Sarah says: I have to say that I agree with Pat D.’s comments on the subject: “…Manila had to be “tweaked” to do all the things I had it doing. Hmm – that’s right. But then again, everything I do in a classroom has to be “tweaked.” “Everyone’s going to want to use the tool in a different way, according to their pedagogical goals, etc. People are always going to pick and choose amongst the feature set that a tool offers. Does the perfect tool exist, and is it worth spending the programming time and dollars to build your own?” True. I guess I’m seeing an opportunity for those of us who are not completely satisfied with what we use to help create something that’s 95% effective instead of 80%. There will always be room for tweaking for the hard-core users among us. Not going to happen with the other 28 people in my department or 225 or so teachers at my school. It’s different from tweaking the way you teach a class, which every good teacher has the skills to do. Very few good teachers have the skills to take a technology like weblogs and tweak it for their own purposes the way Pat and Sarah and Peter and I and the others have. So I have to say yes, it is worth the programming time and dollars to do it, because I really believe the technology won’t be adopted by many good teachers who could use it well unless we do so.
Chris, who is gladly back writing, I think echoes these thoughts when he says: “My caution was that what Patrick was showing to the group gathered that evening within and among the many sites he is using is pushing what is mostly promised but not fully realized interoperable technology, and requires at this point a fair amount of manual tweaking, which is the result of a lot of skill, knowledge, and touch acquired over maybe a year and a half. While that’s fine for advanced users, it’s not going to be fine for these other groups new to this technology, especially if one expects to see results out of real work within a few months, and even more especially if there isn’t better than adequate suport for the user, which means not only technical support but also support and advice for on-line communities about logistics, process, and appropriate applications.” (See full post for context.)
And Sebastian weighs in (at least I’ve got people talking about it…) “What is missing are the “translators” the folks that understand enough of the technology and its limits AND education.” (Again, see full post for context.) He’s right, but what we have to do is bring those people together.
Here’s one idea: maybe we should contact Pyra, and p-machine, and other developers, give them our criteria/wish list and see what they say. Certainly, the entrepreneurs out there wouldn’t be blind to a huge potential market, and I don’t think we’re asking for all that much more than any one of these softwares already offer. It’s crucial that we put our brains together and develop the criteria, which is the discussion I’m trying to start.
Look, Blogger didn’t cost me any money. It didn’t take any time to set up. I can teach it to my colleagues in minutes. It needs little support. It tweaks using html, which at its most basic level is pretty easy to learn. It runs on a regular old NT server or similar. Yes, it needs a commenting feature. It needs some column creation capability. It needs a few more things. But I have to tell you that when I think about buying Manila licenses and a Frontier server, or getting php and mySQL, or whatever else I need for those other platforms, I start losing interest. We’re not normal here, gang! (Someone argue with me, please!) Let’s start counting how many hours we’ve taken to learn and read and tweak and build. Then take maybe 1% of that number and you’ll come close to the reality of what a normal classroom teacher will spend on it.
Maybe I’m wrong, I dunno…I just think now is the time to do it, while there are still a lot of people out there willing to have a go at it because they realize the market potential. Call me crazy.
Joe Luft is a classroom teacher from The Brooklyn International School who has taken the weblog dive. (You only have a very short time to come to your senses, Joe.) He says: “To make weblogs really work as a widely used educational tool and to really revolutionize classroom use of the web, we need a tool that makes it as painless as possible.” I just don’t think we’ve found it yet.