Teachers around the country are getting into the blogging act. This story from the Washington Post details some of the ways that they are using blogs and, not surprisingly, much of their use of the technology has been like the rest of the world’s–the keep some sort of online diary. Reading between the lines of this story, one senses some squeemishness over using blogs as teaching tools, whether it’s because students might just write any old thing (horrors!) or because the teachers themselves haven’t come to grips with how best to use the platform.
This latter concern is an appropriate one, because as is true with the use of any digital media for teaching, unless the assignment is carefully constructed and closely tied to specific learning objectives, then it’s just a bell or a whistle. And, just to give you an idea of how time consuming those bells and whistles can become, the 24 students in my Western Civ class this semester have thus far generated more than 400 entries in our class blog. Do I read them all? Of course not. I can’t do that and do everything else I have to do as a teacher and administrator to read every single one of those postings. Instead, I use a tracking system to make sure I’ve read and commented on everyone on a somewhat regular basis throughout the semester. That and the references I make to their blog postings during class indicate to the students that I am keeping track of what’s going on in the blog.
So, what teachers at all levels have to decide is how the use of a blog will serve specific learning objectives in their course and then integrate the blog into the class in ways that support those goals. Otherwise, it’s probably not a bad idea to be a little squeemish.