But there still is a lot to learn…
But there still is a lot to learn…
I start a new quarter with new kids next Wednesday, so I have a little more than a week to think some of this through. But right now, I’m considering offering parents the ability to stay tuned to what’s happening with their kids and my class in ways they’ve never been offered, I’m sure.
There are a couple of obvious ways to do this. First, I’m going to offer making them a part of the distribution list for the class homepage, the homework page (which I just realized I really don’t need if I just make homework posts to the homepage) and thier child’s Web log. All they need to do is send me their e-mails (and then we’ll see how long it takes their kid to erase it from their own site.) The other way, a way that I still need to work through a bit, is to get them to subscribe to an RSS feed from these sites. Obviously, RSS isn’t the greatest solution with just two or three sites. Once you get to around 20-30, it does make a huge difference. But I’m thinking maybe I can get a couple of them hooked on the idea anyway and include our feeds to others I show them they could subscribe to (like the NY Times, etc.) The other consideration is the aggregator…I’m going to have to help them through some set up to accomplish this.
The bigger question is whether or not they might want to actually participate in what their children do. Should I leave it up to the kids to decide whether or not they want feedback from their parents? Or maybe I should set up a parents’ J-Talk page where they can chat about whatever they see going on in the world or the class or whatever. (I have a feeling this might get about half a dozen or so to start but that it might fizzle out.)
All of this assumes, however, that parental participation is a good idea. It certainly could change the dynamics in a number of ways if parents had regular, easy-to-access information on what was happening in their children’s classes AND on the work their children were doing. Would it increase student achievement? Would it build community? Would it piss kids off? I keep thinking that as a parent, it would be pretty cool to get regular information on all of that.
Anyway, just throwing out some ideas. As always, feedback welcomed.
I put the flag in my lapel tonight. First time. Until now I haven’t thought it necessary to display a little metallic icon of patriotism for everyone to see. It was enough to vote, pay my taxes, perform my civic duties, speak my mind, and do my best to raise our kids to be good Americans. Sometimes I would offer a small prayer of gratitude that I had been born in a country whose institutions sustained me, whose armed forces protected me, and whose ideals inspired me; I offered my heart’s affections in return. It no more occurred to me to flaunt the flag on my chest than it did to pin my mother’s picture on my lapel to prove her son’s love. Mother knew where I stood; so does my country. I even tuck a valentine in my tax returns on April 15.
So what’s this flag doing here? Well, I put it on to take it back. The flag’s been hijacked and turned into a logo — the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. On those Sunday morning talk shows, official chests appear adorned with the flag as if it is the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. And during the State of the Union, did you notice Bush and Cheney wearing the flag? How come? No administration’s patriotism is ever in doubt, only its policies. And the flag bestows no immunity from error. When I see flags sprouting on official lapels, I think of the time in China when I saw Mao’s Little Red Book on every official’s desk, omnipresent and unread.
But more galling than anything are all those moralistic ideologues in Washington sporting the flag in their lapels while writing books and running Web sites and publishing magazines attacking dissenters as un-American. They are people whose ardor for war grows disproportionately to their distance from the fighting. They’re in the same league as those swarms of corporate lobbyists wearing flags and prowling Capitol Hill for tax breaks even as they call for more spending on war.
So I put this on as a modest riposte to men with flags in their lapels who shoot missiles from the safety of Washington think tanks, or argue that sacrifice is good as long as they don’t have to make it, or approve of bribing governments to join the coalition of the willing (after they first stash the cash). I put it on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what bin Laden did to us. The flag belongs to the country, not to the government. And it reminds me that it’s not un-American to think that war — except in self-defense — is a failure of moral imagination, political nerve, and diplomatic skill. Come to think of it, standing up to your government can mean standing up for your country.
I found these comments about Web logs by beginning educators. Pretty informative as to what the needs of new edu-bloggers are. (kinda via Pam).
Terry in response to my admiration of the Kern site, says:
…but don’t get sucked into the administrative frame here. You want to be where the friction is, where it gets hot, right on the classroom floor.
Yep, the classroom is where the heat is. But there is enough heat on the communications/pr/building relationships with community end of it to warm me up a bit as well. I know I’ve talked about this, but I keep seeing a school Web site that through it’s collaborative flexibility not only informs but connects. We’ve struggled mightily to get our community to pass budgets and referendums with no success in the last five years. (Note: And I would gladly take these struggles over the those that others are experiencing…) Part of the reason I think is that there is little outreach, little opportunity for participation in the functions and philosophies of the district on the part of community members. I think in this place, with this community, a Web log/Web site could do much to change that.
I’m not saying WL/WS is the cure for a disorganized, unfocused effort on our part to bring community into the process. But I think it can help. Most people don’t want to show up at board meetings. Well, let’s let them participate from home. Let’s syndicate news from the different departments to make it easy for community members to keep up via e-mail. Let’s look for ways to highlight the good teaching and good learning that takes place here through teacher and student-created content. Let’s connect parents and their students and put them in the learning process together. (This, of course, is WAY too scary for most because of the obvious accountability it would require.) Let’s open up the virtual doors a little bit, huh? If we’re doing what we are supposed to be doing, we should be chomping at the bit.
(Then again, maybe I’m naive. Or maybe I just want to keep believing this grand vision so I don’t have to sit with all of the other incomprehnsible stupidity of what is taking place in the world right now. Or, maybe I’m just stupid…)
Easy to say, tough to do. Kern has the shell. But it’s a huge district. We’re just one huge school. Even that is more than I can wrap my brain around.
Classrooms ARE where the obvious benefits lie, and I’m happy to report that even in my new job I’ll be able to teach one class a quarter. So my experiments will continue. But I want to check out other fronts too.
Um…I think we’re outta the closet.
Title links to the NewsQuest post by Anne Davis and her students who have been working from Conyers, Georgia via Web log with my journalism students up here in Flemington, New Jersey. (Be patient as it’s very slow to connect.) It’s been a great experience for me and my students as it’s given them the opportunity to do some teaching, which in my brain equates to learning. I’m sure there are even better examples out there, but as I’ve said before, this is the best part of using Web logs; the ability to invite different audiences to the process. Journalism is no longer just a classroom activity for my students.
I want all sites to be news item oriented, unless the user specifically opts for a non NIO site. Unfortunately most of the themes we have go the wrong way. I want them to be news item oriented because:
1. All the other blogging tools, Radio, Blogger, Moveable Type, etc are NIO.
2. The nice editing tools and the blogging APIs are also NIO.
3. A lot of the complexity of Manila melts away with NI orientation.
I’m thinking some serious development of templates that would lessen some of the configs I currently have to make. And then there’s this:
So, after I get the theme done, I’m not totally done yet. I’ve budgeted about a week for a new page for managing your weblog posts, that works much like the “desktop website home page” in Radio, or the main editing interface of Blogger. I don’t like the way Moveable Type does it, while they have lovely graphics, there are too many steps in creating a weblog post, their interface is klunky. I like simplicity, transparency.
Now we’re getting somewhere…no more News–Create News Item–Post to Home Page stuff? And did he say the “S” word. Hallelujah! Question now is should we all pony up with our Wish List for Manila for educators? I mean he IS doing this all for Harvard…we should at least be in on the potential trickle down.
This completes the transition to Manila™ we started 2 years ago. The homepage was last on the list, because we decided to do it back to front. We converted every department in the organizations and nearly all of our client schools. I must have trained 300 people on how to manage their Manila™ site.
Ahem…I’ve got some work to do…
(via JD) Title refers to a section on the third page of this NY Times story titled “Reporting Reflects Anxiety.” Quote:
But media experts say the rapid evolution of the form over the last week underscores a popular thirst for information that at least appears unfiltered by the anchors and editors of the traditional media. Bloggers are casting a wide net for information, drawing from radio, television, newspapers and even other bloggers from around the world.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned how absolutely cool it’s been to be able to introduce Web logs to my students as a quickly becoming legitimate tool of news gathering and reporting. It may sound corny, but I think Web logs may do a better job of serving the gatekeeper function that the First Amendment gives the press if for no other reason that there is something less “produced” about the content. I know opinions abound, and that contradicts good journalism. But in this age of the message being owned by huge media conglomerates, we’ve been seduced into accepting mainstream news coverage as fact, when in fact it’s all spun through the filter of corporate politics.
If you don’t believe it, witness the recent censoring of Kevin Sites by CNN, Josh Kucera by Time, and the news that Clear Channel has been behind the Pro-Bush/War rallies that have been cropping up lately. I’m more prone to believe the unfiltered, unpampered reporting that independent journalists are now able to accomplish. And the best part is that even though they may not have editors per se, there are hundreds of Web loggers cum editors out there just waiting to fact check and poke and burn their butts if they happen to be wrong. That’s what should be happening in “Real” journalism.
One of the things I really hate about referrer logs is when something new pops up I can’t help but start digging around and following links. I came in really early this morning to respond to my journalism class stories, but here I sit for half an hour looking new finds about Web logs and education. Sigh…
Not 100% sure what this is, but the site name, bloggingcourse.com is intruiging enough. (No contact information that I could find through Internic either.) Looks like a class site, but not sure where or why.
It did lead me here, however, to a site out of Australia that looks like it’s carrying on a relevant discussion of e-learning at least with some mention and reference to Web logs. The author of this site is also an author of this 104-page .pdf titled “Blogs: Personal e-learning spaces.” It’s a little bit dated in terms of Internet time, but it highlights some of our usual suspects. Toward the end, page 99, the paper discusses their choice of blogging software used here, a site “dedicated to using reflective learning journals in a range of learning contexts” but that hasn’t been updated for about a year.
And so now I’m gonna have to explain to my students why half their stories didn’t get read…and I haven’t even checked my aggregator yet. Not enough hours.
This is what scares me most about Manila…Three times now my kids have been shut out of their sites because of this malfunction, and while I know how to get around it to access 98% of what they have, there’s always some content lost. I’ve posted all over the place, but no one seems to know the answer. Really, really frustrating. Does MT have ANY issues like this?
(via Jenny) The Feed Room has a list of a variety of RSS feeds on a number of topics, and I’m thinking that someone who starts putting together even more comprehensive directories of RSS feeds might get a lot of traffic. I just downloaded and installed David‘s RSS plug-in that allows me to create separate feeds for all of my departments, a tweak that really opens up the landscape even further in terms of how to incorporate this into my classes and the Web site. Now, if I could just find a way to get the aggregator to show more than 24 hours worth of stuff AND to organize it by site…c’mon Userland…you’re getting so close! BTW, does Radio aggregate differently from Manila???
Sarah weighs in with some good arguments for Manila, and David adds that the bottom line is making it easier. So let me ask this: If both of the front-running tools have their issues, then should I be choosing one based on my assessment of what the future may hold for it? From all accounts, MT seems to be getting more attention than Manila in development terms. But there is Kern, who is basically doing what I propose and who happens to have two of the major Manila players around working for them. And, that whole Harvard initiative that Dave is undertaking gives me a great deal of hope. He’s using Manila. He’s trying to implement schoolwide. I can’t imagine that the Crimson-ites won’t express the same concerns that we have(even though they are so much smahtah…) I would think that would bode well for development of the tool. On the other hand, the issues we have deal most with ease of use and intuitiveness, the basic building blocks of the whole system. Doubtful that that will become easier.
This is a MAJOR decision for me now. I’ve gotten the superintendent’s go ahead; I’m presenting to a board committee in early May. The planning time for this is enormous. Our current site runs on a UNIX box, but we’re going to build the new site on NT. We have 3000 pages on our Web site, and I’m basically saying we start all over. We want to build an Intranet along with it. Gulp. Anyone have a quarter?
Right now, I need to get some questions answered. Things like will MT Pro allow people to create their own sites? Like how do you get an RSS feed into a Manila page? Like, again, what can and cannot be templatized in Manila and MT? (I swear, the thought of having to go in and configure a dozen settings in Manila for each Web log makes me crazy.) More to come, I’m sure.
George Siemens aptly boils it all down to this:
…most people seem to have a 10 second rule: If you can’t explain it to me in a few sentences, I don’t have time for it…question: do we adjust the tools? Or try and change the people?
It is the question that I’m wrestling with right now, especially if we get the go ahead to build our Web site around Web logs (which the more I think about it the more practical it seems.) I think all of us Manila users have been encouraged by the recent smattering of development coming out of the Userland camp. And as I’ve said here before, I’ve gotten to the point where I feel very comfortable with Manila and feel like I can teach it fairly easily. (I’ll find out again tomorrow when I start a workshop for eight teachers.)
But Joe is right when he says:
Lots of teachers won’t take the time to learn it in anything close to its current form. Simply put, it’s more than most teachers need and the learning curve for a teacher not fascinated by technology is too steep. (It seems a bit like trying to kill mouse with a shotgun.) It’s too easy to disparage a teacher’s grumbling about its complexity as laziness and fear of something new.
Sure, you can get to the point where posting with Manila is pretty easy (i.e my journalism students), but beyond that it takes a whole bunch of time to figure out how this thing works. And getting back to George’s question, will trying to change the people make it any easier or more effective? The tool would be a heckuva lot easier to change.
Here’s how my thinking goes:
Either way, I have to make this decision fairly soon.
I’m glad that Tim and Pam are sharing their most excellent adventures in the creation and marketing of the Web Log as Web Site idea. I hope to be following in their footsteps. Here is a good examples of a basic teacher portal, and Tim’s got his principal generating some really relevant content for parents. The fact that they’ve taken it on the road to the PTA is the part that is most interesting to me at this point because I’ve been thinking a lot about the marketing piece of this. It’ll be one thing to get the idea approved, it will be another to get teachers and administrators and parents to start contributing.
Also pretty cool is that Tim’s got them using RSS to feed content to parts of the pages. This is my week to figure that out with Manila. That’s really the coolest part of this when I think about how it might play out.