Here's an entry into the Blogging 101 category -- the latest installment of my "On Writing" column for the Fort Collins Coloradoan.
by Bud Hunt
Students today have access to a huge network of writing and publishing tools via the Internet. And, to borrow a line from Martha Stewart, that’s a good thing.
If you can send e-mail, and I am guessing that many of you can, you can publish your writing online for the world to see. This is great news for students who wish to communicate their thoughts and ideas to others in their communities or to students in other states or even half way across the world. It’s even better news for teachers, as we know that there’s no better tool for improving writing than a real, non-teacher audience for the students’ work. The Internet, via weblogs or blogs, provides just such an opportunity.
According to Dave Winer, a blogger since 1997, a blog is “the unedited voice of a person.” More specifically, a blog is a collection of posts written for online publication. Blogs and bloggers cover almost all possible topics, from hurricane disaster relief to creative writing pieces to dealing with candy addiction.
Blogs are more and more becoming first stops for those looking for news or information on the Internet. In the classroom and at home, blogs are tools that students can use in order grow as writers and responsible citizens in the digital world. At school, blogs are not yet essential curricular tools, but they will be. While schools are still learning where blogging fits into the curriculum, students are flexing their digital muscles after school.
There are several free sites out there that you can use to start a blog. Perhaps the best known of these is Blogger. After a five-minute registration, you can post your writing directly to the Internet. Many students use free websites like Myspace, Xanga, and LiveJournal to tell stories about their lives, share musical influences, and write about and discuss just about every topic that you could possibly think of. On their blogs, students are talking about the war in Iraq, how to help in the aftermath of Katrina, and who the cutest kids are in class.
To get started, try reading some blogs to get a feel for the genre. Perhaps the best way to do this is to use a search engine that specifically searches blog posts. Two useful ones are Technorati and Icerocket. Try searching for a topic that you are interested in and see what others have to say.
The Internet is a big place – there might be some content out there that you find objectionable. However, the vast majority of bloggers are interested in opinions and viewpoints and good writing. They will welcome you as you begin to comment on their blogs and, preferably, starting your own.
Blogging allows students to both practice their writing and to have a connection to the real world that exists outside of the classroom. Interested in astronomy? Start writing about and linking to interesting astronomy websites. Along the way, you’ll meet others interested in astronomy and begin to have conversations with them about your passion for starts and supernovas. You’ll also be taking control of your learning in a powerful way that was unavailable to students just ten years ago.
Because they contain hyperlinks, blogs are a great way to visualize and show in practice how ideas connect to each other.
Parents have an essential responsibility and privilege to stay up on what their students are writing and thinking about. They should even be regular readers of their child’s blog – both to learn about what learning is going on but also to become a partner in that learning. Because blogs are public, parents should also read to make sure that students are protecting themselves by not sharing too much personal information online – phone numbers and home addresses are probably a no-no. Families should sit down together to review family Internet policies and privacy concerns.
Of course, parents can and maybe should start their own blogs to provide a positive model for writing with their children. Ask your child if you need help getting started. They might just already know how. One estimate says that teenagers are responsible for more than half of the sixteen million blogs current online.
That’s a lot of writing.
** Originally posted at Bud the Teacher.