If You Can’t Beat ‘em: Blogs as a resource for education

Before I started a class on digital history if someone were to ask me to look at a blog, read a blog, spend time thinking about a blog, I would have laughed. Just the thought of logging my thoughts, ideas, dreams, and/or whatever else seemed utterly pointless. Honestly, unless I had something interesting to report on and an actual audience, what would be the point? Why would someone want to read about my ramblings, especially if they don’t have to. I’m sure that there are a few (if not many) people that know me and have to listen to my complaints, rants, and absurdities on a regular basis wished that I would blog and get out of their face.

Although this may seem silly, I am not the type of person that wants to put my ideas out on the web for fear of big brother tracking my thoughts, likes, and dislikes. Why put out a record of ideology and ramblings that someone could use against you some day. I never knew where that Orwellian paranoia stemmed from until one summer when my grandmother suggested that I read one of her favorite books, 1984. Although I had already read the book, her comments gave me a little insight to the root of my apprehension. I bet that I was raised up with some good ole American suspicion of an overly intrusive government. Interestingly, the more that I type and put this idea out onto the screen the faster that feeling goes away. I guess, overall, I don’t want to become one of these people that are constantly on their computer, smart phone, ipod, or whatever other device that divides our time from what matters most, direct interpersonal human interaction.

I will admit, however, that Cohen does provide some valid points in his post Professors, Start Your Blogs. In this piece, Cohen stresses the positive aspects for using blogs as an educational tool. And even though it pained me at first, I do agree with him. As Cohen points out there are numerous benefits to utilizing a blog. Primarily he discusses that a blog is a great medium for writing on a subject and “provides a platform to frame discussions on a topic and point to resources of value.” He also discusses that the internet provides an opportunity to reach an enormous audience outside of academia. So instead of kicking around ideas with those in the ivory tower, a writer in any field (professional or otherwise) can add to the conversation at a very low cost.

Does this mean that the walls are broken down and there is no longer a divide between professionals and non-professionals? I would say not. Blogging, however, along with the increasing accessibility of resources on the net, fosters democratic access to information. If professors are as smart as they claim to be, they will exploit this medium for all it is worth. They could lead the way to unfettered access to good information. The exchange of information will be accessible, accurate, and most importantly, FREE.

Not only do blogs provide a medium for expressing ideas or discussing research, but blogs can and are used as a teaching tool as well. In response to the Cohen post, None are so deaf as those that won’t listen said the following: “Blogs can of course be used for teaching as well as personal reflection. One of the great strengths of them is the number of ways in which they can be used. I feel that they are particularly useful for the research process, and can be used as a good tool in research supervision…” As a grad student, I identify with this point more than any thing that Cohen posted in his original article. This maybe due to the fact that I really don’t have any significant research to post, but, moreover, I really think that I am aware of the importance of reflection to education.

Given a chance to read about, think about, respond to, and edit ideas about study (in my case Public History), a student becomes more involved and invested in their work. Although I may never blog about my troubles at the grocery store; my thoughts on laced vs. slip-on shoes; or the obligatory what I had for breakfast (scrambled eggs, if you must know); I could certainly see myself use blogs as an educational tool to further my or my students engagement in a subject. Hell, computers are going to take over one day anyway. If you can’t beat ‘em…

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