Blogging vs. Writing



I’ve been mulling over distinctions that Will Richardson makes between blogging and writing in his chapter on weblog pedagogy and practice (pp. 29ff). He suggests that blogs can facilitate a new form of genre called “connective writing” that encourages bloggers to read carefully and critically, write clearly and cogently, and link to the sources of the ideas expressed. An example of this kind of student writing is provided, which shows that connective writing is mostly expository writing that starts with reading. The argument made is that reading before blogging requires critical thinking as the students consider their audience and clarify the purpose of the writing. Ideally, a post synthesizes or makes connections between the reading of many texts.

I’m not sold on considering blogging/connective writing as a new form of genre at the moment. Are characteristics of blogging so different from writing? Arguably, invoking Mead, good writing is also aware of an audience, engages the readers in a conversation, synthesizes multiple perspectives, and is ongoing. Counter-intuitively, some studies suggest students don’t necessarily write better on things they know more about (e.g. Scardamalia, Bereiter, & Woodruff 1980). This makes me wonder whether students write better on things they read about first, though it is widely accepted that reading and writing are related, and I obviously need to research this better. I do see the strength of blogs in 1) providing students with a more authentic experience writing for an audience on the web rather than simply writing for teacher assessment; 2) enabling the process of writing to continue beyond particular classroom situations that solicit writing as finished products that students don’t look at again.

Richardson goes on to emphasize the ongoing process of connective writing even post publication. He asserts that because readers are able to interact with a post, no matter how much a blogger anticipates the readers’ response, a blog entry is de facto “a draft, a way to test my best ideas and writing against an audience” (p. 31). When I read this, I saw how this crucial distinction for connective writing parallels the knowledge building principle of improvable ideas, and how viewed in this way, blogs have the potential to encourage students to work with ideas over time and refine them progressively.

Richardson cites Konrad Glogowski, a doctoral student at OISE and fourth-grade teacher in Ontario using blogs in his classroom to foster this kind of reflective, interactive writing. In a number of blog entries, Glogowski has likened this kind of writing to progressive discourse. My own research characterizes progressive discourse in situ in the context of online graduate inservice teacher education courses, so naturally, I was intrigued by these entries. I do have blog data, but I do not focus on blog affordances. Nonetheless, I’m curious about the following spectrum of different types of weblog posts, where posting ends and blogging as an academic begins (p. 32):

1. Posting assignments. (Not blogging)
2. Journaling, i.e., “This is what I did today” (Not blogging)
3. Posting links (Not blogging)
4. Links with descriptive annotation, i.e., “This site is about…” (Not really blogging either, but getting close depending on the depth of the description)
5. Links with analysis that gets into the meaning of the content being linked. (A simple form of blogging)
6. Reflective, metacognitive writing on practice without links. (Complex writing, but simple blogging, I think. Commenting would probably fall in here somewhere.)
7. Links with analysis and synthesis that articulate a deeper understanding or relationship to the content being linked and written with potential audience response in mind. (Real blogging)
8. Entended analysis and synthesis over a longer period of time that builds on previous posts, links, and comments. (Complex blogging)

On this 8-point spectrum, evocative of Bloom’s Taxonomy, my own practices “blogging” over the past couple of years sometimes falls short of blogging. If I’m posting an entry in a blog, how is that not blogging? Maybe it’s a matter of semantics? Or maybe levels of reflection or reasoning might be better?

Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


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