Saturday, November 05, 2005

Blogs for schools

Many of the issues that are associated with blogs and younger students are addressed in a new offering from James Farmer. Long a proponent of blogging in education, James now offers blog hosting to both students and teachers. Visit to set up your blog.

Teachers wanting to introduce classes to blogging, but are worried about "inappropriate" materials and issues of privacy can use the supported medium James is providing to ensure a "safe area" in which stakeholders can access blogs in a supported and safe environment.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Blogging as active research -- part II

I continue to work on my ideas for a research study for this semester. I'm feeling a little better about the endeavour now that I've decided to focus on blogs. I'm also feeling better about the whole thing after finding the published work of Torill Mortenson and Jill Walker.

Their paper Blogging thoughts: personal publication as an online research tool (PDF), Chapter 11 of Researching ICTs in Context is full of provocative thoughts on the role of blogging for academics and the opportunities it provides for publishing and sharing academic research.

As I struggle with the design of my own research study for this semester, I found the authors' thoughts on "academic writing" to be enlightening -- especially their prescription for writing "in the humanities and social sciences" and that an "academic article" must contain:

a) References to theory, preferably updated, focused, wide enough to display a healthy variety to our reading but not so wide that we can be accused of being shallow.

b) References to empiric data, or the object of our research. This should have enough status that we can justify spending our valuable time on it, eith through being a classsic, being something entirely new, or being popular enough to have social significance.

c) An original and spirited discussion of how a) relates to b). (p. 261)

The authors also go on to tell us that the profile of the "modern researcher" has changed.
The modern researcher is not quite the old man in a dusty, smoky study behind a labyrinth of books, unable to relate to the rest of the world. Research is supposed to be related to contemporary topics, and preferably lead to results tha can give new insights to more than a narrow group of specialists. (p. 261)

I'm especially interested in some of the phenomenon that Mortenson and Walker see at work in their 2002 consideration of blogging and how the medium has grown and changed since. Indeed, because both continue to blog, we can track developments in their thinking and practices related to the "blogsphere" and the topics broached in the paper.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

blogging as active research

I'm currently participating in an experiment in "active research" as part of the GRAIL project at OISE/UT. This began as a blogging experiment in a course I took (CTL 1608: Constructivist Design of Online Learning Environments) last semester. This experience and others as a blogger, has me thinking about research I have to do for another course semester, CTL 1009: Reading and Writing in Schools - Elementary. We've been asked to produce a research survey on a topic of interest.

I'd initially hoped to be able to do some research on the impact of technology on the acquisition and development of literacy skills; however, I can't wrap my head around how one would be able to measure the impact of technology for those that can't join the discussion by reading and responding to posts. I thought that "alternative" media (i.e., podcasting) might help to give voice to those who can't participate in text-based environments, but this brings me back to "technical literacy" and the fluency required to contribute to the discussion in this manner.

All of this has brought me full circle and back to blogs. Specifically, do blogs make better teachers and students? Why or why not? What is the benefit of blogs to education? Are they better suited for "professional development" of teachers, or do they have a role to play in education? Furthermore, if there is a place for blogs in schools, under what conditions is it appropriate to use blogs in the classroom to develop the "literacy skills" of students?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

online spaces

I'm back with more about this forum and online spaces in general. I've owned the domain name for some time now. It was/is a tribute to my dog Sam, and the fact that he's a lab. The tie-in was that maybe "old dogs" (me, not him) can learn news tricks.

One thing I'm learning is that I may be better leaving the "heavy lifting" to others. I'll still use my space (eventually ;-) for some things, but I'm thinking I may be better using this forum, as well as blogmatrix, flickr, getFAST, GRAIL, QuickTopic World Bridges, ELGG, and others to not only get away from the overhead associated with online spaces, but to stay connected to larger communities of practice. Having content in these other forums will also allow me to continue to use to "mess around" and not be worried about "outages" when one of my "experiments" goes awry.

Of course, the danger in leaving the lifting to others is that the relationship may change over time. Indeed, Blogger has been snapped up by Google and Flickr by Yahoo, but to date they haven't been asking for money.

On the topic of the 'net and money -- I've often fantasized about how much the 50 bucks I sent Ev "back in the day" to help keep blogger going at one point, would be worth relative terms today with Google stock somewhere around $350 a share.

That said, there may come a day when for whatever reason, blogger or the others listed "goes away" or becomes part of some conglomerate that demands fees for hosting; however, from where I sit, I'm content to enjoy the current "open" nature of the web and take advantage of third-party hosting of my content, while the "getting's good."

Monday, October 31, 2005

learning with technology

My website is currently down due to a problem with an "upgrade".

I'm working on committee in which we're looking at web technologies for learners, staff and tutors. I've been pushing Drupal as a solution and today in an email it was mentioned that my experience will be valuable with the learning curve as we explore technology options.

Well today I smacked right into the side of the curve today when working on my site.

The good news is that while I'm not enthused by the fact my site is down, I am enthused by the learning opportunity it presents. "Technical difficulties" are a fact of life in online environments. I think the important thing is to be as prepared as is practicable and "roll with the punches" along the way.

I also think that it's important to push the envelop in terms of technology and how we use it. I think technology in general, and blogging in particular, hold promise for giving voice to those who might otherwise remain silent. The asynchronous space provides an opportunity for reflection and contribution that might not be possible in face-to-face environments, for any number of reasons.

There's no question that Participation Engenders Competence and I think this is just as true for educators working with technology, as it is for Konrad's students:
When I think of blogs, I think primarily of what this technology enables my students to accomplish. When I look forward to reading their entries and comments I am really looking forward to thoughts made visible.