When I began the EC&I 831 class back in January, I had a very vague idea about what blogs were, but I really was not sure how to find them on the internet and, therefore, largely ignored that realm. What I knew, I learned back in the fall before I started this class. I had met Alec Couros and I was certain he would expect us to take up blogging so I started to experiment with writing my own thoughts before the class began; I had no idea or expectation that much of what I would be learning in his class would be because of the blogs of others. At first, I was only following a few blogs, but when I realized the power of Google Reader and discovered links to blogs through Twitter, I quickly jumped at the opportunity to follow more. I am now following 45 blogs including 21 from my class and another class; I also have several others in the back of my mind that I may yet follow. I sometimes find myself reading and writing comments for several hours in the evening and I want to do more! I am not being mark driven; I am knowledge driven. There are so many people sharing ideas and tips about how to do things or where to find information that I have to put off some things that I would like to know about. Even with my efforts, I still have some 306 blog entries to read not including archived blogs. Obviously, learning to be selective in what you read and even who you read is an important skill to hone.
I have found out about many different applications that I have tried as a result of blogging and microblogging (Twitter). I am also getting comments from people who are thanking me for sharing what I've learned from others which leaves me with "warm fuzzies" by the way! I am being entertained and educated at the same time. I have found the experience of reading and reacting to what I read in a public manner to be a huge step in my own thinking. Ironically, I think I am becoming a more positive person as a result of being a critical reader and responder. I now have a better understanding of what it takes to put yourself out there in print and even if I don't agree fully with what I read, I find myself reacting positively. I share my thoughts on the topic and compliment the writer for stimulating discussion.
On the down side of blogging, it can be hard on the ego. You strive to put something in print that you hope others will see and react to, but often you end up with only a few comments and in some cases no comments (and sometimes after spending hours drafting your blog). The reverse is true as well; sometimes you get a comment from someone you don't know and you realize there are people paying attention and reflecting on your words.
I am now trying to learn more about the things that make a blog something worth reading. On Tuesday, March 10, my class was lead by Will Richardson who has been blogging since 2002 and is known for being a "trendsetter in Education."I asked him what does he consider to be the qualities of a good blog. First of all he did not define a good blog; he answered the question by giving the qualities of blogs that he likes to read. This is roughly what he said, " I like to read people who are willing to test their ideas who are not coming out saying this is the way the world is..., people who write well, who read widely and who have a certain amount of passion in their voice ..., people who are asking questions and engaging people in conversations, who make it about ideas..., people who provoke thinking and conversations ..." To hear Will himself you can visit the Elluminate session here. I liked his response; despite his experiences blogging, he framed his answer from his own perception and did not pretend to represent all readers of blogs. His humility is remarkable considering his achievements.
I often feel like I take more than I give online. However, when you consider the wealth of information available, I suppose we all take more than we give. Blogging is changing me into a contributer though, and I am enjoying writing in way I've never experienced before.
Update March 21, 2009
I found this blog on what makes a blog good and thought I would add it to this posting. It also includes a good activity for student bloggers. Thanks to Clarence Fisher for the excellent ideas.