National Writing Project

Book Review: Classroom Blogging

By: Red Clay Writing Project’s Technology Team
Publication: RCWP Tech Advanced Institute 2008 Wiki
Date: December 19, 2008

Summary: A site’s technology team delves into David Warlick’s Classroom Blogging, trying out its ideas and visiting the author’s own blog, and concludes that the book offers useful information and insights and aligns with writing project philosophy.

 

As a budding new writing project technology team, we found David Warlick's Classroom Blogging (2nd Ed.) an accessible and productive text as we thought about using new Web 2.0 technologies in our personal and professional lives and in our classroom teaching.

Many of Warlick's assertions regarding intersections between new technologies and literacy align philosophically with our approach to teaching and learning. Like Warlick, we see increased potential for generating multimedia content online—rather than simply consuming it—as a way of amplifying voices often hidden in traditional forms of media.

We also agree with Warlick's notion that because these new technologies will profoundly impact democratic participation, educators have a responsibility to help students develop the thinking habits they will need to consume and produce online content in this new democratic environment.

A New Publishing Paradigm

As his title suggests, Warlick foregrounds blogging as a literacy practice that enables what he calls a "new publishing paradigm," one that allows for an environment in which learners dialogue together, "observe, reflect, and share, and where the reader has the right, and the skill, to make his own decision about the information he uses."

Educators have a responsibility to help students develop the thinking habits they will need to consume and produce online content in this new democratic environment.

We respect that Warlick actively practices what he writes about. Several of our tech team members followed Warlick's blog , and found it a noteworthy example of blogging within a community of individuals who strongly value dialogue regarding technology in education and who invite conversation, constructive criticism, and respect.

While Warlick, commendably, brings attention to both the potential benefits that blogosphere and Web 2.0 applications have to enhance teaching and learning, he simultaneously cautions that these applications bring with them issues of Internet safety, copyright, content authority, and access to public versus private audiences.

How To's

Warlick gives practical resources for those interested in exploring blogging platforms and blog search engines. Although helpful, this middle section of Warlick's book is somewhat "how-to-ish," an arguably paradoxical format for exploring online technologies.

We found ourselves skimming those sections and diving into the applications themselves. We relied on each other's familiarity with the applications and used help buttons to troubleshoot questions that arose.

We wondered if Warlick's how-to sections might prove more effectively presented online, allowing changes in the technologies to require online how-to updates rather than new book editions.

Web 2.0 as a Professional Learning Practice

That said, Warlick packs a lot in a small book, including attention to applications other than blogs—RSS feeds, RSS readers, and wikis. He discusses, for instance, the ability that RSS feeds and aggregators have to create personalized "newspapers" that allow people "to train the information to find us. It is radical and dramatic, and it adds one more element to what it means to be literate within a networked, digital, and overwhelming information landscape."

In other words, we no longer have to spend time going to a site we value; instead, new information dynamically updates to our RSS reader instantly for our access.

As a writing project technology team, we honed in on how these applications might also foster productive practices for professional learning. Although Warlick focuses less on this concern, he alludes to its potential: "If teachers in a school are encouraged to blog about what and how they are teaching, then educators who teach at the same level or the same subject area will be more aware of the happenings in their part of the school."

This assertion led our group to a discussion contrasting the relative merits of blogs and wikis. While several members of our team utilized blogs in their classrooms with students, and as a tech team we used a private community blog to discuss readings and classroom explorations, we've found a wiki extraordinarily productive when working with educators during workshops about technology and literacy outside our team. For example, check out our Saturday Brown Bag wiki and the Red Clay Writing Project's Advanced Institute for Technology and Literacy wiki .

Wikis provide a space for us to achieve a collaborative learning setting as well as a place to individually publish and receive feedback.

Perhaps the most recent example of this potential for us is the collaboration on this very book review, a process that included penning thoughts to our Advanced Institute wiki site, one that involved multiple readers. Much like using Google Docs , this wiki approach differed from passing a Word document around via email, allowing us to keep our revisions and suggestions in one location.

Undoubtedly, Warlick's Classroom Blogging jump-started our exploration of online applications as they apply to our classroom teaching, our personal and professional lives, and our learning goals as a technology team and local writing project chapter.

About the Authors The Red Clay Technology Team is comprised of John Bishop, Paige Cole, Scott Ritchie, John-Paul Vigil, May Dartez, Eric Hasty, and Freida Hammett.

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