Barbara posts about the discomfort that the transparency of student blogs create, and if she’s thinking about it on the college level, imagine what it must be like down here in K-12 land. The days of emphasizing process over product seem to be a distant memory what with the specter of one-correct-answer standardized tests hanging over all of our heads. And now that we’re asking students to publish to an audience that might actually be engaged in what they are writing, errors become even more accentuated. God firbid they mispell something…

And this is teacher angst more than student angst. Let’s face it, most kids aren’t especially concerned if their work isn’t totally correct. But I can’t count the number of teachers who ask something along the lines of “But what if you put up something that’s got misspellings or errors in it?” during the presentations or workshops I’ve given. It’s one thing when kids make mistakes that only the teacher sees…it’s the students’ problem. But put them online…it’s the teacher’s. (Especially when district budget approvals can be won or lost with just a couple of votes.)

Barbara sees it correctly, I think:

Of course, detractors think that blogging embraces the messiness, the anything-goes-mentality, the very worst of the writing-process; and on first view, student blogging can be extremely undisciplined and informal, dynamically unruly in its humor and irreverence, its disregard for rules and conventions. Yup, this work unsettles just about everyone–still–teachers, administrators, parents and even the students themselves. We hand over the reins of our courses in large part to the students themselves. At least, this is my approach. And sometimes our students write downright incoherent entries due to a lack of simple copyediting , (take this recent one on my artswriting blog, for example). What do we do? Do we jump in and correct the mistakes, clean it up before the world sees and judges? Or do we wait to see what the class will say or do? Will anyone notice? Will anyone care? And if they don’t?

The conundrum is we hope someone notices and says something because that’s how they’ll learn; we just hope it’s not a member of the board. And, it’s helping people understand how this read/write Web changes things, not just teachers, but students and parents and administrators. We have the opportunity to make writing (and school work) real, I mean really real. I mean constructivist in the true sense of the ideal. And that “real” writing and working will inherently push our students to be more correct. As Barbara says:

Publishing raises the stakes; they want to move their readers, to entertain them, to educate them–they are writing for a real rather than a manufactured or nonexistent audience. They are writing with purpose and so begin to ask me questions in those f2f conferences about flow and style, about voice and humor, about the hows and the whys. And then I make them read and emulate, and tear apart what they read from a writer’s perspective.

So I don’t use blogs in my classes for my students’ personal rants or diaries, but as a public space in which we must try to reach our readers and move them; we don’t want to contribute to needless fill in the blogosphere. We should want our writing to count, to matter, to move something or someone–every time–if we get favorable responses that strike us as honest and authentic, then we’ll know we’ve written well or at least not badly, and that writing matters, our writing matters.

Amen to that…and isn’t that what we as bloggers try to do every day? I think that’s why this all resonates so intensely with me, because I finally feel like my writing has purpose (real or perceived.) I want other teachers and students to feel it as well, to feel that the work matters beyond the assessment and that it can have purpose and viability long after the course has ended.