Being Visible Is Hard

VisibleI was talking to a couple of people today about the way we use blogs with our students.  At my school we have a number of students and classes blogging, and every one of these blogs is completely open and visible to the public web. These folk were asking, with an obvious degree of concern, how we deal with this public visibility of student blogs and what steps were we taking to prevent them being seen by “just anyone”.

I’ve tried to convince many people to try blogging over the years. Usually, their biggest objection is “why would anyone want to read what I write?”  Their concern is usually about the huge waste of effort that blogging will be because they don’t truly believe that anybody will ever read or take any interest in what they have to write. They imagine that their work will go into the black hole of the Internet where it never gets seen by anyone.

And yet, when we talk about getting students blogging on the open web, the usual concern is just the opposite. We worry more about how we can stop “all those people out there” from seeing the student blogs. We worry that our students will be endangered by throngs of strangers seeing their writing online.

Well, which is it? Are we worried that nobody will see the things we post online, or are we worried that everybody will see the things we post online? It’s an interesting contradiction.

The truth is that the vast majority of blogs have a readership of close to zero.  Getting people to find and read your blog is hard work. It takes a lot of promotion and campaigning to get people to find and connect with a blog. And as much as I hate to say it, it’s probably even harder when that blog belongs to a school student.  We worry a lot about ‘stranger danger’ but unless a teacher actively pursues an audience for their students’ blogs, I suspect most would be lucky to get a visit from anyone beside mum and dad and a few family friends.

Despite our concerns about the perils of putting our kids online, the biggest challenge of blogging with students is not exposure, but obscurity.

Creative Commons photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andercismo/2349098787/

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4 thoughts on “Being Visible Is Hard”

  1. Well said Chris and I am guilty of being hypocritical when it comes to blogging. In reality everyone wants to be heard and feel that others connect with them, hence the reluctance to blog as an adult and risk blogging isolation. With kids it was more about the negative comments that someone might put. That fear has not gone but social etiquette has taught us how to deal with the possibility. We are full steam ahead on blogging and looking for some traffic. I enjoyed your blog. Thanks

  2. I never read books as a kid. I read comics. I never read them as an adult either. I guess being somewhat ‘late’ to teaching from a life in design and advertising, it seemed natural to have a ‘website’. It wasn’t until I started writing, that I found out I kinda liked it, and it turns out books are not too bad either. I still read comics, and for the most part hack-out text in comparison to your elegance – but the to me rich media is also high context culture … and Twitter just doesn’t cut it. It’s the difference between reading a ‘column’ and a classified ad most of the time. It’s just a shame that educational blogging has somewhat declined as a direct communication medium of late – but one day, when I get hit by a bus, or wiped out by a semi-trailer on the F3. There will be a small corner of the web that I made my own for a while.

  3. Yes it’s an interesting thought Dean. I turned 50 this year, and while I still hope I’ll be around for a very long time to come yet, the older one gets, the more one thinks about what will be left behind after we’re gone. I look at my own father, who died rather tragically at the age of 60, and I really don’t have all that many physical things by which to remember him. Lots of memories of course, but only a very few photos, a few handwritten notes and not much else. Dad was usually behind the family camera not in front of it, and he wasn’t “creative” in the sense that he made the sorts of artefacts that so many people produce so easily today.
    For the first 35-40 years of my life, it was more or less the same story. But the last 10-15 years has seen me produce a body of work of media… writing, photography, audio and video… that has become surprisingly voluminous as it adds up. My own kids will have a far easier time learning more about who their dad was than I have been able to do with my own dad.
    Of course, whether any of this stuff will be readable by future technologies is anyone’s guess! But it’s been an interesting and fairly seismic cultural shift that so many people are so easily able to produce significant volumes of digital artefacts about their own life and thoughts.
    Might be a blog post somewhere in that idea!

  4. I don’t know how to start this blog post but I’ll give it a go. I am optimistic and hope to share something with others. I introduce my Year 3 class to blogging and integrate elements of cyber safety for both parents and students. We have policy of using first names only and of course I am able to monitor blog posts before they are uploaded. My 8 year old students rely on our class blogs and subject edublogs sites in order to view and publish their learning. Students love seeing their work published live, they can share it with their parents/family. Our Year 7 students learn how to publish their own websites and upload images/content under Creative Commons. Lets not worry about who might read our student’s work but who will benefit from it!

That's all well and good, but what do YOU think?