Alex Halavais is writing a chapter about the educational uses of Weblogs for a forthcomimg book, and in this installment, he speaks to some of the issues we’ve been debating of late. Of special interest to me is his discussion of making student work authentic, which he admits is a difficult undertaking in today’s schools. Here’s how he describes some of the positive potentials that Weblogs can bring to student work:
Collaborative web publishing allows for and encourages links between assignments within a class and items in the larger information environment. Finally, the work should embrace multiple alternative perspectives. The open nature of collaborative web publishing means that everyone’s assignments must not only be different, but must highlight how they are different and complementary to those of their peers. Not only is work marked by the personal voices of its authors, by hyperlinking to alternative perspectives, it situates itself within an ongoing conversation, representing a multiplicity of viewpoints.
Later, he talks about an idealized vision of student blogging, one that once again points to the bad habits public education teaches students:
The idealized vision of a student in the blogosphere is one in which the student moves from specialist to specialist, drawing from disparate sources to assemble their [sic] own base of knowledge. Achieving this ideal requires a period of practice within the classroom in order to become competent in sharing information. While this might seem to be something that is inherent—all students naturally know how to share information—the idea of knowledge transmission that is at the root of most schooling has trained students to expect knowledge to be fed to them by experts. They are not familiar with the idea of engaging in dialogue to co-construct understanding.
How true! The co-construction of understanding? We do ask students to do that on occasion, but it’s rarely about topics meaningful to their lives. And we never ask them to do that in a way that adds that co-constructed understanding to the greater body of knowledge for future students and teachers to reflect and build upon. (Hmmm…what does that sound like?)
It occurs to me that what I should have pursued with my Journalism II students was the co-construction of a text using some form of blogging for others to share and add to, a similar exercise to what Alex asked of his students. But that is such an important skill. We co-construct understanding in almost every aspect of our lives, our jobs, our relationships, our blogs. I pretty much have learned how to do that on my own. Wouldn’t it be cool to show (not teach) students how to do that at an earlier age?
Alex has some good ideas on how to bring this to fruition, and his whole series is well worth the read. He’s looking for feedback as well.
Alex Halavais says
Ouch… sic-ed! 🙂 I think there is already a thread about this somewhere out there, but I wish people could do “quick fixes” for errors like that.
Thanks for the comments. I’ll have the next segment up as soon as I get a few minutes free…