Why not everyone should blog

I must start this blog by saying I have nothing against blogging (would be a bit ridiculous of me given that I am doing it now) and, in fact, I find many blogs very useful/interesting/funny/cute etc etc and read a lot of them a week. I write my own too occasionally!

In the interests of good balance I will also be including many of my favourite blogs at the bottom of the post as I have a great many people to thank for their exciting and useful blogs which have served me well in 2011.

However, that said, I am concerned by the sudden rise in blogging numbers and here are my reasons why.

1) Not everyone can write in an interesting way. Now I am not saying I am an expert either but some people in life, I am afraid, are dull. Putting their words online makes them no more interest I am sorry to say. Some other people are very interesting in person but blog in a very dull way. In real life their hand gestures and body language makes for a great story which just does not translate online with strangers.

2) Not everyone has anything to say. Most of the blogs I read are by or for teachers. The vast majority, therefore, are grounded in fact or, at the vey least, an educated opinion. They are usually written in a professional way – aside from those who deliberately hide their true identity to allow them to speak freely and openly. But there are also those people who have nothing specific to say, teachers or not, and who do not focus their blogs in any way – the “online diary” type of writing. These posts consist of telling us about their bus journey to a hilarious (if you were there) incident. Now if you have a fantastic writing style (refer to point 1) you can get away with this and we will all happily read your day-to-day mishaps in much the same way as we watch a stand-up comedian and laugh along, not because the content is hilarious but because the delivery is. If you do not have this writing gift then please keep your diary private. Do not spam me on Twitter asking for my comments as the only thing I am tempted to write is “Thank you for wasting my time please shush.” And that just wouldn’t be very nice of me. Also who am I to judge your life? So please don’t ask me to.

3) How many blogs can you really expect/be expected to read in a week? This point refers more to the idea that blogging “has” to be done by everyone. I have read a few blogs like this lately and observed conversations on Twitter between teachers who are all desperate to get all of their colleagues and students blogging daily. I am all for showing them blogging and giving them the opportunity to try. But if you badger them to do it – especially those who are reluctant – you are more than likely creating more blogs than anyone will be able to read. In one fail swoop you will be robbing them of  the very “global audience” you wanted to give them in the first place.  Because we just don’t have time to read and comment on every person’s life do we? Again this can be organised well such as with @DeputyMitchell’s Quadblogging – where each school is placed in a group of 4 to comment on each other’s blogs regularly. This gives a guranteed audience and comments to at least give a proper taste of blogging and gives the children the motivation to improve their writing (see point 4) . But force adults into blogging non stop and they will be effectively shouting into an empty room or just being the equivalent of the person who stands and talks next to you at the bus stop when you aren’t listening and don’t want to as you have your own life to get on with.

4) There has to be a purpose. I don’t blog very often as you can see from my list of posts. This is because I only blog when I start to feel the need. I don’t open a blog and then stare at in it much the same way as I stared at the blank paper in my first General Studies ‘A’ level mock exam. (I quit the ‘A’ level as I had nothing to say about any of the given question prompts). I fear that those forced into (you can call it coerced or encouraged if you like but for any non-believer it is likely to be a force with a smile added) blogging will do just that. Open a blog because they are “supposed to” with nothing to say and then either make something up or talk about something dull (ref point 2). Children especially, I feel, need a purpose for their writing when blogging as even some children’s blogs I have been asked to comment on have nothing to say. I am all for encouragement of course but any child who has ever been taught by me knows that I will never celebrate average work/minimum expectations and I am not about to start – if you want a sticker/comment from me then you better be prepared to earn it! ( Update: This is not to say I do not appreciate that the post may be little Johnny’s best work. But if you tell me this is a blog from a Year 6 child I will expect Year 6 level work, not 3 lines about their trip to the supermarket with not an adjective in sight. If this is his best work as he has Special Educational Needs then by all means celebrate it with him and the school but me putting a comment on should not make it more valuable to him – he should feel proud because it is his best work and the same applies to Gifted and Talented children too – celebrate the best work but often I don’t believe this is the case with many of the blogs forwarded to me. If you are unsure ask yourselves this first – if they had written the same on paper would you have been as happy? )

5) Spamming. I mentioned this earlier but spamming has become no longer the job of desperate businesses or virus hackers alone. Teachers, I am afraid, have taken to Twitter as a way of pushing blogs (their own or their students’)  in our faces 24/7. And as ICT professionals we feel the need to encourage this. Why? Well because we want them all using it don’t we? Well no, actually I don’t want them ALL using it anymore than I want them ALL using Microsoft only or Windows only. I want them to know about it. To know how to do it. To make a choice as to when to use it. To know why they are using it. But I don’t want them ALL to do it ALL the time.

6) It isn’t the ONLY way. I am a bit naughty writing this post because my biggest push in education has been for the Getting Into Literacy programme. I believe firmly that ICT as a tool for encouraging literacy is key. So of COURSE I love blogging! But I also love film making, podcasting, Games Based Learning, digital storytelling and much much more. And each one has to fit the purpose. For children who cannot write very well then a podcast is every bit as powerful as a blog. A film made well is fantastically powerful and has global audience in places like YouTube. Films have been going viral long before blogs haven’t they? Give the children/adults the choice of blogging, please please do, but please do not force it upon them as in YOU MUST BE SOCIAL NETWORKING AND BLOGGING OR YOU CANNOT ENTER SOCIETY. This is as wrong as the forcing upon us of SATs tests and league tables. One size DOES NOT fit all.

With the contented sigh of someone who has gotten something off her chest I will leave it there for now but may add others as they spring up! My final message is this:

Blogging is exciting and great when it has purpose and a global audience and an element of sharing (comments etc) but if it becomes something we just “do” because we “should” then it becomes as exciting as writing a hundred Christmas cards – We know some people will like it a bit but we also know that they will be in the bin soon and our hard work will have been a waste. Make it meaningful, make it interesting and make sure you want to do it.

And on that note here are some of my favourite  blogs:

http://www.oliverquinlan.com/liveblogs/

http://www.timrylands.com/

http://heathfieldcps.net/

http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.com/

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5 Responses to Why not everyone should blog

  1. Stephanie Homewood says:

    Hi Jodie
    No need to *run and hide* from this comment! :-) I think this is all very well said.

    I’m commenting from the position of a teacher who does not blog, but has taught children what blogs are and looked at examples of blogging – I did this when in year three I was faced with a very boring word processing unit of work and needed to update it fast, while covering some wp skills.
    As a beginner with Twitter this year, I’ve been amazed at the number of teachers who do have their whole class blogging, or their staff blogging and who seem to endlessly update the blogs – some multiple times a day! I only just recently began a ICT blog to celebrate our school’s work, which I use with my Digital Leaders … engayneict.wordpress.com (guess I had to plug!!) I started it to serve many purposes, an easy way to update our corridor display without uploading large ppts and a way to teach my Digital Leaders some new skills.
    I think if I was to try and introduce a blogging craze at our school (a large primary), I would encounter much of what you have suggested…. problems with time constraints (which I already get when I try to introduce anything!), fitting it into classtime or personal time for the teachers. Without a doubt… there would be some children and teachers who really didn’t have anything to blog about!
    I also know for a fact that children would be demoralised if their ‘global audience’ didn’t comment constantly on their blog posts… something which I guess people are trying to counteract when they tweet about their students blogs to ask for comments.

    I think you are absolutely right – it needs to have clear purpose. It needs to have an audience who are going to comment on it. Schools insisting on blogging reminds me of schools which demand that interactive whiteboards are turned on at the start of day and used for every lesson (not my school but I have experienced this!)… something which I just can’t understand.
    Show and explain the tools and then let the children and teachers use what is correct for that situation.

  2. Jodie Collins says:

    Thanks for the great comment Stephanie. Your blog is exactly the kind I do like – a purposeful one which teaches the skills without forcing it on everyone. It is also the kind which shows other teachers and children what ICT is being taught elsewhere which is very useful – I will bookmark it!

  3. Frances Bell says:

    I agree with all that you say Stephanie – from the reader’s perspective;). However there is another very important audience for many blogs – that of the blogger. I would contend that blogging can be valuable even if the blogger pleases no audience but him/herself. Of course comments/ feedback can be extremely valuable but let’s not forget blogs’ affinity with diaries.
    I lost a blog due to dubious host and I feel this as a personal loss not a loss of audience.

  4. Jodie Collins says:

    A very good point Frances and I agree with you definitely as a writer too! I am more than happy to have a blog for just myself too – also lost a blog (a class one) as I didn’t update within 60 days as it was the summer holidays and lost all their work :-(

  5. You make some very interesting points here Jodie. Particularly the one about what we do if everyone is sharing- then the audience is saturated and the possibility for large audiences which is often sold as one of the benefits of blogging diminishes.

    I think your point about spam is a pertinent one as well. Part of the issue is that many people use twitter to keep up with blogs rather than something like RSS. The beauty of RSS is that it is hard to miss things, new items are delivered to you as they happen and stay there until you read them. However, when following large numbers of people, and with twitter’s developing inability to allow you to see messages older than about 3 days, it is now more like a chat room and people only visit things which are regularly exposed.

    Now, onto my main point- what actually is blogging? We seem to have reached some kind of assumption that blogging means writing, particularly in many cases reflective writing. This has been really perpetuated by the wide use of ‘reflective blogs’ in HE and teacher education, and initiatives such as Quadblogging and the work at Heathfield which concentrate on writing. However, a blog can be used to share anything. I actually found with my class last year that we got the most value in terms of learning through sharing video of what we had been doing, and thoughts we had been having (http://4oqblog.wordpress.com). It doesn’t have to be about writing, it can be about sharing anything children have made, or documenting anything they have learned visually or as audio or even just by uploading files of digital creations.

    In terms of class blogs, have we got a bit stuck on a definition of writing because this is a traditional standard we all have to reach? Is this tech propping up one traditional mode of self expression when it could be used for multimodal expression in new ways?

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