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June 12, 2002

Using blog technology to help children research and write

Patrick Delaney has written a splendid essay on using blog technology to help children learn to research and write.  The title of the project is an instant magnet: Find It, Read It, Write It.  It's a wonderful idea, but I confess after I read it I'm still trying to fit it into my world model.  It grabs at me in a number of ways:

  • The project is an outgrowth of the Bay Area Writer's Project.  The BAWP's co-director is - or was, I don't know - Rebekah Kaplan.  Ms. Kaplan was one of my english teachers at Foothill High in Pleasanton, CA.  I do remember Ms. Kaplan, but I can't honestly remember a lot about her class.
  • The approach sounds reminiscent of the things Montessori schools try to do in getting kids to learn to do research.  Montessori focuses in part on asking questions: before you go off to do research, the child needs to generate a list of questions they'd like to answer about a topic.  This hopefully encourages the child to go out with an inquiring mind, and not just a shovel ready to scoop up whatever they find.  (It works: last year a group of children from our Montessori school went up to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.  The Aquarium staff was most impressed by the kids: they had rarely seen a group with so many questions.)
  • The project title reminds me of a couple of books by William Zinsser: Writing to Learn and On Writing Well, both of which espouse the idea that writing is one way to go about learning something.

And it all pulls at me for the same reason I started this weblog: the sense that writing is something that can help pull it all together.

It's a great idea, but one I haven't taken to heart.  I've been at my new job at Georgia Tech here for almost three weeks, and I haven't written much down yet.  I'm unsure of where and how to go about it.  At my last job I started an internal Wiki to help document what I was finding out.  Here I could use this blog, but I'm sensitive to the line between work and home, which is another way of saying I'm still new in this job, and don't want to screw it up.  I don't think I know much dirty laundry about Tech yet, but I still want to be careful.