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Surprise! Bloggers are Media Literate Communicators

Guy-staring
Since I began blogging in 2004, I've looked to the thought leadership and analytics offered up by Technorati, a company whose sole focus is in the blogging space affectionately known as the "blogosphere", as a source of accurate data and carefully considered insights.

In anticipation of the Blogworld/NewMediaExpo conference held last week in Las Vegas, Technorati released their annual report over five days entitled, "State of the Blogosphere" for 2009 and, like always, it provides an interesting set of data, inferences and some conclusions which are always fodder for discussion and interesting food for thought.

"In a world that’s constantly changing — shocked by financial catastrophe and political upheaval, yet still moving faster every day — not much is constant. But as the 2009 State of the Blogosphere survey demonstrates, the growth of the blogosphere's influence on subjects ranging from business to politics to the way information travels through communities continues to flourish. In a year when revolutions and elections were organized by blogs, bloggers are blogging more than ever, and the State of the Blogosphere is strong."

While I encourage you to invest 20-30 minutes in reading the report for yourself, let me point out something that struck me which might be obvious to any educator investing any thinking time about the future of media literacy and the sorts of preparation students will need to be a participating citizen in a world that is one where virtual communications are at the core of our work, learning and social interactions.

There was one "forehead slap" moment reading State of the Blogosphere that compelled me to write this post and ensure that you were aware of the report and the surprising multiple media literacies being exhibited by bloggers within it. 

For the purposes of the survey to capture the data, bloggers were placed within one of four categories: Hobbyists, Part-Timers, Pros, and Self-Employeds and the demographics of bloggers overall were fascinating:

So who are the bloggers? Let's delve into the demographics:

  • Two-thirds are male
  • 60% are 18-44
  • The majority are more affluent and educated than the general population
    • 75% have college degrees
    • 40% have graduate degrees
    • One in three has an annual household income of $75K+
    • One in four has an annual household income of $100K+
    • Professional and self-employed bloggers are more affluent: nearly half have an annual household income of $75,000 and one third topped the $100,000 level
  • More than half are married
  • More than half are parents
  • Half are employed full time, however ¾ of professional bloggers are employed full time.

Self expression, blogging for money or professional advancement, or carving out a space within which to be a thought leader, were just some of the motivators for investing the time to blog. 

While I was intrigued by much of what they covered in the report, what caused me to "forehead slap" was something I've been evangelizing for three years now: if you can't communicate using multiple media types (e.g., blog), you aren't effectively communicating today and you'll certainly be even less effective doing so in the months and years ahead.


MULTIPLE MEDIA LITERACIES FOR EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATIONS
One of the most interesting aspects of this report, included in the Technology of Blogging section, was a description of the skills needed to be an effective blogger. It's obvious that communicating with a blog requires the ability to express oneself well using the written word, but the multiple literacies with media -- already being used by millions of bloggers -- are critical skills and this is why media literacy education must teach media communication abilities

From the report, "82% of respondents say that they post photos to their blog, making them the most popular form of multimedia. Video, which nearly half of all respondents use, is the next most popular. Conversely, 13% of all respondents say that they never post any media to their blogs, preferring to just use text. Of those who use media, 73% say that that they also create the photos, video, or audio they post themselves about half of the time."

Medialiterate
In order to be great communicators, don't your students need to understand the tools to allow them to compose and shoot great photos? Perhaps composite elements from multiple photos together to convey a new meaning or satirical slant?

What about the skills necessary to shoot video and edit it? Add music to engage the viewer? Create and communicate with podcasts? Know simple microphone technique to host a conference call on a high definition audio call like those one can easily run in Skype?

We're already deeply in the center of a world that is quickly accelerating toward a future that is increasingly virtual and these skills are the ones your students must have in order to craft a vision, communicate it to others, and to do so in the most effective manner possible. Without those skills and a deep understanding of how to do so, they'll be unable to compete in the world they'll be entering soon.

Let me leave you with two things:

1) A video: Created by Greg Whitby, the Executive Director of 80 Catholic Schools in Sydney, Australia. While there are many other videos I've watched about kids and new media literacy, he captured the essence of what's going on and did so in 2007

2) This thought: Unfortunately, most K-12 curriculum still hasn't shifted anywhere near as quickly as has the changes which have occurred in the world as it pertains to new media communications and teaching our kids the hands-on skills they'll need going forward.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Accelerating Change are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.