Classroom Blogging - Unlimited Shelf Space
Classroom Blogging: A Teacher's Guide to Blogs, Wikis, & Other Tools that are Shaping a new Information Landscape (2nd ed.) by David F. Warlick.
Blogging is not new. It turns out that the basic rhetoric which is exhibited by blogs has been seen before in the West – namely, in the writing of pamphlets.
Pamphlet writing was big in the 18th century, and was favored especially by America's Founders. Short tracts which presented a particular viewpoint or argument on a relatively narrow topic – kept brief to make publishing it affordable. Blogs are 21st century pamphlets.
The key term here is publishing. Publishing used to be something that happened when someone's content (book, movie, etc.) was picked up by a company who would produce, distribute, and manage the product. This “old” view of publishing was limited by the dual constraints of geography and shelf space. These limitations ensured that only a small handful of very large publishers could remain competitive.
The implications for educators has been a monolithic textbook and curriculum regime which has dominated classroom life pretty much since schools became widespread in the early 20th century. We were all raised in such a system, and most all of us have been purveyors of it. It is “where most of us are comfortable. It represents the education that we experienced as learners, and for many of us, the education that we have spent much of our careers delivering. It is an environment that is ruled by geography and shelf-space” (31).
But what happens when “geography ceases to mean anything in terms of shipping content, and shelf space is practically without any limits” (29)? More importantly, what happens when, in light of such changes, little happens to alter what and how students learn? What happens when 57% of internet-using teens have produced digital content and made it available over the internet...but not in schools?
“Our classrooms are flat.” (35)
The need for teachers to embrace the use of today's digital tools as a regular part of what it means to educate is plainly evident. The trends and the data offer clear reasons “why we should be enriching what and how we teach to help our students to become skilled and responsible producers of information at the same time that we continue to help them become skilled and responsible consumers of information” (31).
The Industrial Revolution transformed the way goods are produced. Labor moved away from the home and into factories. It did not change the fact of labor, but rather how and where it was accomplished. Similarly, the internet has revolutionized how we go about encountering and communicating new ideas. From pamphlets to blogs – it is the medium, not the goal, which has changed. That goal remains the same: to speak and write clearly, thoughtfully, and convincingly.
We must not become educational Luddites.