Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, etc. in schools

I’m about halfway through Will Richardson’s (2006) Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms and enjoying reading about how educators can use these new tools in creative ways to motivate students to learn more deeply. This book provides some context to Web 2.0 technologies, challenges teachers to reconsider how they think about their classrooms, and addresses practical issues concerning educators implementing any technology into their teaching. Of particular interest to teachers, for example, may be how to keep k-12 students safe while enabling them to benefit from the affordances of the technology.

Here’s an example of a blogging letter (pp.13-15) that a teacher could use to get parental permission for children to publish to the Internet. Note the terms and conditions clearly outline what is and is not acceptable for publication online. I realize many teachers are concerned about what students will blog about if they are given individual weblogs. What teens post on personal journal sites like Xanga and MySpace are often not appropriate for classrooms, is it? But my point is that teachers can structure the use of classroom blogs in ways that are appropriate.

As Richardson points out, you have be ready to discuss what should and should not be published online. However it is also possible to use blogs in other ways besides giving students individual ones. One way might be to have a class blog in which students write entries and save as drafts until the teacher has read them, similar to how some Knowledge Building teachers use Knowledge Forum. There are lots of helpful suggestions on how teachers can use blogs in the book.

There are also critics (e.g. John Clare) who vociferously denounce educational uses of blogs for lack of evidence. I’m with Stephen Downes on this one. More (qualitative? design?) research that gets at understanding what goes on in these learning environments is needed before we can get to the kind of mass quantitative studies that could show “measurable gain.”

What I really wanted to blog about is about the spectrum of different types of weblog posts (pp.32-33), because I’m not sure if I truly understand the distinctions between just posting (not blogging), simple blogging, and complex blogging. I also have some thoughts about the assertions made about writing vs. blogging (pp. 31-32). So more on that later.


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