Blogging in Schools & a Call for Focus

Flat Earth Roo

Some great press today about Blogging in Schools. I caught wind of it from ASCD’s Smart Brief who drew attention to an article in our very own Melbourne Age: The World Wide Classroom (April 17, 2006, The Age). The article features educator Jo McLeay points to a couple emerging directories of blog-using educators. One is a PB wiki set up by McLeay (Australian Edubloggers) and the other is a Google Maps Mashup of Education Bloggers worldwide. This comes amid great interest when I presented on ClassAct Portals recently at the ASCD annual conference and the Delaware Instructional Technology Conference.
Let’s link this excitement and buzz with some interesting points David Warlick is making recently about “The Flat Classroom.” My interest is in how teaching and learning can and will change in a Flat World, but David is looking at the learners and identifies some great traits of some digital learners:

  • Curious
  • Self Directed Learners
  • Intrinsic need to communicate
  • Intrinsic need to influence
  • Future Oriented
  • Heritage Grounded

To this mix, I’d like to contribute my perspective from having worked for ten years with educators interested in developing constructivist learning experiences through WebQuests. Reviewing the contents of the WebQuest Page’s matrix and coming up with 200 true BestWebQuests proved what most of us thought all along: lots of WebQuests “aren’t.” Well the same can be said for class Blogs. I have spent a lot of time looking and most of what I find are less than compelling uses of Weblogs. It’s like the folks who used class Web pages for posting homework and class rules. Now we get it more easily thanks to WordPress. That’s not really fair, what we tend to get are really excellent and insightful reflections from some really terrific educators. The trick is that this is the kind of use we’d love the students to engage in. So what I’ve seen is two extremes and I’d like to make a Call for Action for a different approach. First, as mentioned, many terrific educators use a blog to process, highlight and frame the learning a class of students get into. A second approach sees a class of students each with their own blogs. These latter strike me mostly as bowdlerized versions of myspaces pages (just as fluffy, but not as spicy).

Neither of these approaches impress me as sustainable or terribly interesting from a student-centered learning perspective. Now a certainly have an axe to grind here, because I think the better approach is to have groups of students create ClassAct Portals: Weblogs that:

  • Focus on one compelling topic
  • Is of passionate interest to the teacher (and thus the students 😉
  • Ticks along in the background of the class drawing attention when something in the real world provokes it
  • Is a natural use for things like blogs, podcasts, photo galleries, data collection and wikis.

The kernal for this idea comes from sites like the Child Slave Labor News.

C’mon all you great blogging educators, prove me wrong and show your site to the world.

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2 Responses to Blogging in Schools & a Call for Focus

  1. jomcleay says:

    Tom, thanks for the link to the Age article I didn’t know it had been mentioned in ASCD. Wow. About classroom blogging, it is not the technology that is important, but the fact that it is a record of learning in prgress and the affordances of blogging are that there can be interaction from other learners on the same journey or at different stages on the journey. I get a bit fed up with people equating classroom blogging with personal online diaries, not that you did that, but some do. I think that classoom blogging is simply another way of learning. But that’s just my two bob’s worth.
    Jo McLeay

  2. Susan Hey says:

    I am inclined to agree with Jo… blogging is another way of learning. I too like the fact that it’s a running record of student discovery. The sky is the limit with blogging. It can and should be so much more than an electronic task prompter.

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