Michele Martin has raised the issue of The Power of Blogging isn't Just in Reading Them, in a few of her posts. She has stuck to the idea that the power of blogging is in writing comments, rather than in lurking.
I admire her. She is committed to what she believes.
Learning through questions, and discussing in a classroom or social community, has gone on for hundreds of years. People have also learnt a great deal from books during that same time.
So what’s wrong with just reading a post and learning from it? What is so special to learning about writing a comment on a blog post?
If learners want to learn, they will learn. The same desire may well tempt learners to put comments on blog posts. They may even ask questions there.
So the difference between those who lurk and want to learn, and those who comment, may not be so great. Learning takes place when the learner wants to learn.
Learning can happen if the learner sits quietly during class, for instance. Certainly, asking questions will help. But if learners do not ask questions in class, they may still go home and read about what they’ve learnt in a book. Many do. They may also lurk on a few blog posts on the Net.
I have a lot of respect for the research done by Lev Vygotsky. He was a child psychologist who lived in the early 1900s. In recent years, Vygotsky’s findings have made people think about the importance of social interaction in learning. This led to a belief that learning may be better when learners study in communities.
Some educators have come up with the idea that interactive online communities could be good learning environments for young people. This is not far removed from Michele’s idea that learning is more effective for the commenter than for the lurker.
Most of Vygotsky’s studies were on mother and child. I doubt the notion is sound that Vygotsky’s findings can be extended to learners in online communities.
A better approach to this might be to study the use of online learning communities. That way they could be compared fairly with other ways of learning.
So far, not much has been done to compare the use of interactive online learning in a fair way with other learning methods. There’s been little evidence that shows learners do any better when they study online than learning by other means, for instance.
So I sit on the fence about the idea of getting people to write comments on blog posts as a better means to learn. I'm not at all sure that writing comments would be needed in every case. But for those who do need it, could a better ploy be to work on their desire to learn?
Once they have that desire, they might even venture to ask questions - in comments on blog posts.