Blogs are not the death of writing but the evolution

a simulpost with TechLearning

Just when society needs education to step in and help us learn to well-use this technology, education chooses to treat electronic media like some stiff sock found behind the bench in the boys locker room.

This week as I pondered the tragic deaths of several people in our hometown, I had new insight into the meaning of the season. What did I do? I wrote a poem and blogged it. I want to share it and what this means for the evolution of communications.

This is what I posted today over on my blog:

Christmas Wrap Up

Based upon true happenings in my hometown this season.

Snuggled amid neat, shiny houses set in a line
the funeral home rests quietly across the street from mine.

Tonight nestled in its silent passages
a young man reclines neath icy lashes.

Ageless in repose,
his friend slumbers at the church juxtaposed
to the trappings and tree
and merry gaiety.

In the crestfallen morn
they’ll be transformed.

Wrapped in silken blankets, put into a wooden box and sealed
to be hidden under an old fir tree in the field,
shiny new granite tags labeling their present plight
sleep in heavenly peace through the silent night.

Around the world in holiday splendor,
homes exude hope for a time to remember.

Sleepy tousled noggins eagerly wriggle out
of their supine blanketed nests with a shout!

While anxious kinfolk dream of perfection
hoping for squeals and happy satisfaction.

Yet, if we’d rub the avarice from our eyes
I think most clearly we would surmise
the best presents aren’t wrapped up, sealed tight,
and hidden from sight

but are the sleepy happy humans who play
amidst the trappings of the day.

(C) 2007 Victoria A. Davis, All Rights Reserved

I share this because this one blog post literally has taken me all week to write.

There are those who believe that blogs are the death of all that is good and noble about writing… and represent some sort of weakening of the mind.

As I have struggled with these senseless tragedies this week, I crafted this poem full of all of the meaning that I learned in my literature classes. Sleep represents death. The use and reuse of figurative Christmas language in the part talking about the burial of the two teenagers. It has probably been rewritten 30 times!

I don't say this to point out any poetic prowess of mine but to say this…

blogs are a medium.

Just as paper can hold poetry or pornography, penmanship or im-speak, blogs can do the same.

But the usefulness of blogs comes in its rapid delivery, searchability, and connectability.

Rapid Delivery
How did we keep up with the Myanmar blogger and how did “Don't Taze me Bro?” become “The newest cultural touchstone of our pop-cultural lexicon.”

RSS has turbo charged our communications with the speed and force of, well, a tazer!

We can see what people think. Not just the proud and important, but the humble little school teacher sitting at her desk working away. Using tags and pinging technorati are things that good bloggers do to become part of the conversation. I teach it to my students as young as ninth grade because it gives them voice.

We can connect and comment on other people's work. We can remix and share. We can communicate with others in a way that literally cannot be done on paper.

The death of paper?
This isn't the death of paper. Paper still has its needs and with things like the Amazon Kindle coming out, the word electronic paper is beginning to enter our vocabulary, perhaps because it is less scary than the word “blog.” Oh, and you can get a blog on your electronic paper, but I doubt in 10 years if we'll even call it a blog any more.

The medium is evolving but it doesn't mean that the excellence of communications should degrade.

Why do we have so much IM speak, slang, fractured grammar usage and misspelled words inundating us?

Perhaps it is because education has ignored the evolution.

Just when society needs education to step in and help us learn to well-use this technology, education chooses to treat electronic media like some stiff sock found behind the bench in the boys locker room.

Society is organizing itself and determining the best ways to use these tools and will do so with or without education. I for one think that some of the greatest people I know are educators and that we're perfect for the job of helping society effectively use this new medium.

However, as we move forward to a society that can send and receive education any place any time from anyone, the best teachers will become SuperTeachers and the worst schools, districts, and teachers may find themselves completely without a job.

Electronic publishing eliminates geographic advantage and pushes our content out to a world that includes those with an internet connection. My sister is an online professor for Savannah College of Art and Design and her students include people of all ages from ALL continents… often in a 15-20 person class. She lives in tiny little Camilla, Georgia and is an incredible teacher.

So, I'm not going to jump up and down and yell and scream for educators to listen. For, by not listening, they seal their own fate. The rest of the world will go on without them, blogging, wiki-ing, podcasting, ustreaming, twittering, web 3-d'ing, and networking.

I and many other teachers like me, would love the chance to give students a GREAT education. And by the way, if the class I teach is easily duplicated to rote, routine steps, why couldn't it be taught from a teacher in India for far less?

Of course face to face is always best, but as virtual classrooms and other technologies improve in their ability to facilitate two way communications, don't think tenure is going to save a failing district from internet-savvy parents taking their kids elsewhere in the next five years.

The point is this.

Electronic publishing of all kinds is simply an evolution in publishing like cuneiform, papyrus, the Gutenberg press, and every other ancestor. We will continue to communicate content and improve the way we do it.

It is time to stop treating blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc. like Greek and realize that we will become as antiquated if we don't learn that these tools aren't such a big deal, they're just a new way to do an old thing.

This past week, we set up a private school-wide Ning for parents, grandparents, teachers, and students and many of our teachers have started blogging. It is demystifying it for them and they're realizing that blogging is no harder than writing an e-mail. They realize it is just another medium that is imperative to overlay on top of an already excellent academic program and that to ignore these tools means dire consequences for not only our students but our school.

Make it easy for others to follow your lead.
Make it understandable why they need to.
Make it important on your to do list.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Amy December 21, 2007 - 4:37 pm

What a beautiful poem and excellent point. Good writing is good writing, regardless of the medium in which it’s presented: book, newspaper, journal, blog, Starbuck’s cup, bathroom door..

profv December 21, 2007 - 5:02 pm

What a beautiful poem! And so sad.

I think the hardest thing to fighting the electronic battle is knowing who “education” is. Who is preventing us from integrating technology into our teaching? Sometimes its ourselves (not having time, not wanting to look foolish to our students), but many times it is a system that holds teachers “accountable” without a good yard stick.

I often hear those at the elementary school say that they do integrate technology, but not to the level they would prefer because they need to prepare students for tests that require hand written information. I know that the New York state tests require students to sort through information (they now start at 3rd grade) and analyze it for the state exams. However, because the tests are really not developmentally appropriate, students are taught the “formula” to get the answer correct rather than the age appropriate critical thinking skills they will need when they leave school.

Finally, I see many initiatives where technology is bought or teachers begin to use it, and then the technology becomes outdated, or upgraded versions require too much time for retraining or rework in the curriculum, or administrators perceive the learning as not justifiable for the time or money spent. This is the saddest situation because teachers may be willing to work with the technology, but the pressure is for them not to use it. This is the attitude which must be changed. One way is to have a pull strategy: parents, employers, and students need to demand that these skills and technologies are part of the classroom. The public needs to make more noise requiring teachers that don’t use technology to learn and rewarding (even if it is a certificate of appreciation) teachers that do incorporate it into their classroom.

Mike December 21, 2007 - 8:20 pm

>>It is time to stop treating blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc. like Greek and realize that we will become as antiquated if we don’t learn that these tools aren’t such a big deal, they’re just a new way to do an old thing.

I agree entirely. So sorry to hear about the losses in your community.


Hurricane Maine December 22, 2007 - 10:16 pm

Here, here! I was just speaking to a parent (and also a good friend) of mine that the future is no longer about what a person has learned, but their capability of learning. Those who can’t adapt and adjust will be left in the dust wondering what happened.

People here don’t want to try something new. I will not choose the same route. I don’t want to do the same as I have always done. I want to be irreplaceable. Anyone can pull out a lab and write notes from a book.

The comment I hear most is that they don’t have time to learn about it. What are they doing to challenge their brains? I can think of nothing better to model to students than my ability to learn something new.

scottmerrick December 24, 2007 - 3:16 am

Lovely, good Vicki,

As I finish up my holiday card for my Second Life friends, prepare to twitter my last twitter for the day, and post the song I wrote for my wife’s Christmas present to my main blog (knowing she won’t see it ’til the morning of, lol) I commend you and yours. The private ning is a great idea and one I hope to emulate with my kids in 2008. How cool, to be able to have only the front page accessible to the world, share fun stuff there, and keep all the goodies inside for community involvement and sharing. Life(s) is good. Merry Christmas to you, dear human.

Elaine December 31, 2007 - 3:31 am

I felt the sadness of the poem as I read it.

I agree that good writing is good writing, but I wonder if students are encouraged to take part in blogs for the class will this help them improve written communication in essays and when anwering essay questions.

I believe we have to look at the technology as a tool and not as a cure all.

Emily P December 31, 2007 - 3:46 am

Thank you for sharing the poem.

I agree that good writing is good writing no matter where it is found.

As I read the comments I thought about a couple of students who seem terrified about writing in the classroom, yet they readily send text messages to friends. Perhaps blogging for a class would help them become more comfortable with the writing process. I’m concerned because these are juniors in high school.

The filter our school district uses wouldn’t allow me to visit this site. I put in a request for clearance over a month ago and still haven’t received a reply. Does anyone else have this problem?

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