Commenting on blogs – more questions than answers

Source Flickr cc
Source Flickr cc

Okay, so we have encouraged our students and teachers to join the blogging community.  They are being creative and enthusiastic (see my previous posts and the blogroll for wonderful examples).  We have learned the amazing value of Twitter as a publicist for new blog posts.  The power of the #comment4kids hashtag is phenomenal.   The feed from that tag is constant with pleas for comments on student blogs.    The Blogging Challenge currently underway has accelerated these demands.   All good, as the people who follow these tags are happy to help – we realise the value of comments and providing feedback.  So ….

It does make me wonder : Why do so many people read blogs and NOT comment? I see blogging as a two-way process and whilst admitting to not commenting on every blog I visit, I certainly try to respond whenever the subject is relevant and I have something to offer, and often comment on student blogs (it only takes a few seconds).   When reading student blogs, I try to encourage them but question them about their writing matter.      I have a gut feeling  (totally statistically unsupported and gleaned purely  from my anecdotal experiences)  that many readers do not comment.   Are they lacking in confidence that their opinion or reaction is not valid?  Do they think writers do not need reinforcement or challenging?  I hope not, as, in that case, we are missing out on the conversation – the true bonus of this medium.   Perhaps commenting is not as important as I think it is.

I saw a recent tweet asking for blogging buddies and I think this is a brilliant idea.   The buddy process should ensure that all posts are read and responded to – as I have said before – we all need feedback!  However, the audience needs to be beyond a few buddies – we need the broader challenge, otherwise we may as well be swapping our spiral notebooks with the neighbouring classroom.

It also makes me wonder: Is there an etiquette or protocol for reacting to comments? Recently, members of my household heeded the call to comment on student blogs – questions were being asked that we had the knowledge and experience to answer.   Almost 10 days later and some comments are still not appearing (awaiting moderation) and others remain unanswered.  I ask the question : Is there a protocol for responding to comments?
My old-fashioned etiquette has me thinking that some reaction is preferred and actually required.   Is this anachronistic?   I was trained in old school – sending  written replies to written invitations, written notes of thanks after an event etc – I realise as communication mediums have changed, so too will these traditions, but are any worthy of persisting with?

Is it reasonable to expect that someone who blogs, will visit their blog regularly?  Perhaps this is the natural process of attrition – an unattended blog will fade way as the interest from both blogger and readers dwindle.  That two-way process is required to keep it alive.    This also raises the issue of subscribing to comment feeds – do most bloggers and readers care if they get a reaction?

It also makes me wonder:    How will this enthusiasm be captured and prolonged? I know that blogging is relatively new (according to the Wikipedia they began in 1999 whilst not becoming commonplace till 2004) – so it is still evolving – a relative newcomer, a work in progress.  The Twitter stream is constantly introducing new teacher and student blogs, so I anecdotally suggest that the growth is currently strong.    Will the list of student blogs requesting comments grow to an untenable extent?  In reality, this should not happen if all bloggers assume the responsibility to comment on other blogs as well.

Dean Shareski in his recent K-12 Online 2010 conference presentation – ‘Sharing : the moral imperative’,  suggests that we have an obligation to share our practice – I think this should apply to all bloggers – student and teachers and to posting as well as commenting.

Do you agree?  Are comments important to you ?   (my daughter has already pointed out the irony of me getting no response)

PS Here are a few resources to use when teaching students to comment on blogs (Thank you to the authors)

  1. Mrs. Yollis’s classroom
  2. Integrating technology in the Primary Classroom – Kathleen McGeady

Feedback – we all need it !

For those of us with children, you will probably remember that anxious wait until your child in some way gave you some recognition – that first smile (whether it be voluntary or not), is long awaited and cherished. We innately want and need feedback from those around us. It rewards our efforts and provides encouragement.    As that child progresses to being a teenager – some children but not all, seem to lose that ability for feedback as this hilarious video portrays.  Communication is transformed into monosyllabic grunts.    What parent does not long for feedback from their child and vice versa?

The teaching profession has always highlighted the need for feedback – positive reinforcement, rewards and even the marking of test scores gives feedback.  Some feedback is controversial and the concept of mandatory testing is the topic of another entire discussion. Who does not remember that nervous wait for an essay or test result?  The feeling of relief when it was ‘approved’ of by the teacher, the dissapointment when it was not up to scratch.

Feedback, is part of how we learn, we assess our ideas and ability based on reactions and in some case comparison.  Web 2.0 technologies have broadened the potential of feedback for all of us – as blogging teachers, we gain much from the comments of our readers (but it does amaze me how few readers actually leave feedback).

As blogging students, we are no longer just writing in our exercise book for the class teacher to tick, cross or maybe elephant stamp and then never to be seen again. The potential is, people all around the word may read what we have to say.  They can become a permanent record of our learning.   We might capture the imagination of like minded people from all corners of the globe.
Interesting discussions have followed the recent ISTE keynote presentation that seemed to have failed to capture many audience members attention.  Apparently, people were twittering quite negative feedback whilst the presentation was occurring.  On reflection, some people have apologised for that first reaction and many others have certainly pointed out that professional behaviour requires more consideration than was shown.  This was feedback in its most raw state – obviously feedback can be negative – however as teachers we are trained to look for the positive.
Following on from my previous blog on eportfolios , I remain convinced that they need to harness the potential of Web 2 and open themselves to feedback from the wider community.  I wonder about the whole intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation issue, but firmly believe there is a place for both in education. What do you think?