Research on Blogging

What makes a blog a blog? It looks like a Web site, yet it is full of stories. The language is less formal than an essay or a research article and more formal than a diary or chat box. The stories, often in narrative form, are complemented by interesting collections of multimedia such as images, podcasts and video. Technically speaking, a blog is a Web site comprised of a collection of posts or entries usually constructed by a single author and organized in reverse chronological order. Blogging, as a different and unique form of literacy, invites a new form of participation in a given discourse—in this case, teaching and learning.

My research for the past four years has looked at how this new media literacy has allowed both teachers and students to engage in their work differently, more effectively, and, (check this out), more enjoyably. I’ve also integrated blogging as a core practice of the science teacher education program here at Warner. To see some of our current students’ professional blogs, check out the blogroll (list of links on the sidebar) posted on the blog we used for our summer class, EDU 486, Integrating Science & Technology. In her most recent post, Alicia published a post, titled “Blogging,” in which she wrote:

I must say I was definitely scared of this whole blogging thing…hey, I didn’t even know what a blog was. Maybe I need to call Gieco and ask if I can be on the commercial (you know the caveman commercials), because as I mentioned before, I am living in the stone ages.
However, despite my fears, I immersed myself into the blogosphere. Although, I am still not aware of all of the features, I do appreciate the communication it allows between my peers and others around the world that may be experiencing the same frustrations as myself.
I hope to continue this communication throughout my journey at Warner and with in my years of teaching. My classmates are very helpful and insightful and I hope that this is just the start of a lasting blogging community (August 7, 2008)

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After No Child Left Behind

by David Hursh

With the upcoming elections we have an opportunity to shelve current federal education policy, most notably No Child Left Behind, and to develop new policies that will assist rather than harm the education system. In this and upcoming posts, I will critique current policy proposals, recommend directions our education policies might take, and suggest resources that we might use for developing policies that build on what educators, including teachers, administrators, and researchers, have learned about teaching, learning, and schools.

In creating and passing NCLB, the Bush administration and Congress intentionally ignored the voices of teachers. Moreover, the Bush administration has consistently distained educators, most notably when former Secretary of Education called teachers’ unions “terrorist organizations.”

In response, both public school teachers and administrators, and those of us who support public education must work to develop an accountability system that does not treat educators as the enemy but instead creates partnerships between teachers, parents, and the community. In the journal Voices in Urban Education published by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University (Spring 2003), noted authors such as Michelle Fine and Dennie Palmer Wolf provide an outline for a new accountability system characterized by:
• Respect for parents and children.
• Internal accountability and a shared system of values and norms.
• Robust multiple indicator systems for measuring student achievement.
We need to develop new systems that provide real information for parents and the wider community and develop trust between. Developing a system to replace and improve on NCLB should be a central conversation between educators, parents, and the wider community over the next year.

Moreover, we need to recognize that the Federal government must play a positive role in education and work to develop a new education policy from preschool though post-graduate education. The recent report from The Forum for Education and Democracy (with Linda Darling-Hammond and George Wood as conveners), titled Democracy at Risk: The Need for a New Federal Education Policy, provides some initial thinking about how the federal government can play a positive role in revitalizing schools, teacher education, and educational research. They focus on
• Investments and incentives for more equitable access to high-quality schools.
• A set of intensive initiatives to develop a world-class education workforce.
• A forward-looking agenda for educational research, innovation, and dissemination, and
• New strategies that enable communities to engage with and be accountable for their local schools.
Their proposals, which I will discuss further in subsequent posts, cost money. But, as they point out, they cost far less that what is being wasted in Iraq and elsewhere, and will, in the long run, result in improved education and standard of living.

Two articles published this week that raise issues worth discussion include:

Jeremy Miller’s “Tyranny of the Test: One Year as a Kaplan Coach in the Public Schools,” published in the September issue of Harper’s Magazine. Miller, who taught in the New York City public schools, returns as Kaplan coach for the SATs. Miller describes how NCLB, because it requires “failing schools” to focus in increasing test scores, diverts funding away from where it is needed– teacher salaries, building maintenance, and supplies– and towards paying private test prep companies such as Kaplan. Much like Kozol’s The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America (2005), Miller reveals how the testing regime harms our urban schools.

Paul Tough’s A Teachable Moment” in the New York Times Sunday Magazine of August 17th. After Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the New Orleans public schools’ infrastructure, the Bush administration and other neoconservatives used it as an opportunity to replace the public schools with private charter schools and poured millions of federal dollars into privatizing the system. Tough’s article focuses on the privatizing of the New Orleans public schools but ignores the larger politics of the Bush administration and privatization proponents and describes the privatization efforts in largely positive terms. The article is worth reading for its description of what is occurring in New Orleans but also should be critiqued for what is left unsaid, something I hope to do at a later time. For a brief history of privatization in New Orleans, see the last chapter in my book: High Stakes Testing and the Decline of Teaching and Learning: The Real Crisis in Education (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008).

D&C Spotlight on Career Changing Teachers

As the Democrat and Chronicle gets us ready to head back to school, it was great to see an article this morning on career changers and local opportunities to enter teaching from other fields. See “Rochester-area workers forge a path from industry to classroom” in today’s D&C. Chris Young, a master’s student in Warner’s science teacher preparation program, was one of the teacher candidates featured in the article.

I had the great pleasure to watch Chris in action last month at the Warner School’s Get Real! Science Camp in collaboration with Rochester’s Freedom School. Chris is a natural as a teacher and this seems a fitting opportunity to share photos of Chris and his students, conducting research on Charlotte Beach.