First, let me just say how cool it is that we’re cranking up this whole discussion. Just for kicks, here’s an attempt to respond to Pat and Peter and Sarah and Joe and the excellent discussion happening at KairosNews (definitely worth a read) all in one long post. There’s so much being said that any attempts at assimilating them into one place will probably fail, but here goes.
I’m still going to suggest that we can do better than what we have, and that the time to do better is now. I absolutely dread the idea of teaching teachers one way and then having to teach them something else. I guess I have this fear that once we start down a path, it’s going to be hard to turn back. Seems that’s the way it happens here and elsewhere. So I’m putting pressure on myself to MAKE THE BEST CHOICE, and I just wish I had one of my own making. Pat and Peter and Sara are all Manila-ites…maybe they know best. (By the way, I’m hoping to make a pilgrimage to Middlebury in a few weeks to take a first hand look at all the great stuff they’re doing.) And Pat is really putting it through its paces. But Blogger is SO easy…for teachers and students.
The considerations here are many: ease of use for teachers, server space and support, programming languages, reliability, volume, personalization, etc. Pat says “The issue isn’t the blogWare! The issue is affordable, reliable, updatable hosting!” I wish I could see make it that easy for myself. Ken Tompkins at Richard Stockton College suggests portal software like p-machine to use with weblogging software like Manila for students. (Check out his PostNuke-created literature portal during daytime hours here). And then there is the issue of what teachers will adopt…Again, Pat says “It really isn’t that hard to put up a page and start fiddling around with it for your own writing and teaching. Sure, to go beyond that stage, you need imagination, time, infrastructure and support. But those requirements have nothing to do with the tool.” And Peter’s experience is that “All teachers can do the weblog basics of writing, posting pictures and updating. This is the ‘minimal amount of the environment’ that the majority require at the moment. Some have progressed to using the discussion feature because it serves a particular project need that they have. Some are firing on all the ‘tweaked’ cylinders. Any progress or success however, has been due to the ‘minimal’ entry point which assured success and confidence.” I’m starting to be swayed by their arguments and examples, although I still have a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to teachers wanting to fiddle and play around. I hope Ken is right when he says “Our faculty used to be divided into three groups: (1) the group that would adopt/use any technology put before them, (2) the group that had to be convinced to adopt/use technology and (3) the group that wouldn’t use technology if god commanded it. I used to spend enormous time on group 3 — coaxing, demanding, tricking them into using technologies. Then I had a conversation with the VP of Academic Computing at Princeton. He urged me to ignore them on the grounds that they consumed too much time and would be replaced with group 1 & 2 members eventually.”
I think Joe asks a good question when he writes “Is this simply the stage we happen to be in where this type of work is just too cutting edge or experimental for most educators?” I am still amazed at how few teachers know about it and use it.
And then there is the way we present the tool…Ken says: ” I see portals as part of the blog experience (I understand that they are not really blogs) in that they introduce the student to the idea that organizing information for easy access is important, that ideas on content are everywhere and that a blog works best when it links their lives to the wider community, that current information is important, that it is a worthwhile work to find, summarize, filter, etc. information on the web so that it can be made available to others, say, on a blog.” I really like the way he puts that.
My workshop is on in two weeks. This is great thinking and writing about how to best approach it. Thanks.