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January 09, 2005

Edublog Revisited

In Edublog Revisited, Rochelle the wise muses on Educational Blogging:

Long ago a small group of educators got together and formed a group called Edublog. The point, as I recall, was to create blogs for educational use; to promote the use of blogging packages in an educational context. The end goal was, I think, to build an educational blogging system, designed specifically with the classroom in mind.

It never happened. The players got busy or got different jobs or for other reasons scattered to the winds, and not much ever happened on the edublog agenda. Of course lots of people have seen the potential for weblogs in the classroom, and lots of people have made good use of the resources that are there.

But now I think it's time to revisit the original purpose of Edublog, and after lots of careful attention to different available weblog packages and the particular needs and pressures of the classrooms I have known, I think I know what direction we should have gone. And the direction we should go.

[this is a comment I left on rochelle's blog. if you're going off to read hers, which you should do, you don't need this.]

That was back in 2001, and I've still got all the use-cases we wrote up. The problems with MT, LJ and DP are myriad, but they all have something to add to the pie. Seeing that I've taught for many years with the first two and blogger, I'm really getting a feel for what works and doesn't with grad and undergrad classes. LJ rules for personal control and user autonomy. It has the best built in tools for analysing student work. But the GUI is substandard from anyone but a geek's perspective, and the admin tools are only the best, not good. And backups are abyssmal. MT has strengths in control and plugins and backups, and RSS. Drupals customizable, but unless you can handle cron jobs and have a systematic memory, give up.

But if I had to choose one thing that is necessary, as a teacher, it is privacy. PRIVACY. In order to get students to communicate publically, they need control over their own voice. LJ's got a bit of a start on that. But one should be able to control multiple lists of classes, friends and instructors with ease. AND you need privacy on comments. I should be able to make a private post to a student that the student cannot make public, the student should be able to respond to me in the same manner. AND I should be able to leave instructor comments on a blog that even the student can't see, for summative evaluation. ANd I should be able to pull together these groups of comments and notes for evaluative pruposes. Lots of powerful fun there for the educator.

Of course I agree with just about everything you have said, rochelle, the variations are merely taste. Plagarism is a fun one... the real problem is that you need to get students to write on paper in class to see how they right. I will be making students blog in class on paper twice next year, and then let them type it in, as a baseline to hear their own voice.

As for marking, I tell all my colleagues that anyone who is crazy enough to read everything every student produces and all the commentary on it is a control freak who should reconsider their profession. We are teachers, mentors, facilitators of learning... we're not 'readers of every frigging word'. My job is to dance across the discourse, just like a painting studio instructor. Do painting teachers watch every brushstroke? No, they selectively engage what the student is doing, and make comments. I can professionally evaluate a students term of blog work in about 5 minutes, and that includes checking their comments, layout and design and content. I have to be fast when I have 80 students blogging... but that's an issue of pedagogical experience. When we're building an edublog like tool there are hundreds of ways we can develop the eval tools to help this work even faster.

I'm thrilled you're into the topic! Let's go!

Posted by jason at January 9, 2005 08:51 PM


Read with much interest. It's a couple of degrees beyond my knowledge at this point, but I do by now have a bit of experience with running blog courses (if not yet with setting them up, ha ha): this year I'm following about 95 blogs, with a TA on another 30. My course director's blog is on MT, the kids are on Blogger. My main headache is tracking their comments to credit them to their authors. Blogger's user stats show you the amount of posts X has put up lately; what we need is something that will show the CD at a glance how many comments X has put up in that same period on the blogs of others in the class.
Just to add a finding or two: what I like is a) the elimination of plagiarism; b) the fact of knowing what the kids are thinking even if they don't talk in class; c) the fact that they talk to each other via the comments (NB they are graded on this as well as on their posts), and often not only encourage but help each other.
Main drawback: they use the library even less than before, seeing it as a primitive precursor of, and alternative to, the Net. No amount of arguing that the Net is GIGO while scholarly books get filtered through a fair amount of expert MS readership seems to help.

Posted by: Wodja at January 10, 2005 10:40 PM