So I just ran across my first RSS feed with ads in my Bloglines reader just now. Oy. I’m not even going to link to it. Something about it really makes me unhappy, to the point where I’m wondering if I should unsubscribe in protest. I know a lot of people think this is an inevitable trend. I agree with Alan…I hope not.
In a recent podcast, Steve Dembo predicted that in a couple of years just about every school would have at least one student blogging away on his own time and space about what was going on at the school. Steve said it was something schools should get prepared for, and I agree. Especially now that parents and teachers are doing it too. Couple these examples with the student journalists in Georgia and it’s not hard to see the next meme getting started. Not to say that the old meme has stopped. But I’ve stopped, for now at least, trying to crusade for a separation of the genres, journal and blog. Not going to win that fight, I think.
Still, with all the good stuff happening these days in edu-blog land, you’d think there’d be room for another new meme in there somewhere…
Lots to report on the podcasting front these days, most notably the introduction of the Education Podcasters Network which is the work of David Warlick. If you’re doing some K-12 podcasts of even thinking of it, head on over to EPN to find some podcasts to listen to or add your feed. Right now he’s got three elementary school feeds up, and one of them is…
…Room 208 which is the brainchild of Bob Sprankle, a third and fourth grade teacher at Wells Elementary in Wells, Maine. Aside from weekly shows that cover events at school, his students have done “sound-seeing tours” of the local Willowbrook Museum Village in Newfield that they visited on a field trip. Listeners are treated to the students’ reactions to what they see, the presentations by the tour guides, and all sorts of other vignettes of students talking and thinking about what they’re seeing, sometimes with teacher prompts. It’s a concept that’s easy to replicate, and it’s a great model for teachers to use, as is…
…Radio Willow Web from the Willowdale Elementary School in Omaha, Nebraska. As the Website says, these Willowcasts” are online radio shows for kids by kids. Each show has it’s own host, theme, and unique segments which can include things like “Bad Joke, Good Joke,” “Holiday Spotlight,” “Poetry Corner” and much more. And once again, the thing that really strikes me when I listen to these is the sense of audience the students have. The power of the Read/Write Web.
Through the EPN site I also found Englishcaster which is a site that supports teachers who are teaching the English language. There’s a whole list of podcasts that have been created by teachers for people who want to learn English. One concept that I thought was really cool (and that I’m going to suggest to my World Language teachers) was from the…
…Madrid Young Learners Podcasts where an English speaker tells a story via a podcast and the listener has to answer questions in English via comments. How hard would it be to make your own site like this, with teachers enlisting native speakers from around the world to tell stories that their own students respond to.
There are all sorts of great ideas popping up around this that go beyond the traditional (?) radio show meme, and as more and more educators wrap their brains around this, I’m sure even more creative uses will follow. Too. Much. Fun.
Having not heard anything about the results of Anne’s operation for over a week I was getting a little worried. But she posted yesterday that all is well, and that the blogging lobe is in tact. It’s great to have her back and blogging, but the even better news is that her prognosis is for a full recovery. Exceptionally good news.
I think this slide from a presentation by Jim Cuene titled “Web 2.0: Is it a Whole New Internet?” does a pretty good job of summing up the differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. We really have arrived at a Web that is very different from what came before, and I continue to just be amazed by the creative, powerful ways in which people are starting to use it.
Dan McDowell left a comment on my looking for a wiki post the other day and pointed to his use of a wiki to build a “branching simulation” for his students’ study of the Holocaust. At first I didn’t really get it, but after a couple of trips back to look at it, it’s starting to sink in. What a great idea.
First, groups of students develop the outlines of a family living through the Holocaust based on historical and geographical research. Then, each group sets up a number of choices that the family must make, annotates each choice with pros and cons, and asks the reader to make one of the choices to see what happens. For instance, a Jewish family may at first have the choice of trying to run or following the Nazi instructions to report to a camp. Depending on the choice you make, you’re faced with another decision, and as the reader makes these choices, the narrative of the family is written.
The process for developing this simulation demands some fairly complex thinking and planning, and if you’re at all interested in this project take some time to read through it. But what a great use of a wiki, where page creation is easy and creating a webbed narrative like this can be a really fascinating experience.
Any other great uses of wikis in the classroom out there?
Ok, now I know this wonderful example of a student actually blogging comes from my school, but I just wanted to highlight the good stuff that her teacher Tom McHale is doing with the class. Note not only the linky, reflective, deconstructive style of her writing, but also see the RSS feed pushing content to her page about the stuff she’s reading and writing about. It’s coming from Furl where she’s using the annotation feature when she saves her links to provide the summaries you see on the page. See on the class homepage the conversations they’ve started about Blinq, the new Philly Inquirer blog, and how the author Daniel Rubin is responding to them. It’s good stuff. It’s not hard stuff. And it’s good learning.
This is why students should be taught to blog. A Georgia high school principal decides to pull the plug on the journalism class because the stories in the paper it was producing were too controversial. (Guns in schools and teen mothers…shocking!) Then he also pulls the school magazine and cancels an introductory journalism class that the same teacher had proposed. So, the students start a blog “Speaking Underground”:
We believe students’ rights to exercise responsible free speech should be encouraged and not stifled. The Speaking Underground forum was created in an effort to keep students’ voices from being silenced by school authorities. We invite you to study the documents on this website. Please contact the Pebblebrook administration, as well as Cobb County School District officials and encourage them to rescind the decision to remove journalism classes at Pebblebrook High School.
People all over the place are railing against the principal for his affront on the free speech rights of students. What I’m more interested in, however, is the students’ response: they started a blog. I mean, really. How cool is that?
Now they’re not getting an “A” for blogging…yet. Right now the site is basically a list of links. Most of the 100 or so comments bash the principal, raise the banner of the First Amendment, etc…stuff you would typically expect to find. But if you look closely, it gets more interesting. You have bloggers saying they’ve “covered” the story on their sites. One blogger, Michael Memberg, actually tells the kids to stop complaining and asks:
Has your ability to disseminate your ideas been limited? No, as evidenced by this blog, you still have a means to publish your work.
Whoa. One anonymous commenter says:
Fight to keep the newspaper if possible, but consider starting your own independent paper, too. This blog is a good start toward that.
So maybe the indie paper doesn’t look as slick or modern as what might come from a class production … in this case, the content seems more important than the design.
And do you know how awesome it would be to produce the publication without the school’s interference?
And if it really matters enough, the death of the class will not be the death of a newspaper at Pebblebrook.
Content over design. Hmmm…ever hear of RSS?
As a journalism major, former journalist, and former adviser, I’m not sure if any rights have been violated here. Certainly, the principal could have found a better way to deal with what he perceived as a problem, however. And I’m not totally convinced that students should be producing a “paper” per se outside of the school for a variety of reasons. Good journalism is a craft, and those skills need to be coached by someone who recognizes them and hopefully employs them.
But these editors and reporters should be blogging. And I mean really blogging, reflecting on the stories they write, engaging in discussions about meaningful topics at the school, giving voice in a respectful and meaningful way to issues and ideas that might not always make it into the paper “paper”. And in doing so, they could contribute to the development of other high school journalists across the country, around the world. Right now, they’ve contributed the story. By blogging, they can start to contribute the LEARNING.
(Thanks to Steven Cohen for the link…)
I gotta say that at this point, the fact that a major newspaper can so totally miss the significance of blogs just escapes me. Here’s the USA Today today:
These days, the hype about blogs is off the charts.
And you know what that usually means: Run for cover, because a bubble is going to burst and make a big mess.
Just about everybody is either celebrating blogs or worrying about blogs, which are essentially online journals.
Ah, yes, the old bubble is bursting analogy. Wow. The good news is we don’t have to believe anything written by someone who would still refer to a Weblog as “essentially [an] online journal.” Goodness gracious.
And I’m not even droning on about education here, ok? I could list about a bazillion blogs that do anything but capture the dreadfully pedantic day to day occurences of our lives and focus instead on actually articulating what the authors THINK instead of what they DO.
What a concept.
Yes, but in a few years, we’ll look back on the blog craze thing and think “how quaint.” Because by then the big bad blog will be supplanted by something bigger and better, which will in turn be overrun by something even bigger and better and…you get the picture. So stick the fork in. We’re almost done.
Not a moment too soon.
Myspace.com and its ilk are described as “a new revolution taking over, like Intstant Messenger.” One student reports:
By posting blogs and journals entries, it is a way for his friends to read and keep informed with what is going on in his daily life.
The word choice strikes me as odd. How do you post a blog, I wonder, unless, of course, the blog is the post? Hmmm.
“It’s just a craze,” [one student says]. “People are looking for a way to get themselves out there. All these sites are just to get attention.”
She goes on to say that these community websites are used to get sympathy and false interest.
There is some more about whether or not blogging is safe, about how these communities are used to date new people (not safe, I would say), and about becoming online journal junkies.
Nary a mention of the nearly 1,000 student Weblogs we’ve created here over the last three years, or the work that’s been done in them. Bummer.
There’s no doubt, in my mind at least, that a well tended course Weblog can deliver more information about what a student has learned than just about any standardized exam we can come up with. Unless, of course the standardized exam is to identify and reflect upon the learning evidenced in the Weblog. It would be so simple, right? Take the goals and objectives of the class. Heck, for that matter, take the state standards and say to students “Here, find where you’ve done this in your Weblog. Reflect on what it took to learn it. If you can’t find evidence of the standard, reflect on why. What prevented you from reaching that goal or understanding that concept? What do you think you need at this point in order to master it?”
We all know this: 95% of the facts and figures and formulas and definitions we “learned” in school are long gone from our brains. But the processes that we learned to learn stay with us. If they actually create learning, of course.
Konrad Glogowski writes:
When I first looked at the exam I used last year, I realized that it wouldn’t be very effective in helping me collect any evidence of learning. First of all, I already have that evidence. After months of blogging not only as individual students but also (perhaps primarily) as a community of learners, my students have already shown to me how much they have learned about course content (which they have co-generated with me and each other) and how much they have improved as writers and independent thinkers. So, I asked myself, Do I even need this final exam? What is it going to show other than what I have already gleaned from participating in the class blogosphere?
It’s a great question, and in many ways it gets to the heart of what student blogs can do when a teacher takes the time to understand blogroom management. (Bad, I know.) When communities of learners work through a topic, share in the construction of the resources and the meaning of the work, and contribute the results for others to see, the learning happens.