2/15/2006

A First Look At Newspaper-Run Education Blogs

A small but growing number of newspapers have added education blogs to their website content over the past few months and years. The most recent addition is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's School Zone.

Now I'm all for blogs, all for education writers, and all for more education writing out there, but I have wondered whether -- given the constraints of traditional journalism and large organizations -- these newspaper blogs could excel. So I asked education researcher Eric Grodsky to take a look at the sites out there and see whether they're any good.

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There may be others, but we only found four possible candidates to review -- and one (Jay Mathews' Class Struggle) really isn't a blog it's more like an online column.

Maybe that's because it's already hard enough to put out print stories and update them online (argh, I'm told). Putting out additional education content -- not so easy. Especially if there are editors and lawyers involved.

But here the few brave examples are, along with Eric's assessment:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Blog (School Zone):

The posts are mostly local. There's no commentary. But there are several postings each day, and the blog occasionally offers links to other newspapers.

The rationale? "We’re not shy about telling you that you can get more and better education coverage in the Journal Sentinel than you can get anywhere else in southeastern Wisconsin. Now, we’re expanding our efforts with this blog. We are aiming for it to be a way to add depth and breadth to what we do - not to mention speed, thanks to the Internet....One thing we won’t put here: Our own opinions on education issues. Anything that appears here will be held to the same standards as what appears in the printed editions of our newspaper."

Dayton Daily News (Get on the Bus):

Started in July 2005 and written by reporter Scott Elliot, this one has more sporadic posts but is definitely a blog not a news site. He writes, "This is one of the very few mainstream media education blogs. It covers local, state and national education issues, as well as specific issues of teaching and learning." It provides and invites commentary and sometimes even delves into non-education, newsworthy topics. Recent posts cover teachable moments, news of the edusphere, intelligent design, and the Super Bowl. It also links to other periodicals and other education related blogs, and has a nice table of contents on the side that categorizes past postings. Nice-looking site.

Atlanta Journal Constitution—(Get Schooled)

Run by Patti Bhezzi, this one is also more bloggy and not as newsy as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It invites and displays comments without clicking on a link. One entry has a whopping 276 comments. Wow. There are other AJC blogs on the side. Posts often ends with questions to respond to -- a great idea. It mostly concentrates on local news, but not always. Sometimes Patti looks for sources on the site. Why didn't I think of that?

Given the way of things, there will almost certainly be more. But will they be straight extensions of the news division, like the MJS site, or more editorial in nature like the AJC and the DDN? I don't know. Nor do I know whether they will last, whether readers and advertisers will like them, and whether writers will be willing to add them on to their workload.

UPDATE: How could I forget The Chalkboard, around since October 2004?

1 Comments:

Anonymous John D Evans said...

The Role of Teacher Has Changed



By John D. Evans





No longer do school administrators want trained and experienced, articulate and professional teachers to raise the expectations and standards of children, but they want, and in many cases, need police. We live in a society that is quick to blame teachers and schools for failing children, but we must also look at another factor in the equation: the children. For too long, we have discounted the role of the children in the learning process. I have trained with some of the best instructors that the state has to offer and what I have learned as a teacher of Special Education within the Chicago Public School system is baffling. First, all of the methodologies, techniques, and strategies in the world can be tossed out of the window if the persons for whom the strategies are being implemented have little to no concern for the lesson being taught or respect for the person facilitating the lesson. The burdens on teachers are real. It is obvious that in the process of teaching, some children ‘catch on’ faster than others. We also know that the teacher must make necessary modifications and accommodations to assist the child; but the child must put forth effort. Many children are using profanity as everyday speech whether or not they are in the presence of an adult. In this day of children’s rights, children must be held accountable for their behavior (beyond write-ups, phone calls to homes, suspensions, and expulsions). The public hears about the test scores every year, but there must be a light shed on the issue of severe misconduct in many of our urban schools. CPS’ Uniform Discipline Code (UDC) is clear as it spells out the rules, regulations, and penalties for infractions, but many children are unmoved by it. When administrators chastise teachers for the misconduct of their students, it is a form of mental abuse and no abuse of any kind should be tolerated. Arguments and fights among students are commonplace and not because the classroom culture encourages it, not because the teacher condones it, and not because there is nothing better to do, but because when negativity enters the classroom, so does chaos. Teachers have rights. Teachers should not to be forced to work in the midst of negativity day in and day out and then be made to feel reamed by a Principal at the end of it. Teachers are trained to teach academics, but many spend a majority of the day policing. Teachers need support beyond having another school personnel assigned to make classroom visits, observations, and suggestions (and then reporting findings back to the Principal). Teachers need proper administrative support. Teachers need someone who will coach them and provide them with the positive reinforcement that all humans need in order to survive and thrive. Negativity breeds more negativity; the administrators hold a key to changing culture and climate. When the majority of anyone’s day is inundated with stress and negativity (i.e. constant profanity, arguing, fighting, and the ignoring of teachers), the result is a negative culture and climate. All factors in the learning equation must take proper responsibility. Children, administrators, and the communities-at-large must also be held accountable for failing students. The role of teacher has, indeed, changed. In order for our system of learning to remain productive and successful, the issue of conduct in classrooms and support for teachers must be more clearly and effectively addressed.





John D. Evans is an author, educator, and poet. He has four published books of poetry, “Acres of Green and Oceans of Blue: Diary of a Runaway,” “More than a Club Kid: Man versus Self,” “Things That Make My World Go ‘Round: A Poetic Memoir,” “How Deep I Can Be: Lessons and Confessions,” The Evans Poetry Collection (http://www.jdpoetry.com)

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