And so we see why educators are so excited by blogs. For the first time, they have an easy-to-use tool that provides them and their students an authentic voice in the online classroom previously dominated by syllabi and class notes. And equally important, this newfound voice isn’t a glued-on afterthought one finds by jumping out to the “class bulletin board,” but rather is an equal citizen to the professor’s powerpoint slide, word document, and other forms of traditional “course content.” What on one had sounds insanely trivial is in fact a paradigm shift in online learning environments: blogs empower students to be co-publishers of the course and to easily comment on, react to, and debate any (teacher or student) contributed element.
One aspect of this whole process that I’ve thought about often but never felt prepared to delve into is this idea of student as co-creator of class content. It’s something that until this point has been logistically difficult for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the bulky delivery process. But Web logs really do change this paradigm, even in a traditional classroom, if we let it.
My collaboration with Anne last year really brought home the effectivness of making students into teachers. I can say without question that some of the best learning my students did last year was when they taught Anne’s students about journalism. It was cool to watch. But who says that teaching can’t happen within my own classroom as well? We should encourage students to contribute their own learning objects to the materials that we bring with us or create. And those objects should be shared and commented upon and debated and improved, just like ours should be. For a long time, I tried to do the “guide on the side” act and let students take responsibility for their own learning. But one of the frustrations was the relative isolation in which that learning took place. Sure, we would share successes, but there were few ways to share process, the struggle of learning where most of the relevant “teachable moments” take place. I think that’s why I’m so captivated by this medium, if you want to call it that. Among other things, it makes sharing the journey so much easier and potentially so much more meaningful.
As much as we like to believe we’re the teachers and they’re the students, we all know that none of us knows it all. Education is a participation sport, and the promise of Web logs is in their ability to bring more “teachers” into the process.
(Note: Most of John’s essay compares Web logs to commercial CMS like Blackboard, and while he finds Web logs have a lot to offer, in the end he finds them lacking. I’m not sure I agree with his overall assessment, but then I’m coming from the K-12 world whereas he’s post-secondary. And, BTW, Charlie Lowe adds his typically interesting comments on this. Both are worth a read.) (All of this via CarvingCode.)