Blogging, and the easy access to–and exchange of–ideas that it has spawned, is having a “transformative” effect on education, according to the winners of the first-ever eSchool News “Best of the Education Blog” Awards.
Sponsored by Discovery Education, the awards are intended to celebrate excellence in education blogging. They come at a time when blogging has exploded in popularity, giving educators and students an unprecedented opportunity for easy self-expression and reflection that anyone can access–and to which anyone can respond.
Recipients of the “Best of the Education Blog” Awards were honored in a ceremony held in conjunction with the Florida Educational Technology Conference in Orlando March 23, where they talked about the significance of blogging in education during a panel discussion.
Though each of the four winning bloggers writes for a different audience and purpose, all agreed: The impact of blogging on teaching and learning can be profound.
“Kids are getting excited and engaged in literacy through blogging, commenting, and sharing ideas” online, said Wesley Fryer, director of instructional support services for the Texas Tech University College of Education. Fryer’s blog, “Moving at the Speed of Creativity,” which mixes insights on education theory with sound, practical advice for educators, won in the category “Best Education Theory Blog.”
There is an excitement that comes from writing for a real, authentic audience instead of a circular file seen only by the teacher, Fryer said, adding that this thrill can be a huge motivator for students.
Frank LaBanca, a science teacher at Newtown High School in Connecticut, is using a class blog called “Applied Science Research” to challenge his students with frequent, short writing assignments designed to make them think critically. LaBanca, whose blog won in the category “Best Classroom Instruction Blog for Students,” said the blog enables him to have a high-level, asynchronous conversation with his students that extends the boundaries of the traditional classroom.
“Our students are tech-savvy, and we need to make sure we take advantage of this,” he said.
Like the other winners, both Fryer and LaBanca noted that today’s digital tools make blogging extremely easy, especially when compared with the effort it used to take to upload files online via the File Transfer Protocol or build a web page using Hypertext Markup Language.
Sharing ideas with the world today is “so easy,” Fryer said. “Now, it doesn’t take anything but a web browser to engage in these conversations.”
Sparking conversations and getting education leaders to think critically is the intent of “EduWonk,” the winner in the category “Best K-12 Administration Blog.”
Sara Mead, a co-contributor to EduWonk along with Andrew Rotherham, said the two created the blog to push education policy debate into the blogosphere, capitalizing on the interest in political blogging that already existed but wasn’t focused enough on education policy.
With all of the issues and controversies taking place in public education today, “there is no shortage of stuff to write about,” said Mead, who works for Education Sector, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
There also is no shortage of material to read in the blogosphere. Bill MacKenty, computer science teacher at Edgartown Elementary School on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, said he subscribes to about 450 education blogs through Really Simple Syndication feeds. Though he doesn’t read them all, he said he can skim through new blog entries as they are posted in order to stay informed.