In my previous blog post, I noted that in the past few years, prominent K-12 education reform experts are increasingly using blogs to communicate their ideas. That is in addition to other avenues more typically utilized in academia (journals and books). I briefly profiled Bridging Differences, an education blog initiated by Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch which has evolved into a series of exchanged letters. I also visited Diane Ravitch’s new solo blog. I concluded by reflecting on the promises of blogs in bridging differences (especially in our very polarized education reform world) and in “writing to learn.”
For this post, I thought it would be interesting to peruse a few of the blogs representing much less global and “voiced” stakeholders in education policy debates: teachers and parents. As the blogosphere in urban education expands, an additional question I have is if and how local actors are taking advantage of the blog format. Excitingly, groundbreaking work on this question is taking place at the CUNY Graduate Center.
A colleague of mine in the Urban Education Ph.d program argues that online spaces, and blogs in particular, provide a new and critical venue by which to hear teachers’ voices, traditionally silenced by the policymaking process. She investigated daily classroom and school experiences via recent blogs written by NYC public school teachers. She thematically analyzed 14 public-facing anonymous blogs in years 2008-2012 to chronicle how teachers are living education policy. What’s even more fascinating was that she architected her own blog to do that thematic analysis; in other words, blogging served as both the content and as a methodological tool in her study. Dr. Kiersten Greene’s dissertation “Notes from the Blogging Field: Teacher Voice and the Policy-Practice Gap in Education” will be available online soon. For more information and to learn more about her blog about her own real experiences as a (now former) graduate student, teacher, and New Yorker, find her at opencuny.org/mediated.
Inspired by Greene’s work and given my own research interests in parents’ roles in decisions about schools, I briefly surveyed blogs focused on parents here in NYC and found the following six: http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/; http://www.parentvoicesny.org/; http://parentsacrossamerica.org/; http://www.nycparentsunion.org/; http://www.parentadvocates.org/; and http://edvoxny.wordpress.com/.
Each of these blogs features parents prominently or is written by parents themselves. They offer testimony and research on pressing policy issues such as school closings, standardized testing, and college readiness. They also provide information on how to get involved and be part of the conversation including signing petitions, joining rallies, and of course, attending events such as the upcoming mayoral candidate forums on public education. One observation I had in reading all six blogs is that the author’s identity is not immediately clear. With the tendency for more and more parties to speak on behalf of parents in the public school system, sites should make the answer to that question clear. I am also not sure how many parents are accessing these blogs. That’s research we need.
In addition to parents, community leaders, advocates, retired teachers, and students are also using blogs. Studies similar to Greene’s should help answer if and how diverse stakeholders are able to participate more fully in urban education reform conversations via blogs. This is all very new, and at the start of this communication path, we should also be asking how we can be sure to widen the conversation not narrow it.