The recent conversation over on Will's blog and the subsequent posting by Christian Long at Think:Lab continue to percolate in my mind. The question is "Is it necessary for a blogging program to extend the conversation 'outside the garden', go global, in order to be effective"? What is the "right" answer? Hmmm...more hmmm...
I've been at work these past few months trying to establish a foothold in a traditional independent middle school in order to help them "up the mountain": helping them envision a school that is more student-centered, inquiry-driven, and connected. I converse with the teachers and the students about a 21st century where our ability to create, communicate, connect, collaborate, critically think...and bring our integrity...is vital. And although it isn't about the tools and the technology, the network wouldn't be real without it. So, we have 1/2 of the 8th grade students blogging in their English classes, all 150 8th graders and their teachers launching science-related blogs, and a 7th grade group of 150 anxiously awaiting time for me to get them up and running.
But, so what? As I mentioned to my friend Willy the other day, it isn't about the numbers. It isn't about the tool. It is really about the conversation. Do they "get" the conversation, and what will that conversation look like? How will it affirm them as writers, as human beings? Will it give them a greater sense of "self", a place to pursue their interests and develop their thinking, and a desire to use this platform to effectively develop their voice? Will they begin to understand that they are part of a network of learners? And do they have to have a "larger connection", a "global network", a high level civic engagement (political or social) to "get it"?
I think the essential question we ought to asking here, as it relates to blogging and more importantly to our learning environments, is this: "What experiences am I providing my students such that they are aware they are a part of a culture of care and understanding"? If I as an educator can create that culture in my classroom, or in my school, where all participants feel "heard", where their passions have "flight and freedom", where they can grow and respect one another's growth...then, I think the answer to the global is "no." These tools invite an extended learning environment, a 24/7 community, and (thank you, Konrad): flow. Assuming the participants support the envisioned culture of care and understanding--a supportive environment--then looking somewhere else really isn't necessary. (@chrislehmann--you've really got it at SLA.)
Growing up I was blessed with a family that spent time together. In particular, I had a father who understood the value of listening such that I know what it means to be "heard." Much like many children, I didn't always feel heard at school, or understood by others. And I would oft work to "please" my teachers. My world expanded as we traveled the country and visited numerous countries overseas, and my three-week stay with a French family solidified my commitment to open-mindedness, a global perspective, and the value of relationships. The world view has been invaluable, and I do not mean to suggest that we don't need to offer our students the tremendous opportunity to make those connections. I just fundamentally believe that giving our students a place to develop their voice where it is cared for, honored, and grown, is paramount to any other gift I can bring.
So, let's blog...responsibly...locally..globally...but most importantly, with the end goal in mind.