend in my next post.

What do you think of supporting literature discussions with blogs?

21st century mentoring

I just completed an independent inquiry on the implications of Web 2.0 on mentoring and induction of new and novice teachers. The project spanned two semesters, and I learned a lot.

I am posting the final report in PDF. I also have a companion wiki, which is still in development. Stop by for a visit and tell me what you think!

International Edubloggers Directory

The International Edubloggers Directory launched last month, and I am member #25! The site is intended as a way for educators to connect and share their blogs. It was created by Patricia Donaghy, an Irish educator and tech coordinator.
Edublogger’s Directory Badge
The directory is searchable by country, content area, and grade level (primary. k-12, secondary, etc.), or visitors can just browse the terrific tag cloud. The site includes links to other resources and educator networks as well as a cool live traffic feed in the sidebar, which allows you to see who is currently visiting the directory and from where. Scroll down to view the membership statistics which show the site is truly international in flavor, and, no surprise, male members outnumber female members by 2 to 1.

If you author an edublog, won’t you consider adding your name to the directory? Joining is easy. Just click on the “add” tab at the top of the homepage.

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How do blogs support online learning?

If you are still trying to wrap your brain around blogs and how they integrate with online learning and personalized learning networks (as am I), then read Will Richardson’s nice reflection on the issue. How can a highly personal and expressive medium such as a blog support meaningful, socially connected learning? Richardson writes:

Additionally, while I am absolutely “writing to be read” here, meaning that I am conscious and on some level hopeful that others will read and engage in these ideas, I’m not reflecting on these ideas with the direct purpose of advancing the the conversation among a group of others that are connected in our study of this topic. If no one responds or engages, that’s ok. More than anything, blogging, in essence writing is a way for me to cement my thoughts into my brain, a purely selfish act.

I absolutely see my blog as an essential node in my online learning network.

The challenge for me has less to do with making my blog relevant to others and cultivating an audience. While having an engaged and consistent readership would be lovely and motivating, my challenge as a teacher/learner is striking a balance between contributing to networks of learners, such as Classroom 2.0, and cultivating the habit of thoughtful, reflective posting.

What do you think?

The Internet is ageless

So, if you read my last post about ethnocentrism, you will notice a curmudgeonly commenter. That’s my mom.

This post is for her.

Mom says, “I don’t think there are too many [senior citizens] out there who are ‘hip’ to the wide range of fabulous things you can do on a computer.”

Perhaps not too many, but there are some. I conducted a universal blog search, knowing if I could find one good blog by an older person, all I would have to do is scan the blogroll to find more. (Rule #1 for blog newbies: start small, scan blogrolls, and slowly build out your network. A “blogroll” is simply a list of favorite blogs, typically located in a sidebar.)

As I suspected, there are some “hip” seniors out there:

  • “Elderblogger” Ronni Bennett is a retired news producer who now writes the nationally recognized Time Goes By blog about all things related to aging.
  • On Bennett’s blogroll I found My Mom’s Blog, the virtual home of “Thoroughly Modern” Millie Gardner Garfield, one of the oldest blog authors in the United States. My Mom’s Blog is a repository of remembrances and reflections with occasional discussion about the impact of technology on life, written from the distinct vantage point of an octogenarian. In her Oct. 20 post, for example, she ponders Communication Yesterday and Today. As a public service (of sorts) Millie and her videographer son have archived a collection of I Can’t Open It home videos, billed as “ethnographic research into the problematic design of consumer products from an elder video blogger’s point of view.” Delightful.
  • How do I trust Millie Gardner’s Garfield’s claim to be one of the oldest blog authors in the United States? Well, her blog links to The Ageless Project, a fascinating site that aims to prove the diversity and agelessness of the social and participatory web. From the home page: “If you have a personal, non-commercial website (that’s original) and don’t mind sharing your date of birth, you might help us prove the point.” Anyone may submit their site to be considered for inclusion.
  • For more ideas about seniors and the blogosphere, read Senior citizen bloggers defy stereotypes from USA Today. The article quotes the Oldest Living Blogger as well as Gardner Garfield and Joe Jennett, creator of the Ageless Project.

To sum up, this week I welcome Millie Gardner Garfield and Arthus to my blogroll.

Millie is “82 years young,” and Arthus (a pseudonym) is a 14-year-old in New England who is making a splash in edtech circles with his blog, Newly Ancient.

The Internet is truly ageless. What do you think?

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Think on this:

"What if we just ignored the status of students in other countries? That wouldn’t be especially neighborly, but at least we wouldn’t be viewing the gains of children in other lands as a troubling development."

Alfie Kohn


"When I hear people say it's our job to create the 21st century workforce, it scares the hell out of me. Our job is to create 21st-century citizens. We need workers, yes, but we also need scholars, activists, parents -- compassionate, engaged people."

Chris Lehmann

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These are the communities where I network and cross-post. Come by for a visit!
Classroom 2.0
School Matters (East TN, USA)
Media Literacy