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Friday, December 21, 2007

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!

Searchability
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.

Connectability
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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