Schools are interested in blogging, but what is a blog and how do you write one? We use the term blog but what does it actually mean? The internet is now full of writing, networking and publishing spaces so what are the unique characteristics of a blog?
I’ve been fascinated to read about Quadblogging, an idea of teacher David Mitchell (see the video below). Quadblogging simply brings together four schools – anywhere in the world – to discuss and write about a topic online and the motivator is having an audience. Of course blogging us one of those terms which can be easily misunderstood. Is Facebook a blog? Is twitter a microblog? What kind of writing can we expect to see on a blog? I want to clear up the question of what a blog is.
From what I can see, the act of blogging is sometimes associated with the technical platform rather than the writing style. If you use Blogspot, Typepad or WordPress then you are a blogger – are you?
Blogs a decade ago were a bit like Facebook pages are today, populated by highly personal accounts of daily life. There was an understanding that blogs could be a little bit sloppy with the odd error here and there which made them more spontaneous and believable; a highly manicured article may look less real somehow. Maybe that is changing? When we talk about children being encouraged to write I guess we expect some quality and not just the casual randomness we sometimes see.
It seems to me that those early bloggers have grown up and are now using blogs in a much more thoughtful and journalistic way. Blogs are, by and large, still personal but they have become significant spaces where individuals can explore their own thinking and invite feedback.
Blogs provide a transparency which helps build relationships – if you know someone you are more likely to trust them. You can establish your own identity and agenda.
Blogs are long term investments where you can trace patterns of thought and look back on your own personal experiences and development.
Blogs have been adopted as a serious news platform for professional and amateurs writers alike. Every news organisation is using them.
An important aspect of the blog is the facility to discuss, and this is probably the most distinctive aspect. A blog that has no facility to discuss would simply be an online newspaper. A blog that contains only likes and comments might only be Twitter. I make a distinction between likes, comments and real discussion.
A blog at its best resonates beyond its immediate space – it gets talked about, makes the news, appears on rss feeds and may causes controversy. They are the public’s own press release.
So when we look at a school blog, exactly what kind of writing do we expect? I’d suggest much more than a patchwork of information culled from the internet. Personally I’d like to see children writing as journalists would write and with their own voice. So here are some bullet points – which may or may not be reasonable:
- Journalistic in style
- Rich in facts and well researched
- Uniquely written with no cut and paste
- Thoughtful and well structured
- Updated often and a lively progression of content
- Topical and reflective of the wider world
- Clear who the author is and the point of view
- Centred around a specialist topic
- Responsive and open to discussion
- Multimedia layouts
- Legal, decent and honest
This may seem a tall order for primary children but here’s an example from The School Media Club
So when we talk about a school blog, there’s an opportunity for some real discussion about how it’s written, and not simply which tools are used.
And in the meantime be encouraged by this talk given by David Mitchell