Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Beginnings

I started this project with something completely different in mind. That's right, you've come in media res. The beginning of this project started with a question: What, if any, are the advantages of hand-writing over computer-writing? After some discussion with my professor, she explained to me that this topic is too narrow for the amount of research. This led to discussions of how I could possibly widen my topic to something along the lines of "Technology in Writing." She later gave me some chapters from a few books to get me going. That should be easy enough, I thought. Then, technology changed my writing.

The problem with the internet these days is that it's too vast, too all-encompassing. After poring through the English Journal and CQ Researcher for articles related to my topic, I noticed a slight trend. A lot of teachers who were looking to integrate technology into classrooms started looking at blogs as a source. In fact, social media seems to be taking over the way young kids read and write these days. Here are a couple of statistics I remember reading from some articles I recently used in a research paper:
  • In 2005, 51% of teenagers say that they use the internet on a daily basis. 87% say that they use the internet.
  • 76% of teens get their news online.
  • 55% of online teens (we'll assume that means the 87% from the above statistic) have created an online personal profile. 55% have used sites like Facebook or MySpace.
  • 48% visit social networking sites daily, 22% of those visit them multiple times a day
And this doesn't even count other social media sites like YouTube. In July of 2006, YouTube reported that it served 100 million videos a day. That was a year and a half ago. BEFORE Google bought them out. Who knows what they're up to now?

Looking at all of this, I couldn't ignore it. So I didn't. I have a blog, I thought to myself. What if I created another one for exploring ways to integrate this into a classroom setting? And thus, the Metablog was born.

In all actuality, the purposes of this blog are many-fold. First, as denoted by the title, my main goal is to see if this project will actually work (if done right) as an assignment in an educational setting. If it does, then I hope to use it as a model for future classes. I like to think of this project as something similar to metafiction--the feeling that the work is self-conscious of itself being a work and that's what drives the plot (if you will) along.

There are a lot of things that I hope to capture here for the benefit of those that read it (myself included!). I'm really curious about the use of blogs (naturally) in the classroom. I've seen a couple of articles surrounding the matter and it looks interesting. I'm also interested in the impact of technology on things like the writing process, audience and rhetoric, and product. I still might look into hand-writing vs. computer-writing, because that's what started all of this. I also hope to explore the idea that writing will be going completely digital, much the same way that music, movies, and other media are. What about places like Wikipedia and Digg? How does anonymity change the way people publish and post? Lots of stuff, as you can see.

Keep checking back as I'll be making a lot of updates over the next week or so. Who knows? Maybe I'll keep this thing going after I turn it in.

5 comments:

Ms. Cannon's 7th Grade Blog - Diamond Fork Jr. High said...

I want to respond to your question about the use of blogs in the classroom, (at least I think you asked about them). Peronsally, I have noticed for my IP&T class on the 2 times we have been required to "write on the blog" to respond to other students' comments, I usually have been trying to find a way to sound interested and informed, when in reality I had just skimmed the articles and wrote a paragraph on something that slightly caught my attention. Somehow, using bloggs for a class discussion in that sense seemed really ineffective in that case, yet right now I'm writing on a blog and I'm very interested and engaged in what I'm writing. So, I think a blog works out in a circumstance like this because I'm really interested in the subject, I would like to see what others have to say about it, it is really convenient, (as I'm presently sitting on my couch at home.) I think that sometimes teachers like to use technology for technology's sake by using tools like blogs for assignments to create a "classroom discussion." I think it's often totally unnecessary or ineffective because they could do the "classroom discussion" or "conversation" much better actually IN the classroom instead of a virtual network. Maybe I'm too traditional and just don't realize how some students probably will have a lot more to say if they are typing ideas into the familiar computer screen instead of talking about it in class. But isn't that just promoting a virtual reality and distancing students from the harder face to face discussion?

Tom said...

I'm torn on this point. On one side, I feel like in-class discussion is extremely helpful and beneficial to a lot of students. Getting ideas out in the open in a place where they can feel comfortable to respond quickly is important. I don't think blogging/journals should take the place of that. On the other side, if you can actually get them to participate and comment in a blog when they're at home, what an advantage! You can use more class time for other activities and get them commenting and interacting from their home computers.

So which side of the line should you fall on? It's a tough call, especially since I've never had any experience with it. I tend to think that the best way to use a blog is in a way that they can see coming. If you make it too casual (like blogs actually are), then no one will post. However, if they know that after every class discussion, they're going to have to go to their blogs and make an entry, they might be a little more likely to interact with each other. I think the freedom they need to feel is more on the content side than on the assignment side.

I'm reading an interesting article right now that talks about motivation in personal writing rather than assignment writing that I hope to include parts of in the upcoming Edublogs post. Until then, just put yourself in their shoes. Would you rather write a 4-page paper or write an email to a friend? Why?

Jon said...

Tom,

I love your blog and the idea of what you're trying to do here. Dr. Dean invited me to share some comments since I've had some experiences with using blogs (and other technologies) in the classroom. I hope they're helpful and I look forward to reading your posts and the comments.

For the last three years, I've used blogs in both my 9th grade and 11th grade classrooms. I've prompted students to write about the outside reading they're doing as well as to post about thoughts and reflections on what we've discussed in class. Blogs have taken the place of traditional "reading log" assignments where students wrote in response to their outside reading.

I've noticed, first, that more of my students write in the blog than ever wrote in the traditional "reading log" assignment. I'd say (anecdotally) that about 50%-60% of students would turn in their written logs while something like 70-80% of my students would post to a blog. I think part of this is due to the appeal of tech, but I also think that it's easier for many of them to sit and type at a keyboard than to write things out on paper. Also, I think in blogging they have a real audience (I used a CMS--Content Management System--for the blogs in my classroom where each student had his/her own blog and all blogs were accessible from the main home page.) I know students picked up reading recommendations from reading others' posts and would sometimes comment on those posts with their own reactions to what someone else was reading.

As for class discussions using blogs, I found them to be wonderful. I rarely prompted my students about what to write in their blogs regarding class discussions; I was more curious about what they would bring up. Surprisingly, quite a few of my students loved the blog for the chance it gave them to share insights and thoughts they had in class but were unable to share because of time or the thread moving off their idea. Also, I had some students who were hesitant to share in class but felt more comfortable behind the pseudo-anonymity of the computer/blog and were quite vocal in their blog. Also, from time to time a conversation thread would begin in the comments sections of some blog posts (which made me very happy, since it's so wonderful to see students extending discussion outside the walls of the classroom). When I had time, I would come in to school in the morning and scan through the blog entries, looking for interesting or insightful comments that I could then share in class as discussion-starters.

Blogs can't replace classroom discussion, and we should be cautious about discussing some sensitive topics in an electronic forum. Talking face-to-face can void embarrassing or hurtful misunderstandings--in a "live" discussion we have cues like facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice to help us interpret the speakers intent. These are glaringly absent from a blog or other electronic discussion. However, I think blogging can be a powerful tool to supplement and enrich in-class discussion and writing.

Cherice said...

You said, "technology changed my writing." My interactions with technology have definitely changed my writing. They have transformed my understanding of how the mind works, the writing process, and how I work as a writer. I would be interested in hearing more about how/in what ways tech has changed your writing. I would also be interested in hearing more about the rationale behind this comment, "I think the freedom they need to feel is more on the content side than on the assignment side."

Tom said...

I honestly think that you can give students a very singular assignment but let them run away with the content. I know that some teachers think that "giving freedom" to students constitutes allowing them to pick 1 from 3 different types of assignments (example: a 5PE, a posterboard, a poem), but I don't think that's always the most constructive way of doing things. If you want students to learn how to write well and you think a 5PE is a good way to get them started, make them do the 5PE. Don't give them some other form of assignment just to give them "freedom," but rather give them freedom within the assignment you want them to fulfill. Rather than saying "Write a 5PE on this character's dynamic relationship with this other character" (which could be just fine I suppose), ask them to write their observations on relationships in the book you've just read. If one of those relationships is truly dynamic enough, it will probably spark the interest of the students that they'd write about it anyway. If it doesn't, you might be pleasantly surprised by what they come up with. Perhaps (egad!) something you might not have though of yourself! Let them be broad with the content. Don't worry about being broad with the assignment.