Week in Review: Blogs as Text

Friday Dialogue from 

                                      Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to discuss if Perez Hilton really could best Harry Levin from TMZ and/or if reading substantive blogs provides excellent supplemental reading.  

1.  What relevance is there in using blogs as “texts” for students?

Emily:  One thing I really like about using blogs is that they are usually brief, What does Emily say?which allows students the opportunity to study one thing really well.  Too often students don’t read our assignments.   They are “too” long and students can be lazy or intimidated.  Choosing blogs that engage students helps ensure they actually read and gives them the chance to express their opinions and beliefs.

Aubrey: All I want them to do is read.  I take that back.  I don’t want them to read crap.  Let me try again.  I know they’ll read it but I’d like them to be able to read it and identify it for what it is.  Then, I’d like them to read something that isn’t crap.  How’s that for articulate?  As goofy as it sounds, I love good blogs.  They give me a fresh perspective every day.  Plus they exist within a space that seems as conversational and personal.  Remarkable blogs allow me to show students that good writing exists on topics of interest.  No fights.

2.  What makes it difficult to teach blogs, videos, digital literacy and all things media?

Emily:  I recognize the irony here, but blogs are so ubiquitous. Everyone has one, including students.  I think the hardest part about teaching blogs and things of the such in the classroom is trying to differentiate quality from crap.  I’m afraid that blogs are encouraging people just to put whatever they want on the worldwide web and people are taking it for fact.  I think we have to keep modeling for our students what good writing looks like and how to evaluate the sources they consult for their “news.”

Aubrey: I think there are quite a few problems.  Finding reputable, thoughtful media is time consuming.  There is no list of great media to use in my classroom.  Teachers often advocate for students writing via blog but it is rare that I find anyone who suggests reading via blog.  To find good blogs takes time we don’t have.  I also think that even when I get students a list of credible sources, blogs, writers, they skip the list.  The result?  The most impossible and ridiculous sources of information.  This of course pushes my delicate mental state over the edge.  No matter how many times you offer examples they still struggle to follow guidelines.  When it comes to online content it’s a necessity.  And so, that can be discouraging too.

3.  What importance do you place upon inquiry research within the English classroom?  Can reading a blog lead to self-selected research and perhaps even, gasp, global citizenship?

Emily:  Absolutely.  In fact, I think that this might be the only way for students to engage in truly meaningful inquiry.  If students are taught to look beyond the immediate they will be much more analytical and thoughtful thinkers, a skill highly coveted in this day and age.  However, the key is how to foster the intrinsic motivation to want to pursue more information about a topic found in a blog.

Aubrey: Inquiry research is so important but it takes many steps.  Fostering that intrinsic motivation is tricky because it requires that they ask more than just base level questions.  That puts a great deal of burden upon us to teach and reteach.  I do believe that sometimes you just can’t get there through fiction.  Because they are such literal thinkers they need non-fiction consistently.  Reading a blog from a news outlet is a step towards making them thoughtful and capable of empathy.

4.  Pop culture gets a bad rap and sometimes, so do those blogs with the same focus.  In what capacity should popular culture be used in the classroom?  In light of my pop culture blog resources from Thursday, how do blogs change how educators handle pop culture?

Emily:  I think it is important to approach using pop culture in a way that brings about scholarly discussion about life, society, our country.  I’m afraid that some What does Emily say?might naturally resort to discussing pop culture events only, which would encourage students to only look superficially at a topic and think it is permissible evidence for arguments.  I think it definitely has a place but that typically it should be used by students only to really highlight what is wrong with our country.  As a result, I think teachers need to be cautious about celebrating celebrities instead of using pop culture as a catalyst for meaningful inquiry about real issues.

Aubrey: I agree.  It can be difficult to get students, in general, to move beyond the literal.  When it comes to integrating pop culture with learning,  I think that step becomes much more difficult.  Most of us treat pop culture as if it’s trash.  And while there’s certainly a lot of trash, it’s a readily accessible “text” if treated thoughtfully.

5.  In a cage match between TMZ founder Harry Levin and blogger Perez Hilton who wins?  What if I change cage match to dance off?  Sing off?

Emily:  Oh….so tough.  I definitely think Harry is smarter.  He is a former lawyer, you know.  But Perez seems like a diva with a mean backhand.  I think I would pick Perez above Harry in every category.

Aubrey: Oh please.  Harry would win every single time.  He is certainly stockier and he always seems to be drinking a protein shake.  This doesn’t necessarily make him suited for singing but I’ll take my chances.  You and Perez are going down.

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