Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Immersed in the Blogosphere

I have spent the past few weeks "surfing the blogosphere" as some may call it, reading blog posting by different writers, professional educators, and my own EIT colleagues. I haven't really gotten too deeply into the swing of posting yet, mostly because I am so busy this semester, but the blogs I've been reading have certainly gotten me more interested in the process.

Tonight in our EIT web conference on Adobe Connect, we were sharing our reactions about using social networking tools. Almost everyone has heard of or has used Facebook, and that social network was not featured in our class discussion, but we did compare the functions of Twitter and Blogger. Both of these Web 2.0 applications are used for social networking and communication, in that users can share information, thoughts and opinions with others who may be interested in the same topics. In our conversation about using both Twitter and Blogger over the past few weeks (and I came out favoring Twitter), I started to think about how these applications and their design/sharing style might appeal to some more than others.

I remember when I first joined Twitter. Nobody followed me for the first month, except for a few pity "follows" because I started following them. I didn't really understand the function of Twitter until I started talking to a couple of my friends about it. I have a good friend, Mr. Derek Grote (Twitter handle @mrgeduventures) who explained that he used Twitter to make connections in areas of professional development. He explained hashtags to me, and I thought "okay, I'm an aspiring English teacher, I'll search things like 'writing' 'education' 'technology' 'schools'" and started to make some connections there. By the time I got to EIT this fall, I was pretty familiar with the uses of Twitter. Or so I thought.

Twitter is a timeline, a record of thoughts, conversations, utterances, and shares that is always moving. Keeping posts under 140 characters, though some may grumble about it, actually makes the sharing easier. I prefer using Twitter to share links, thoughts and ideas because I am spontaneous, and I like to get my thoughts out quickly, before they jump away from me. With a single Tweet, I can share ideas with my followers, and with hashtags, I can share them with others too. Because Twitter moves so quickly, I have been introduced to TONS of new information, all rather concise and to the point (those 140 characters'll getcha). I prefer viewing my Twitterfeed on Tweetdeck rather than searching the net for blogs.

Don't get me wrong, obviously I appreciate and support the unique web application that is blogging, and I love my little Bloggy (though I neglect her sometimes). Blogger gives the opportunity to share thoughts and opinions about anything with anyone, and that's pretty cool. I mean, I don't necessarily know if anyone reads my blog regularly, but it's nice to know that I can blog regardless of whether I have 10 followers or 10,000. Blogging takes time though, because one is writing for a public post, and I am more likely to take time to organize my thoughts, and turn into a super-perfectionist, and that often slows me down. A favorite English professor of mine once told me to turn down the brightness on my computer monitor to black so I couldn't see what I wrote. "That way, you'll write the truth." I think he meant what's actually inside my head, instead of a neatly tied bundle of ideas. So sometimes I find Blogger harder to express myself on, because I feel less candid and more inclined to edit, edit, edit. Which is good, and you should edit anything you're placing in the public domain. But that doesn't really help me express myself on the go.

I think it would be interesting to offer use of either (or both) of these social networking applications to students in my classes, with the assumption that they would be approved by the administration and parents of course. Some teachers are using Twitter to engage students and keep them accountable, as in the case of these high schoolers at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, MN. 

Other teachers are using blogs, wikis, and other platforms to allow students to share ideas and thoughts, as well as comment and question, on topics being discussed within the classroom. My sister's AP English class did this last year, using Googlesites to talk about different pieces of classic literature. Nate Pruett, an English teacher at Cedar Rapids Prairie High School, uses the Google Blogger to share updates with his AP class, as well as receive questions, comments, and other feedback. Check out Mr. Pruett's AP Blog

So I wonder which students would prefer? Sharing thoughts via Twitter, or Blogger? Would some students prefer the spontaneity of Twitter, being about to Tweet a thought or question now and then, with hashtags to alert the teacher and the rest of the class? Or would some rather use Blogger, and organize their thoughts into a longer, more detailed blog post? Would a lot of little Tweets equate to one  complete blog post? I hope the district I get hired in will allow students access to both of these tools, because I am anxious to see how my students would react.

As far as being active in the blogosphere, as well as the Twitter feed, these past few weeks, I have got to say that, although I felt overwhelmed at first (there are SO many things I could click and read!), I've gotten my PLN on iGoogle established and am breezing through the blogs. I think blogging can also be a very reflective tool, because I have come to understand myself better as a writer and an educator through doing my posts.

I'd love to continue waxing on the joys of social networking tools, but it is 9:30pm, and I've got a tutoring lesson left to perfect, some audio to clip, and 5 chapters of Class Warfare: Besieged Schools, Bewildered Parents, Betrayed Kids, and the Attack on Excellence by J. Martin Rochester left to read tonight. So I'll be going now, but please, share your thoughts on Twitter vs. Blogger. Who will be victorious?

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