blog slower, read closer

In the world of bloggers there are many classifications. One, already old, makes a distinction between life bloggers and link bloggers. The life blogger uses the blog as a tool to talk about his (and others) life experiences: events, emotions, moods and brief reflections on it.
The link blogger collects and publishes new links. There are more female than male life bloggers, where as men prefer link blogging. Link bloggers tend to give short information, sometimes commenting it and nearly almost linking to the spots where the information is related to.

  • For many people the link bloggers are going too fast, producing information that is shortened and shrinked, and tends to be at the surface, rather then going deep to the roots of a problem. It seldom leads to deeper reflection and there is hardly a chance to get to well grounded conclusions.
  • Another important objection against these speedy bloggers is that many of them lack a theoretical coherent theory. As a result their news is what it is: new, but without any or mainly poor grounding in overall theories.
  • Furthermore there is hardly historical reflection available. Many hypes have passed that have their roots in common human behavior and some of them were active already long before the internet application appeared.

However people have a need for speedy news, where the aspects mentioned before are not relevant for the majority of blog readers. The tabloids, reviving partly the newspaper scene, show that this formula works.

Some people however try to slow down in blog country. They introduced the term "slow blogging". Barbara Ganley, as far as we can see, introduced the term for the first time.
By slowing down the production and reaction rate there is more time for critical reading, better analysis and better conclusions. Time, especially as a factor to let the concepts and thoughts incubate, is seen as a natural aspect of the learning proces. Benjamin Bloom created a taxonomy, in which many of these elements, useful for slow bloggers, are worked out.

In the sixties and seventies from the 20th century a similar development emerged. At that time teachers also thought that reading went too fast and therefore got no deep impact. They created the technique of close reading.

Combining experiences and research from that time gives a good starting point for a more in depth use of blogs, as a worthwhile and new tool.

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Blogs and mathetical learning situations.

Blurring the blogs?

Many teachers are disappointed because their attempt to
use a blog fails. In many cases this has to do with the observation that
students, in their private lives, use blogs frequently. So why not in classroom?

Introducing the blog with enthusiasm does not always have enough result. In many cases students do not like it. The mechanisms of private blogging are not the same for school use.
Sometimes they feel as entering in their privacy, in an unstructured and involuntary way. So.... end of the pilot, for many teachers.

Another reason is that students see the blog as just another task, on top of a growing mountain of study obligations. Older students sometimes reject the tool, because they reject the idea of having their thoughts read by anyone. They feel uncomfortable, shy and insecure.

Many teachers start with false assumptions. They see a blog as a construction or communication tool, where discussion will take place.
Blogs are, in essence, fundamentally individual. It is merely a one way monologue, where readers can comment, but not change the original posting, like for instance in a wiki or newsgroup.

Ruth Reynard points towards some common mistakes and gives practical ideas how to solve these problems. She mentions five points:

  • Ineffective contextualisation. Students need to know: where the tool will be used, how often, how necessary it is. They also need good scaffolding (temporarily help).

  • Unclear learning outcomes. This should be in line with course objectives, and also with student needs and objectives. Especially important, and many times neglected, are the transferable skills of critical thinking (like analysis, synthesis, generating new ideas, applicate ideas in a real situation). It's here where mathetics are involved explicit and where Reynard gives some practical suggestions.

  • Misuse. Blogs are not for discussion (like a wiki or discussion forum)

  • Illusive grading practices. Grading a blog should be clear. Starting from the assumption that posts are merely statements these can be used in rubrics.

  • Inadequate time location. Students need enough time. Some are faster than others.

With more research, based on practical experience like this, the question of evidence can be answered properly and a step forward can be made.

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Toys for the boys... and girls??

Is the appreciation for toys a matter of nature, or does nurture play a role? For decades we are struggling with this question. In the seventies parents tried to force boys to play with "girls toys" and the girls were surprised with boys toys.

Research on rhesus monkeys shows us that part of the preference for toys is nurture, and for the larger part dictated by hormons . (Janice M. Hassett, Erin R. Siebert and Kim Wallen: Sex differences in rhesus monkey toy preferences parallel those of children. Hormones and behavior, Volume 54, Issue 3, August 2008, pages 359 - 364) Similar research with children shows comparable results.

When girls had the disease congenital adrenal hyperplasia, they produced more male hormons and their preference for toys changed significant.

In the experiment from Hassett boys preferred to play with a car, instead of dolls. Girls are more flexible in their toy preference, but tend to play with dolls.

Other research (2002, in:Evolution and Human behavior) shows however that males had hardly preferences, where girls liked to play with dolls.

The assumption now is that the actual preference comes form the fact that boys are triggered by things that move and enable action. Their play is rough and tumble. Hormons are responsible for those triggering and as a result the brain forms different patterns.

The findings could be of importance for kindergarten and preschools, in which sometimes the post emancipatoric philosophy of equal treatment for both sexes, also regarding toys, is practiced. When mathetic learning at this age is forced in an impropriate way, there could be undesired consequences that obstruct optimal learning.

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