When Frills are Not

A couple of weeks ago, I added a graphical user Interface to Class Blogmeister.  It came after several teachers, who were planning summer professional development, said that a word processing-style GUI would help the teachers in their workshops adjust more quickly to blogging.  I can certainly understand that.

Picture of GUI Blogging
Blogging with GUI (click to enlarge)
As you can imagine, the arrival of bold, italics, underline, hyperlink, insert image, etc. buttons met with enormous excitement and satisfaction.  The only disappointment seemed to be that the feature had arrived at the end of the Northern Hemisphere’s school year.  But even at that, there was a minority of teachers who immediate expressed displeasure with making it so easy for students to format their texts.  If I were teaching students and using Class Blogmeister, and especially if I were using it to teach writing, I would probably be with them.

They objected because limiting students to just text, forced them to concentrate exclusively

on the words

    on the writing

        on the communication.

They felt that giving students access to bold, resizing, indenting, and COLORING of text would distract the students from the communication.  Learners would spend more time playing with the look of their blog entries, and less time with the wording — and I think that this objection is well founded.  I’ve said as much before, and it’s the main reason why I hadn’t added GUI before now — that and the fact that I’m not a good enough programmer (I found FCKeditor, an open source code set that I was able to integrate into Class Blogmesiter).

However, I wonder if, in a time of overwhelming content, the look of your blog, how the information is laid out, it’s bolding, bulletting, and even the color of the text, has become as important as the content itself.  As we struggle to find and select information to accomplish our goals, we will seek out that which not only seems valuable, but also looks easy to use — efficient.  So perhaps it has become important to make it easier for students to work the look of their blogs at the same time that they are working the ideas.

Certainly, they are going to get distracted and even abuse the feature, wasting time.  But we have to make them accountable for their work, not only the quality of the content, but also the quality of the communication.  It’s ok if students turn a line in their blog to pink, as long as they can convincingly answer they question you ask nearly every day, “Why did you use pink for that line?  How did that improve the communication of your ideas?”

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.