One of my highlights of NCTE was doing a panel on blogging with Laurie Halse Anderson, Maureen Johnson, Barbara O’Connor and Lisa Yee. The panel was put together and moderated by Denise Anderson, who was just splendid and had done a tonne of research. I was very impressed. They’ve all now blogged about the panel. (Links to their posts are on their names.) All except for me and Maureen. As I think it’s a sign of deep failure not to blog about a panel on blogging I am now fixing my omission. I doubt Maureen will, however, because hers is not that kind of a blog.
The panel was aimed at teachers and concerned with demonstrating how they can make use of authors’ blogs in the classroom. Denise observed that many of her colleagues were unaware of authors blogs and was on a mission to open their eyes. I suspect, though, that most of the educators in the audience were well aware of blogs and that was why they were there. Certainly the questions we were asked were very knowledegable.
We authors took the opportunity to ask the teachers not to set writing to authors as an assignment. Yes, that’s right, we whinged. We explained how much time it takes for us to answer questions especially when there are forty students writing us at once. Volume is not our only issue. The students tend to write asking us questions that are already answered on our sites, revealing they have the skills to find our email addresses, but not to find the answers to their questions, which are also in plain slight.
We also mentioned that some of the letters we get from students are flat out rude:
YOU MUST ANSWER THIS EMAIL STRAIGHT AWAY. MY HOMEWORK IS DUE TOMORROW. HERE ARE MY 456 QUESTIONS.
Laurie asked the following question: “Should we continue to spend classroom time on letter writing or has the time come to teach how to compose appropriate email communication?”
Our panel gave a very emphatic yes to the second half. Teach them how to write polite emails, please! I saw many heads nodding in the audience.
Another concern we had was students leaving comments on our blog making their phone numbers or email addresses public. We made it clear that we delete such information but thought that was another thing that could be addressed in the classroom.
We were all very clear that we love hearing from our readers and try very hard to answer them all. It’s just the students demanding we do their homework that we’re reluctant to respond to. We write for a living. Our novels are our top priorities, any additional writing comes after that. Which is why most of us started blogging in the first place—to have a method of communicating directly with our readers. We all agreed that the comments are the best part of blogging. Laurie said that she feels the readers of her blog have become family.
Laurie also mentioned that if they ever have parents wanting to remove a book from the school library or prevent it being taught they should get in contact with the writer because often the writer’s been through this before and can offer support. (Oh, look: it’s happened again, this time in Kentucky. And Laurie Halse Anderson’s Twisted is one of the books.)
Hmm, we seem to have agreed about many things. The only disagreement I can think of is when we were answering a question from the audience about the relationship of our blog writing to our novel writing. I said that I found blogging much more relaxing and easy than novel writing. While I craft it, the writing here doesn’t go through any where near as many drafts as my fiction does. Nor is it professionally edited, copyedited or proofed. It also has a different voice than my novel writing, but I do still think of it as writing and it has an influence on my novels.
Maureen said that she views all her writing the same whether it’s a novel or a blog post or a tweet and that it all has the same voice. Which I think is one of the main things that makes Maureen’s blog so different to most other blogs I read. Every entry reads like a story and the voice is indeed very like her novel writing voice (but quite distinct from the Maureen I know). And is why a post about a blogging panel wouldn’t work there.
Sadly I can no longer remember Lisa or Laurie’s response but Barbara was very clear that she did not see her blog writing as real writing at all. It’s completely distinct from her fiction.
I have to admit that before I was contacted to be part of this panel I had not given much thought to the use my blog might have for educators. For me this panel was an eye opener to look at blogs from a different point of view. Not just from the “this is fun” pov.
Though blogging is fun. I feel like that’s the one thing we didn’t talk about. Maybe next time.
Do any of you have any comments or ideas about blogging and teaching? Do any of you use blogs in the classroom? Encourage your students to read blogs? To blog?