An article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed about teachers in Shanghai enthusiastically wanting to use blogs. The students weren’t so responsive. The Chronicle wonders why.
Was it because the blogs were seen as another gizmo or gadget… a passing fad? Was it because they were just added on to an already jam packed curriculum and people just ran out of time? Or upon closer reading…was it because the teachers were doing all of the blogging but the students were just asked to do the reading and commenting… that they responded to the questions, but they did not get to ask the questions.
How was the exercise presented to them? Were the students perplexed by what was expected of them and what they were supposed to say? Were their comments less about expressing their own opinions…and more about trying to figure out what they thought the teacher wanted them to say?
If that is the case, then blogging did nothing to change what the students already knew to be true: the teachers are in charge, the students do what they are told… the teachers hold the knowledge and the students are empty vessels in comparison.
There needs to be more information, for sure, about this particular situation… but I believe the power of classroom/academic blogging happens when EVERY person both writes and comments, questions and responds. These tools by their very nature allow for interconnected and non-linear and even uncontrollable conversations…both within the classroom community and way beyond it (I just checked my students’ blogs…they are –still– getting comments from people beyond our college on posts they wrote last spring).
These tools, when allowed to weave their magic, disrupt the status quo, level the hierarchies, allow every voice to be heard, make it possible for teachers to teach students but also for students to teach teachers…such that every person is educated, and every opinion is shared. But that can only happen when teachers are worried less about control and concerned more about sharing knowledge, all knowledge, individual and collective knowledge… with or without blogs.