Walking Stick Blogger

A Learning Space for Literacy and English Language Learners

Reading Blogs Actively – Not a Lurking Activity

Wendell Dryden, a community literacy educator and blogger, replied to a previous blog post, located online at http://me2u.athabascau.ca/elgg/glenngr4/weblog/1532.html

Reading your post it occurred to me that “lurking” is what in other contexts we call “reading”. The complaint that learners are “only lurking” seems to be based on the assumption that blogging is only about writing (initial post, secondary comment). But surely there’s merit in reading as well.

Thank you, Wendell, for your comments.

Absolutely, I agree. Many case studies and research on edu-blogging seem to consider the active posting as the only benefit of blogging among learners. Several assessment guidelines for students I have encountered have been based on the frequency of posts and comments, rather than tracking quantitatively the other artefacts connected with active reading of blogs and posts.

I consider reading blog posts and blogs a crucial part of the learning process, along with how we decide to collect resources, through blogging tools such as RSS feeds, linking, blogrolls, tag clouds, etc.

Reading encompasses a different set of expectations and sub-skills to complete the task online using blogs than opening a hardcover book and turning to a page. “Only lurking” is based on the false assumption that what is occurring when we read blogs is identical to what occurs when we read books or hard-copy text in print form. There are similiarities, but there are so many differences.

How we read a book presupposes certain ways of understanding, certain expectations, about how the content is formed – the book requires us to “read” a particular way – structures our mental constructs in particular ways, and pre-forms certain ways of understanding other forms of organizing knowledge – the table of contents, the page numbers, the preface, the page structure, the index, the covers, all suggest a way of knowing. The gestalt forms a set of expectations that guides us in how we process information. In effect, how we read books naturally is extended to how we “read” other content, how we organize new information.

I think that the act of reading blogs re-wires our expectations, too. It is “messing with” how we read, how we take in content, process it, how we think about how ideas are presented. The reading of blogs is “messing with” our preconceptions about what reading is supposed to be about. In effect, the act of reading blogs for learning requires us to re-connect with the content in entirely original ways, in addition to typical ways. If we attempt to read blogs like we read books, then, there is a mismatch, and we recognize, possibly with some annoyance or frustration, that the strategies we have used till now for text do not work so well. Processing, or reading, a blog post, is different. In conclusion, Reading blogs presupposes specific ways of knowing that are different from reading a book.

I consider connective acts that makes up reading a blog are a blend of the old book gestalt, and a new blog gestalt, leading to disruption, a disharmony, an ambiguity and ambivalence towards the unfamiliar. Reading blogs requires a cognitive re-fit, so to speak, so that the actions learners engage in during the reading of blogs become automatic, seamless, no longer emotionally disruptive, and instead form a more complex web of knowledge.

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commentaryreflections on practice

netizenship • October 26, 2009

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