If five years ago I looked into my crystal ball, I would have said that in 2016, all staff and students would have blogs. These would be spaces of reflection and also for portfolios. I would have said that they would be text based, but increasingly have video content. I would have said that we would be increasingly wired to comment on each other’s work and have gained skills in giving public, constructive feedback and commentary.
While blogging isn’t dead, its fate in the schools of 2016 is not what I envisioned. It seems like a lot of people have tried blogging, and while some continue the internet is littered with abandoned education blogs. I would like to agree with fellow educational blogger Martin Weller that “the future of blogging is blogging.”
I have written several times about my experiences during the 2010 Winter Olympics. During the Games I worked with a group of students who served as student reporters covering the action through their blogs. It was defining for me in my thinking. I saw students producing content for the real-world, getting immediate feedback and saw the quality of their writing improve as they felt the pressure of writing for a public audience.
My colleague Gary Kern, who joined me on the Olympic project, was the architect of our work in West Vancouver that saw every student get a blog. And led by Cari Wilson, we got students, classes and schools blogging across the district. We had blog challenges, and we had adults highlighting student blogs, and we grew the community.
So here is a (somewhat random) collection of things that has happened in the last five years which has led away from all blogging, both for students and the adults in our district:
- we have moved to collaborative spaces like Google Docs that allow multiple thinking outside the blog format
- instead of seeing blogs as “home base” for videos, photos etc. we have seen the growth of Instagram and YouTube and sustained presence of Facebook and Twitter which are often used as blogs – social media engagement is fragmented across various platforms.
- once everyone started writing, people began to comment less and less on other people’s writing
- the theory was that adults would model how to comment on blogs and then kids would learn and follow – unfortunately adults have been terrible models . . . one only has to look at the number of news sites that have shut comments off because of the immature and often hateful commentary
- some of our blogging tools we used were cumbersome and have not adapted as quickly as our other digital tools
- it is hard to sustain momentum – with ‘Hour of Code’, robotics, FreshGrade, Google Docs, there are a lot of digital tools and initiatives looking for our attention
Dean Shareski tweeted, “Blogs are like rock and roll and jazz. A one time popular genre, now a niche.” Maybe. We had the boost from the outside this past week working with George Couros, and at least for now, some of the excitement is back.
I no longer say things like ”Everyone needs to have a blog” but I still would hope that people would see the powerful value of owning a digital space of their own.
I love blogging. It gives me a voice. It is a place for me to work through ideas. It is a portfolio. It is my home base. The jury is still out if others see it the same.