One of the things I’ve noticed this week as I’ve been going around to some of the key stakeholders here is that my explanation or pitch concerning this idea is getting more and more focused. It almost feels like a politician on the stump, trying out phrases, seeing what works, taking a refined version to the next audience. Most of the time I just kind of hit on a word or a phrase that seems to click, and one that has really worked is this idea that we’re moving to a “distributed creation of content model”. Used to be that all content for our Website was approved by the public information officer who sent it to the Webmaster who put it online. (Which, of course, is why so little content was every created.) In this new model, the pipe to posting information is open for those that have relevant content and are positions to take responsibility for it.
It’s a whole different approach that has been facilitated by Web logs, obviously. And I can see that this is going to necessitate a huge change in the thinking of most schools out there if they’re even to consider this model themselves. This approach does pose some potential problems. The more open the system, the higher the likelihood of misuse. If teachers or advisers or coaches aren’t vigilant about logins and passwords and such, and if they don’t monitor student sites under their supervision, unacceptable content is inevitably going to find it’s way online. (BTW, I think this is one area where RSS is so important, simply because it wouldn’t be difficult to create redundant levels of review without making it awfully time consuming.)
I’ve said it before, but I am fortunate to work at a school where I can experiment and push the boundaries before I have the hard data that most changes of this type would require. And all of the people who I have shown this idea to think the model makes sense and is a positive step. But ultimately, there is going to have to be evidence that the rewards of Web logs are worth the risk. Seb noted the other day a paper that had been presented on Manila as CMS, but there really is little if any empirical data that suggests what we’re doing is actually changing things for the better, enhancing student learning. It’s all gut, still. But it’s a model that I think appeals to most people now that the tool is available for it to work. Content creation is no longer the purview of a few “geeks” who can code and design and make pretty pages. We can all get in the game now. How well we play it remains to be seen.
I’m a teacher who is new to blogging. Lately, I’ve been seeing blogs that look like websites to me. In my mind the difference is that a blog is an ongoing narrative in which the blogger’s personality comes through, and which includes and invites dialogue with the reader while a website is more of an information portal–lots of categorized links, and no real dialogue between the webmaster and websurfer. I like the fact that a blog (as I understand it–and I do realize that I am a newbie and do not yet understand all the possible uses) is more personal and interactive, as opposed to the closed system of a website. While I love the idea of developing blogging and expanding possibilities, I worry that the essence of blogging that I see (the personal expression and dialogue) will be lost in the shuffle, and as it becomes more website-like, it will be policed. I agree that as things stand, website information is screened, monitored, approved, authorized, etc., which is very limiting, segregating–disenfranchising. You say that in this new model “the pipe to posting information is open for those that have relevent content and are in positions to take responsibility for it.” But, what does that mean? Who decides what is relevent content? Isn’t that just the same thing–policing? Someone will end up deciding what is relevent information, screening for it, monitoring it, authorizing it, etc.
I am truly LOVING my new-found blogging experience and the dialogue I am beginning to participate in. I don’t want it to become policed by my school district. I also use a very entry level blog with students and I “police” it myself, daily–that’s my choice and I like it that way. I am interested to know what you think can be done to ensure freedom of expression once the district “net police” are in the picture.
Will R. says
I think that the great thing about Web logs is that we all get to decide what’s relevant because now we can. But the reality is that a more closed system is less threatening to school districts who are concerned with CIPA and COPPA issues and just keeping students safe. And of course, prior review of content assures (?) that inappropriate content doesn’t get published. This model requires board members and administrators to trust the professionalism of their staff, something that isn’t always that easy for them to do. The easiest way to ensure continued freedom of expression is to educate and impress upon the people who want to use Web logs the responsibility they have to keep students safe and to keep content appropriate.