This post is in service of my library coursework at Syracuse University.
This semester I’m taking a class on educational technology and this week we’ve been asked to blog about blogging. Pretty meta. There are two prompts, and I’m going to answer both of them because I feel like being thorough (and we’re supposed to?).
You are designing a web site for your library. Reflect on how a blog might be a tool you could use to support the library program. Would it be a blog of your own? Or one that involved students? Some combination? What aspects of the Common Core State Standards and the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner might your blog address?
Try out any “reader” and start subscribing to a few blog feeds that are of interest to you. Once you are comfortable with it yourself, consider whether this tool may be useful to you in teaching an information literacy lesson or even in planning an event or program for your school library. And tell us why you think RSS is here for the long run or dying on the vine.
I’m going to answer #2 first. I am an avid reader-user and I was definitely thrown for a loop when Google Reader shut down a little more than a year ago. I was very grateful to find Feedly, which is the reader I use now. It is sort of news to me that RSS feeds might be a dying technology, because they take no almost effort to have for a blog, and I still very much appreciate their service. I have categories in my reader that organize all my blogs: library, crafting, home improvement, and technology, to name a few. I subscribe to more than 200 blogs. Here are some of the reasons I love my reader:
- Keeps the blog updates I like to read separate from my email. Email is a place where I talk to people intentionally. I don’t want blog updates clogging my inbox.
- Lets me go to one place to see if blogs I follow have updated instead of having to navigate to each website
- Gets an update straight from the source — not all bloggers push their posts to Social Media, and for example if I don’t check Twitter for a day or two (even with a tool like Tweet Deck), I might miss a blog post. With a reader, they wait, unread, until I have time to get to them
I will say also that I know one teacher personally who uses the RSS feed to make grading student reflections much easier. He had his students make blogs on any platform with an RSS feature. They post reflections on his lessons each week, and his reader makes it easy to have a category for each class, read them all and record grades.
If RSS is dying, then something else better take its place, because I love my blog-reading ritual. Here is a screenshot of my Feedly homepage…because I can (pop out to enlarge). As you can tell, I’ve been falling behind on my blogs because of school work
Now, for question 1…I plan to be a school librarian one day, and as a blogger myself (using the term loosely since my blog activity has tapered lately), I definitely see the educational value in blogging. Faced with building a website for my school library, I would absolutely put a blog feature in, because, quite apart from any specific educational value, it is better to have it and not use it than want it and not have it readily available. However I see specific uses for a library blog — both for me as a librarian as well as for students.
Professor Arnone said in our module section on Vlogging this week that she has relaxed her standards a little bit when it comes to making videos for class. Vlogging does not have to strive for perfect production quality the way mainstream movies and television do. So it is with blogging. Blogs are a place where people can just write without too much regard for form or formality. The blogging world is still rather free and unregulated, which is the perfect setting in which a writer can find and develop a voice and a writing identity. An important part of the writing process is to just go through the motions of writing anything at all to jump start the writing motor. Writing for school with all the structure and requirements can be intimidating. Students who can go through the motions of writing freely on blogs may find that the free writing helps them dive more confidently into their papers, where they must write more formally. As librarian, I would want to open up the opportunity to students to write for the library. Perhaps in conjunction with a school newspaper: stories unfit for journalistic pursuits could find a home with the library. A student library advisory board might announce and review library programs on the blog or share favorite information, media, tools, and literature. A blog, in my library, would be a way to give students a voice.
Giving students a voice via a blog would dovetail perfectly with AASL Standard #3: Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society. There are so many standards that blogging activities could address that I will only give one specifically:
3.1.2 Participate and collaborate as members of a social and intellectual network of learners.
Blogging is about speaking to a community of readers. Even though a blog can serve the purpose of a private diary, the real point of putting any information online, I would argue, is to be read and shared. “Networking” is probably something of an eye-roll-worthy word these days, but that is what blogs, as a tool, strive to create — groups of people connected by shared ideas.
As far as the Common Core Standards are concerned, I couldn’t resists giving two examples, both cross reference with the AASL standard above:
CC.9-10.W.6 Production and Distribution of Writing: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
CC.11-12.SL.1 Comprehension and Collaboration: Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
I cannot imagine a tool better suited to address these standards than a blog. The linking, commenting, flexibility, and sharing features of the technology tool are all ready and waiting for students to use. I have provided examples of the linking feature in this very post. The Internet would allow for diverse perspectives, as connecting with people from around the world is instantaneous.
A blog for librarians could be a way to do similar things from the librarian’s perspective: announce library news, review books, market programs, review how programs went, and so much more. A library newsletter could easily happen as a monthly blog post instead, since most blog platforms have an email sign-up feature. This would eliminate the need for email marketing costs, still allow news to look good, and parents, staff, and students would have the option of email delivery or RSS subscription (which, as I have established, I still think is a relevant technology :D).
None of this is why I blog. I have been blogging for almost seven years. In fact, my seventh blog-a-versary is coming up on October 16th. Back in 2007, I set up a Livejournal account (go ahead; you know you want to chuckle) to chronicle a year of traveling abroad. It was actually an act of laziness to help me avoid writing and rewriting a flobbity-zillion emails to my family and friends while I was away. But I ended up developing a sense of ownership over this little corner of the Internet. It is my space — one where my ideas are the ones that matter — and where I can use words like “flobbity-zillion” confidently and without feeling the need to justify my linguistic choices. I haven’t stopped yet because it feels good to have an outlet. That’s really it: I blog because I like it, and I bet a lot of my future students could find a similar joy if I am able to offer them the outlet.
As a reward for making it through this beefy blog post, here is a song: