Wednesday, October 07, 2009

On Blogging and Connections

Reader Cathy writes:
When my students first started blogging, they weren't using each other as potential resources, and I found that they weren't even reading their classmates' thoughts. Part of me thinks that's because they're programmed to work individually for so much of their school lives.

It's not enough to blog.

It's got to be a matter of commenting. It's got to be a matter of sharing posts on Twitter and making other immediate connections. I completely agree with the reader in that sense.

There's a group of young teachers I've been working with, many of whom remain confused about how to grow their PLN into something both useful and helpful. I think part of the difficulty has to do with understanding the relationship between real-time sharing and blogging.

Because a PLN is only as strong as the individual contributions of its attendant members. In other words, you can have 2000 follows on Twitter yet never engage in meaningful interaction there if the follows are folks who aren't actively engaging the network itself.

The same goes for blogs. You can produce a brilliant post, but if there's no one there to share in it, well...

Blogs live and die by their readership. Not in the old financial sense that's killing many newspapers. But rather in the sense of building community. That's the lifeblood of any blog. It's about connecting and getting that readership to play an active role in continuing the life and value of the blog.

Note to new bloggers: your blog is what your readers make it. (And this is a humbling thing, a counter-intuitive thing, and ultimately a good thing).

And so, both students and teachers new to blogging need to understand that the life of a post doesn't depend on it's being published, but rather on its being transmitted throughout the network. The value of the post depends on the network and the reaction of the network. (For those of you savvy in Structuralism, this is the definition of 'meaning' being defined by 'difference').

Blogging is one part writing, one part community building. In that way, it's sort of like theatre. After all, you can have the actors on the lit stage reciting lines, but it's not really theatre until an audience is filling those seats. Because the art of theatre is an art of give-and-take between performer and audience; and it's no different with a blog.

So teach your kids to comment; and not out of a sense of duty, but out of a commitment towards building community and fulfilling the role of active audience member. Teach your kids to Tweet links to blogposts they love -- as well as blogposts they hate. Teach them to use the network structure as a means of exploring their own ideas and challenging their own opinions.

Well done, blogging produces a symbiosis between individual and communal. It's a way to find yourself in others and to find others in yourself.


  1. This relates well to where I am at. I have been blogging for a few months, but have just recently started to increase the number of people that read my blog.

    For a new blogger it is difficult and discouraging when you feel that no one is "listening."

    The three keys for me for growing readership were to keep writing from my heart and posting links to my blog on twitter.

    Second to visit and comment on other educator's blogs, then they were likely to visit my blog in return.

    Third and most important was getting involved in conversations on Twitter that developed into friendships. These people read every post and often RT or comment.

  2. Thanks for this perspectice. I've just started a blog project with students myself and your post gave me another nudge to work more on the commenting.
    I've set up a companion blog with blog tipps for my students (in German) - only three posts yet but I hope to develop it into a source of inspiration and guidance for the student bloggers.

  3. I've just started blogging with one of my classes. Today's post was on "commenting" and the assignment was to comment on their classmates blogs. The kids really enjoyed reading each others thoughts and laughing at what they wrote. I don't think they would have done this if I wouldn't have made it an assignment.
    If you would like to comment or give me some suggestions as I tried to learn new stuff with an old brain.

  4. your post is really interesting as I have just started a new blog with my Spanish students
    and I find it hard to make my students comment. I did a similar thing to Swanson where I asked my students to comment a post as a homework but the point for me is not to force them but rather for them to get engaged and to collaborate spontaneously. I know it is a long learning process and I look forward to your coming tips!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.