I’ve had several conversations in the last week or two about The Fischbowl and what it’s all about. While I’ve addressed it before, I realized that I still hadn’t done a very good job of explaining certain aspects of it to the teachers that are participating in our staff development. For example, several of them felt like posts on the The Fischbowl were “directives from the leader” of the staff development – things they should be doing (or thinking) as part of our staff development. Since that’s not at all what the posts are for, I thought I would take a minute to address one aspect of The Fischbowl – audience.
I remember Mrs. Jaquith, my 10th grade English teacher, stress the importance of knowing who your audience is before writing something. Well, the audience for this blog is a little complicated (at least for me). First, we have the original group of eighteen teachers in what we call cohort one, who have been through the first year of a three-year staff development exploring constructivism and technology. Then we have the twenty-nine teachers in cohort two, who just started their three-year program this August (and, therefore, of course, are in a very different stage in their thinking than cohort one).
That would be complicated enough, but there’s more. The Fischbowl also serves as my personal reflective blog, so I’m writing for myself. There are also some students that read it. There are also a few parents that are now probably reading this as a result of Back to School Night. (Because they showed the Did You Know presentation, a fair number of people wanted copies of it, so we directed them to The Fischbowl to download it.) And there are, of course, a few people elsewhere in the world that are regular readers as well.
So, whenever I sit down to blog something, I try to keep all those audiences in mind. Often a particular post is specifically directed at one or two of those audiences, but I try to make it worthwhile in some way for all of them. After I write something, I take a minute or two to try to read it from the perspective of each of those audiences and see how it sounds. I often change something based on that and – on two or three occasions – have ended up not posting at all because I was worried how it would be taken by one or more of those audiences. Note that doesn’t mean I shy away from posting things that some folks will find controversial (hopefully that’s fairly obvious if you read through my posts), just that if I feel a particular post will be misinterpreted or be counterproductive, I pull it until I can figure out a way to make it better.
No matter who the audience is for a particular post, my goal is to encourage thinking and reflecting (as opposed to issuing “directives from the leader”). Sometimes that is only my own thinking and reflecting that I’m encouraging, but I think that’s very important as well. As I commented on another blog awhile back, “Sometimes I think my blogging is self-assigned professional development - forcing myself to take the time to think more deeply about certain ideas.”
I think all of this is important to keep in mind when reading posts on this blog, and when thinking about all the things our students will be publishing in various formats online. The audience is very different than when writing a paper that only their teacher will read, and even very different than most published products that have ever been printed. The connectedness of the read/write web really does change everything, and that’s one of the reasons I think it’s so important that we look at these issues with our students and prepare them to be successful in a world where they don’t “turn it in” but, instead, “publish it.” This is the world they are going to live and work in as adults, and I want to make sure we do our best to prepare them well. And - even though I often struggle with both the ideas I’m blogging about and the new medium itself - in the end, I think that’s the reason I blog. To help myself figure out the best possible ways to help our students learn and be successful in the 21st century.