It has taken me quite a while to figure out how to come back to The Ripe Environment with all of the things that I am doing within my school. It came to me when my students were finally ready to work with their blogs on authentic writing. I was struck by a question that I’m sure others would have considered long before: “Why use blogs vs. any other teaching tool (digital or analog)?” I have had a pretty decent answer for a long time, but it wasn’t mine. It was the pat answer that THE Journal came up with. It was for the reasons/purposes that Edublogs espouses. These aren’t good enough for me now.
For the Ripe Environment to exist, we have to have better (and more simple) reasons for doing what we do with technology. So, I was struck with the simplest of all reasons for using blogs in your classroom: It’s the content, stupid. (I believe this is the one and only time that my mind has blatantly stolen from Bill Clinton and his 1992 presidential campaign.)
The following is what I shared with my students after I shared my rather abrasive reasoning for blogging in the classroom.
That is why we use blogs to communicate, not because they are easy, not because they are more collaborative, it is simply because they let the content speak for itself. Without content you are nothing. Without great ideas there is no hope for the future. It is the content that matters, not the format. That is why we do blogs, to pull content up through the rss straw, roll it around in our mouth-like readers, tasting each smooth milkshake post and swallow it down, totally satisfying our desire to fill our bellies with content.
Now, content can be anything from stories to videos to embedded PowerPoint. The only crucial element of content is that you are proud enough of it to consider it yours. That means that content does not exist in an answer that was just done to get it over with. Content does not exist in the unrealized half-wonderings of a before school speed post. Content exists in thought-provoking ideas. It exists in well-worded prose or original poetry. Content is the torrent of inspiration that is created when authenticity is the goal, and you actually have the time to do something.
I actually wrote the preceding piece on my Palm Treo while I was eating cereal. I didn’t start writing it as a way of addressing The Ripe Environment, but this piece really gets at prerequisite number 6: Students and Educators should know that their products and ideas as valuable. If we are concerned with content, students will know that we genuinely care about what they express and teachers will know that their ideas will have some impact. If we focus too much on adding more features or tools to our toolkit, we will never get to the act of content creation. And that would be a very sad thing.