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.

Outsourcing Is Climbing Skills Ladder

Further confirmation that the “World is Flat”: According to the New York Times’ Steve Lohr, Outsourcing Is Climbing Skills Ladder.

The globalization of work tends to start from the bottom up. The first jobs to be moved abroad are typically simple assembly tasks, followed by manufacturing, and later, skilled work like computer programming. At the end of this progression is the work done by scientists and engineers in research and development laboratories.

The implications for students in “The West” are profound. Forget competing with a handful of classmates for admission to the best universities. You are actually competing with literally millions of other students who are just as bright and – because they hunger for what we take for granted – probably more determined to succeed. The error is to think of these “best and brightest” from India and China as our competition. They are actually our colleagues and co-workers.

Still, more companies in the survey said they planned to decrease research and development employment in the United States and Europe than planned to increase employment.

Rather than moan about the inevitable, one real positive is that we can forget the lie that we are educating students for the workforce. We can focus on the Truth of Learning and Education: can’t our job be to help students reach for their own individual fulfillment? Isn’t an inspired, enthusiastic and engaged country of learners the best we can offer? Why don’t we test them on this every year? 😉

BBC NEWS Primer: The world is flat

A globe Asking the question: “Globalisation may be unavoidable, but what impact will it have on our lives?” BBC NEWS presents the ideas of Tom Friedman as related to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. As Bill Gates said:

It doesn’t matter whether you sit in Boston, Beijing or Bangalore, if you are smart you can now compete directly with the rest of the world “on a level playing field” – in a world that is flat.

To make the point clearly, Mr Gates said that when he recently met his firm’s ten best-performing employees, nine of them “had names I couldn’t pronounce”.

According to David Arkless of Manpower, four million people will see their jobs transferred over the next five years. “On a macro level,” says BT’s Ben Verwaayen, “it is easy to see the win-win.” But if your job goes overseas it is difficult to be positive, he warns. The fate of the victims of globalisation worried many Davos participants. was a much debated question.

“How can workers in the West hang on to their jobs?” The “Bottomline” for education may be:

  1. Make your job, your work, your knowledge ever more valuable.
  2. “Be flexible and don’t specialise too much,” said Jagdish Bhagwati of Columbia University.
  3. Lifelong learning.
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