Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ramblings (to self) on purposeful technology use...

Some reading tonight on the folly of teachers building websites spawned some thoughts about the importance of having a purpose for using any given technology or assigning any learning activity. The post talks about how teachers are so often sent to professional development workshops to learn web development or how to build web pages. Too often, however, teachers fail to have a solid purpose for using websites, and their web pages go unused or are never updated remaining eternally "under construction". David Jakes writes :

Teacher Web pages are the HyperCard stacks of 2008.
I agree, but I would edit this to read:
Teacher blogs of today are the teacher Web pages of the turn of the century, which were the HyperCard stacks of the 1990s.
The notion of using technology for a purpose is not new, but was brought up again for me tonight as I read Jakes's post and by questions yesterday from a couple of my students who asked me what we 'd be doing in class with the blogs. I had real no answer and proceeded to remove some vestiges of the "blog" language I had initially tried to shoehorn into my syllabus.

I had been trying to find a way to use blogs in my online course--I'd been trying really hard! It just didn't make sense yet for my course. I believe there are great ways to use blogs (and wikis and podcasts too)...but not for my class this semester. This has frustrated me because as an learning technologist, I really want to use blogs in a class to gain some first-hand experience and best practice knowledge with using blogs in a social/group learning environment. But it is not to be this semester, and I'm glad I didn't take the bait and put the proverbial cart before the horse.

With regard to building websites, my students (who are largely teachers) used to create websites in my class too. I don't address that anymore, but have not yet found the ideal substitute for posting small instructional, media-rich nuggets. Wikis are likely the solution, as they provide a more customizable environment than a blog, but wikis are built for collaboration, and to use them just as modern-day-WYSIWYG web page builders seems less than ideal.

I've not yet found the optimal solution. I think I ideally need an "Bliki" or a "Wlog"--an easy-to-use web publishing environment that has elements of both blogs and wikis. Maybe this is a job for Drupal or Movable Type 4....better yet, our focus in general should first be in helping teachers/instructors understand why, where, and for what purpose to use a given technology, and only then on providing them with knowledge on how to use them and mini successfful experiences in using them.
Well, I'm rambling at this point, but wanted to capture these thoughts as I continue to mull this dilemma over.
-Joel G.


Cole Camplese said...

I've been using blogs in my classes for quite some time now and have found a bunch of ways to take advantage of them. I am particularly interested in what we are doing for my CI597 class ... we're having the students build their blog and using a social ratings site to aggregate all of their content into one location. It is a grand experiment ... I'd be happy to talk to you more about it as it unfolds. Take a peek:

Joel Galbraith said...

Thanks for the note Cole. I feel that I should mention that the reason I am not using blogs is less that I don't see the need for them as it is because Angel's threaded discussion forum is working quite well for much of what I do.
It's not perfect, but for now I want to spend a little more time on the sidelines observing (and learning) from others like yourself--so thanks for the link.
I introduced plenty of change into to my class this semester, so blogs will probably just have to wait till next time.
-Joel G.

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