July 31, 2006

Design is essential to the use of social software

Marc Canter has been doing his homework on Hitwise and spotted that the 9th most popular search term is "MySpace layouts", as young social networkers look to personalise their online spaces. This is indicative not only of the growth in this area in line with the growth of MySpace itself, but also of the fact that online spaces rely on the ability for the individual to personalise to their heart's content. If we can't personalise our spaces, we won't use them in the longer term.

Img_2154 There's nothing new in this for those of us who have had our own blogs for a while, and it's not a new concept: returning to Florence as an adult underlined the importance of design and art complimenting each other all the time. The artists who created the statues would often be the architects who created the buildings.

The importance of design, though, is underestimated in many educational projects to do with social software and personal learning spaces. Most school blogs are uniform, use predefined templates, reflect the school colours, and have obviously not been made up by kids themselves (without heavy teacher supervision). Take a look at SSDN, the national schools network offering online services to every student and teacher in Scotland. In SSDN, which endeavours to give every school (and every student?) a personal space, I am not sure there is enough personalisation on offer. And by personalisation I mean 'silly' personalisation. If I want my page to be a lurid pink then I expect to be able to do that in a click. If I want it to be moody black, ditto. Will there be room for a design supermarket where I can not only pick up what designs I want but also submit my own designs for others to 'buy' from me? (What a way to introduce enterprise education to the masses ;-) Will I be able to add my own Flash objects (music, videos, animations) à la MySpace and Bebo?

The one thing I have picked up from the European Centre for Modern Languages' Blogs project is that youngsters love to spend time making their page their own. Take a quick flick through all the different nationalities and you will see that whether you are in Poland or Potsdam, design is vital to the success of a page (take a look at the huge number of posts on any of the Czech students' pages - all their designs are different). Then take a look at the UK pages (here, here and here), where the teachers had less time to spend with kids looking at the design and personalisation - and the kids have not taken the project on as theirs at all. A link?

If SSDN hasn't thought about this so far then maybe this is something we could consider offering in Exc-el's framework. Yes, complex and maybe not linked to serious learning outcomes straightaway. But if we want kids to take their online learning spaces seriously over time, we need to offer the ability to play about with each personal space - very unseriously - from the start.

Marc has given a roundup of the main MySpace layout engines.

February 28, 2006

ESL / EAL Blogs - any examples?

Barbara My Greek colleagues Barbara started blogging last November as part of the ECML Blogs Project. Having known nothing about blogging she is now an ardent blogger and moblogger (she journalled the school trip to Holland) and is even talking about it at a TESOL conference in Greece. She has seen the light.

Barbara is now looking for some other examples of English as a Second Language (ESL) Tim, the Teacher in Development and the LanguageLabUnleashed girls make a good starting point but might have more suggestions to add to the comments here.

December 01, 2005

J'ai commencé mon blog en français

La semaine dernière à l'atelier de ECML BLOGS j'ai commencé mon propre Blog en français. Ceci n'est pas un edublog comme ceci. Non, ca va être plutôt un moyen de communiquer avec des profs et des élèves qui participent à ce projet incroyable qui lie tellement d'écoles partout en Europe, du Royaume-Uni à l'Iselande, de l'Armenie à la Bulgarie (et l'Ireland, bien sur!).

Take a look at the blogs on the ECML Bloggers site. There is an English language weblogs stream and a French stream, depending on what language you wish to communicate on.

Outsiders to the project cannot comment, but if you send me any comments you have I'll put them on. This is to protect the scheme from any attacks, not from cyber squatters but from over-zealous governments in any of the 23 nation states taking part.

It is really interesting to read about what other nations are getting up to in their language courses. Amazing to see how many of the students share the same passions - and the teachers, too.

November 30, 2005

More photos from Graz

I had to take this mobile pic of "Ewan the snowman" after barely five minutes walking through the city on Saturday night
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Liam ready to serve another in the O'Carolan's pub. Worth a visit if ever you're in Graz, just off the Hauptplatz
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Delphine (right) gets us all eating veggie food - in Austria!!!. I thought it was good, but not sure if Helena agrees here...
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November 27, 2005

Almost home

I'm back where I was four weeks ago in the departure hall of Graz airport, using their great free internet service (it's all in metal so my typing is making a very lloud noise. The keyboard is also a rather annoying qwertz one, which might lead to a few spling errors!)

The ECML Blogs conference was super, with lots of though provoking and not always the answers, but I'm sure I'll set around with the other ECMLers at finding some of the possible solutions. Small steps...

This morning I had the great pleasure of being whisked off away from the nunnery by Lucy Bauer, a teacher at the state-run bilingual school in Graz. We visited the school briefly - yes on a Sunday! I then met her husband and daughter at home (their other son is studying in Edinburgh as a matter of fact :-).. It was so nice to be in a real home after all these days away from one. They fed me sweet croissants and good strong coffee, required after last night's chance meeting with seven English teachers living in Graz. Let's just say that 'one for the road' evolved a fair bit.

I'm going to help Lucy (and possibly her English teacher husband) to set up a link with a keen geography or Modern Studies department back in  Scotland. They're offering a return trip to their lovely schools in Graz, with the option to learn how to ski. I think I'll see if I can chum along :-)

November 26, 2005

White out

On the way to the ECML in Graz this morning:

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Consensual learning

Peter's talking again, just mentioning the power of linking for language learning. Students are not going to know what a word means? Put in a hyperlink to dictionary.com to show the meaning. Read Peter's example here.

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November 25, 2005

A house without windows...

Finally, the best quote of the day from Mario: “A house without doors and windows is safer than a house with doors and windows.” Are we prepared to live without any of the sunshine that open blogging can bring?

Now, looking for an image of Mario I came across his faculty picture (from how long ago, Mario?). Love the shades - very Starsky!
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To moderate or not to moderate, that is the question

Looking closer at moderation of blogging posts today on the ECML blogging system. I really like what Mario has done with the moderation. Small icons lead the teacher to either approve or withhold a student posting, adding small notes for improvements with electronic blogging stickies that the student and teacher can see but which no-one else can. Nice for those students who are perhaps afraid of public correction or criticism. However, it does bring us back to the point that my neighbour at the conference has just reminded me of. What’s best for the student? Private message exchange and error correction between student and teacher – the way we’ve taught for the past n years – or public commenting and peer assessment.

Mario likes the concept of peer assessment in the open on the blog, I think. He mentioned (with a wry smile on his face) the possible opportunities for subversion of older teaching methods with the open blog. But obviously, with such disparate educational cultures represented in this project, he’s been under a lot of pressure to provide a pre-moderation tool. And, as a non-believer in pre-moderation he’s the first person to convince me that it might work in some scenarios with the model he has created.

Best of all is that on his Technical Track blog he’s had students commenting on what they think of pre-moderation. They seem to like it because they’re afraid of making mistakes publicly. But in my mind it’s chicken and egg: why are they afraid of making mistakes in public? Is that not a reflection on the kind of attitudes and fears of failure that we instil in students in our classrooms? Is that perhaps a good set of attitudes for a student to have or is there more potential for success in learning publicly from each other’s errors?

I’m still open for convincing!

November 24, 2005

Keeping passwords safe

Kids like changing passwords. Kids forget passwords. The ECML system allows only teachers to give passwords so that these can be kept safe in school. Why not a “I’ve forgotten – email me my password”? Well, when you consider how many email apps that are banned in schools the email would not be read until potentially days or weeks after the password had been forgotten.

Old fashioned, but necessary for a pupil blogging tool.

Creating online language learning communities

How can we group student users to facilitate the best interactions? Is it best to group geographically and by language? According to the Maths Blog [LINK] teacher their biggest thrill comes from referrals and comments from “halfway around the planet”. But the language/geography structure does provide the necessary structure to allow students to find each other. It is prescriptive, yes, and it is hierarchical, just like a Web 1.0 (read “traditional”) website. It doesn’t seem to be encouraging the kind of RSS Glue [LINK] that we have been extolling over the past while, but it is organised and structured, just like a good lesson should be. A tricky conundrum.

Blog buddies allow bloggers to create their own blogroll and show off their friends’ blogs. Importantly, it allows the user to crosscut the strong hierarchy of the community blogroll. Conundrum solved?

Public-Private commenting

In the ECML blog model had to, unfortunately, disallow external commenting – unless the teacher decided otherwise. This was because some cultures would boycott a system that did  not block outside commenting, seen as an invitation to irresponsible commenting. Is there a half-way house where external comments are pre-moderated by the teacher before being forwarded to the student blog?

The right tool for the job: edublogging

Mario is talking about what educators might need in an edublogging tool. He describes most current blogging tools like the Swiss Army Knife. In trying to be everything to everyone most blogging tools come packed with features, some of the cool some of them not. In the same way that you would not eat a dinner with a Swiss Army Knife (you’d use the knife and fork that were designed for that purpose) we should be trying to get a tool for educational language learning blogs.

The tool would have to model the interactions that go on in any educational situation: there was an initial requirement for moderation, because that is what teachers (of old) have always done. We moderate, correct, never let anything out of the school. Are blogs not shaking this old-fashioned model of learning? Is it wise to build blogs on a current model? Is it not an opportunity to start changing the way we teach for the better, creating better, less restrictive interactions?

Stripping back the blog

The basic model is just that: basic. It is by design. One image per post, because one image for  one idea seems reasonable. More than one idea? Write more than one post. It helps organise your thoughts and retrieve information later.

Reverse chronology?

Is this the best way to learn languages? What if the blog is a tutor blog with something to teach step-by-step? Can we learn language backwards? Maybe not. So different blogs might have different chronological orders.

Categories?

How can students know how to categorise their posts in a helpful way? How can anyone know how to categorise their posts. The edu.blogs categories have got out of control as posts have interwoven and lines have got blurred. Some categories have one post, others have 100.

eduBlogsPodcast 7: Delphine's blogging experiences (French)

Un podcast où Delphine Mazzoleni explique comment elle a fait les blogs en classe en République Czèque. Dans la discussion qui suit les participants discutent le plus grand problème des blogs en classe : où finit la salle de classe et où commence la volonté des élèves de se conduire vers des sujets moins intéressants au niveau de leur éducation. Comment commencer des discussions à propos de sujets qui soutiennent le curriculum/cursus du pays ?

In this French podcast with Delphine Mazzoleni, a French teacher in Prague, to support the previous post, a discussion is ignited about where teachers can draw the line between students posting what they like – and getting off onto subjects that have little educational benefit, as perceived by their teachers – and teachers imposing subjects that may be of less interest in terms of student motivation and collaborative opportunities.

Download edublogsPodcast 7: Delphine

Podcast en français: “Blogger en classe”

edublogsPodcast 6: Why do we blog - ahem - write? ECML, Graz

This morning's seminar from Valerie on why we write and why we might want to blog it. (40mins)

Download eduBlogsPodcast 6: Why we write

A great point from Jose: Blogs and assessment: ECML, Graz

Great point from José, on why we write. Blogs and assessment are two very uneasy bed buddies, but he points out that assessment is actually helped by blogs. For once you don’t have to insist on one format for writing. The text on a blog can be applied to any format after the writing. Does this mean that the writing might get done before the incredibly ornate drawing around the text?

Also, no longer do we have to insist on students writing 30 identical essays. The blog permits individual writing to take place: pupil-led content and pupil-led form.

Why do we blog - ahem - write? ECML, Graz

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Yet more snow this morning but some hot discussion on the topic of writing. Now some of the complexities of blogging are coming out. But it's not the tech that's causing headaches, it's the whole reason behind why we get students to write in the first place. This is a continuation from two posts ago about the editing process.

The editing process

Some had a fear of the amount of time that would be required to edit a class-worth of work that had been blogged. However, Delphine, one of the pilot teachers, pointed out that, in fact, she had more time to spend with the weaker students. How? Because the stronger students in the class are able and keen to work on the screen, in apparent isolation but with the help of their community and teacher, if the required it. When they had finished their own blogging they made themselves available to help out and comment on their peers’ work, again through the screen. This left the teacher more time to teach those who needed it most while not neglecting the rest of the class.

Finding an audience, making connections

There was a fear also that Class A would not connect with Class B, that no common ground would be found. The general feeling seemed to be that the students would, by their human nature, seek out conversation with their peers. If they don’t know about a Greek film star, then they’ll talk about a Polish one they do know or, further still, talk about international cinema stars. Whatever it takes to get or keep a conversation going. It is not necessarily the personal language that is taught in schools normally that is the most interesting in terms of creating and maintaining conversations. Imaginative texts or using ‘third party’ texts can unite readers through the enjoyment of reading something for pleasure. From this text a conversation can develop based on real opinions on a higher plane that those that can develop in a conversation about football teams, for example.

We also talked about ‘finding voice’. Note to self: I’ll have to take some time later to seek out that set of posts from Warlick and Will where this is discussed.

ECML, Graz: Learning to work together

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I am discovering now how differently (and in many ways how similarly) we all work across Europe. This wall map shows how disparate the participants are geographically. This morning came the concern that students may not find anything in common because of these geographical differences. Is this possible? Certainly when we talk about the kind of personal things that most language teachers concentrate on at school (my name is, I have a black dog, my brother is 18) it's difficult to see how anyone can find common ground before they slump forward fast asleep.

Does geographical distance necessarily lead to distance in the conversations of blogging?

Why we write: ECML, Graz

Valerie started this morning with a seminar on why we write. Kind of important when writing a blog, but something which can be forgotten in the run to the technology.

Why do we write?

  • Share views
  • To vent emotions and feelings
  • To express views or judgement
  • As a way to keep records
  • As a way to retrieve information
  • To inform others of this information
  • To entertain

I’d like to think the last one, to entertain, also goes for the young writer:

  • (To have fun?)
  • (For pleasure?)

Examples of writing for different purposes

Specific reasons for the language learning pilot blogs’ writing included presenting themselves, their families, their pets and their home, the kind of personal language tasks we get kids to do in classes already. Others ventured further than we would normally (be able to) do in the four walls of a classroom, perhaps because the blog allowed them to publish and edit at home with the continued support of a teacher. Topics here included future plans, religious festivals, cultures, customs. As a first task there are advantages to using familiar topics, for the teachers involved as much as for the students: there is familiar ground on which to build. Accuracy was not the main goal either, which I like, because communication was the aim.

What is frustrating, perhaps, is not seeing any hyperlinks to other information. Is this because the tasks don’t really require this or lead to it?

What was great was the imaginative writing in a foreign language – completely out of this world, in fact [hyperlink needed here] – and reflection on current events and arguments going on in the world. Often these developed into inter-blog debates, where for and against arguments were put by different sides. The battle takes place in the comments, where students, for once, don’t have to write a 100-word essay to say that they agree or disagree with something. A simple sentence suffices.

Content of writing and audience

  • What we write depends on the audience: known or unknown?
  • Formal or informal?
  • Where is the writing going to be published?
  • Who is going to read it?
    Most writing done in the class has, until now, been done for the teacher. It’s not even been for the parent or classmate, so making this clear to students is essential as it affects all other areas.
  • The need to observe writing conventions?
    Accuracy is not important provided the message gets across. But where this inaccuracy hinders the message getting across, then the conventions of writing take on a new importance.
  • What type of writing is encouraged in a school context?

What do we write in language classes?

  • Argumentative: descriptive, critiques, narrative
  • Stories, reviews (Karolina M.)
  • Jokes, anecdotes
  • Thank you notes
  • Inclusion of graphs to show surveys and compare
  • Adverts (Example here)

Writing as a process

Writing does not just appear, and you cannot expect writing just to appear on a blog. The technology doesn’t do the writing for the student.

  • Develops in stages
  • Gradual process
  • Requires patience and practice
  • Becomes easier with assistance
  • In meaningful when it occurs in real contexts and there are models

Stages of writing

  • Planning and discussion
  • Drafting – putting down ideas
  • Editing – spelling? Coherence? Paragraphing? Remove ideas?
  • Publishing – personal diary, newsletter, article?

Just writing doesn’t include any of these stages and therefore fails in the languages classroom. But how long does each stage last? Does writing have to be complete by the end of one session?  Writers also have concerns that need addressed before writing begins: is accuracy important? Does it have to be fluent? These two issues relate to motivation and confidence to write and, possibly, publish.

Technology and writing

The use of technology promotes the types of literacy traditionally encouraged in the classroom but also teaches the information literacy required in the 21st century. Blogs are an ideal medium for achieving this double-literacy aim. They are also accessible anywhere and anytime where there is an internet connection, and make writing addictive.

November 23, 2005

edublogsPodcast 5: Peter Ford at ECML, Graz: Blogging in Language Learning

Peter Ford on why blogging is, well, brilliant for getting kids writing.

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Teacher experiences of language blogs: Czech Republic: Weblogs in Education, ECML, Graz

Starting off

The most important thing has been to get the communication exchanges – the communication – happening from the word go. If not, there is demotivation. Even if this means that some of the communication is inaccurate it didn’t really matter at the beginning. The thing was to get communicating – it was a free space. How can communication get off the ground? The teacher has to start writing themselves.

A small crib-sheet was essential because, with kids, what you have just explained to the whole class you end up having to explain to each individual straight after. That goes for the technical siude of things, too. Even when we think they kinow more than us technically, it’s not true when the tech is something new to them. They need their hands held just as much as an adult does the first time they use it.

Different language learning blogs

  • Homework reading posts
    The tutor blog carries an imaginative text, including the names of certain students whose blogs are hyperlinked in the text. Students write on the same topic on paper at home (what happened next, opinions…) before having it corrected and publishing it on the blog.
  • Current affairs blog
    On the tutor blog the teacher writes a small post about a current issue (news, national holiday, St Valentine’s Day) with hyperlinks to further reading on the issue. Students read the original post and the hyperlinked material before writing a post on their own blog in response.
  • Inspiration blogs
    Students and tutors can write something that pleases them (a poem, a picture, a small text).
  • Linking blogs
    Students or teachers can write posts directing each other to useful sites.
  • Blog commenting
    Sessions devoted to commenting on other student/teacher blogs.

Everything is pre-moderated by Delphine but she did offer the chance to students to be “demoderated”. Where they chose this they did, of course, make mistakes but they were ready to have the correction and comments from not just their teacher.

The best thing about blogging?

The students are finally using their foreign language for real communcation. Best of all, the kids didn’t realise they were learning when they were writing on the blog. The students were actually the first ones to complain about not studying because they were blogging once or twice a week. Of course, they didn’t see that the fun thing they were doing was… da, da, dahhhh… READING AND WRITING. And in a foreign language, to boot!

Teacher experiences of language blogs: Malta: Weblogs in Education, ECML, Graz

Starting off

Only a couple wanted a ‘screen persona’, most wanting to keep their real identity. Initially it was not plain sailing. Eagerness and enthusiasm were met with no posting, so whole-class blogging in the computer lab was necessary. It wasn’t equipment that was the problem. It was the lack of self-confidence to blog alone.

So with some help in class the first post came: from a quiet girl who normally didn’t contribute in class. She was congratulated publicly in class, and from then on the posts came. They actually felt more comfortable knowing that the teacher was moderating for accuracy, spelling and punctuation.

Once they had posted, they looked forward to comments, so the teacher always left a comment in the beginning. The students not working on blogs felt slightly left out and so they, too, started working on their own blogs.

Hard copies

Students started keeping hard copies of their blogs to show parents and those who could not / would not view the site. The students also wanted to keep some kind of paper log of not only the content but some also kept a log of when they blogged, the comments they got back even. With pre-moderation, they actually wrote on the changes on the hard copy, too. They clearly wanted to improve and see how they had improved.

This, for me, reinforces how important it could be for teenagers not to be premoderated. If there post is not premoderated then the students can see the changes made to the same text over time as they republish and republish again. There is no need to keep this paper duplication.

Reading and writing purposefully, researching because they didn’t want to lose face in front of everyone. The personalisation and use of artwork, colour and photos was essential in the search for readers.

There was a sense of competition. Who could write most frequently? Who could leave the most comments? Who could read the most to leave comments?

Guidelines

Pupils could write what they liked within the constrictions of some guidelines. The teachers gave topics that students could deal with from any angle. Students were encouraged to plan their content and given time to prepare this. Often they wrote their posts on paper first before putting this online.

Hidden talents

Students who can draw or write creatively often go unnoticed in the languages classroom – there is little space in the official curriculum for creatively. The blogs gave them the thinking time to do this and then the thrill of public appreciation for their talents.

Motivation

“Blogging became addictive”. Both the teacher and students involved looked forward to posting. Might this be because blogs cover a number of themes in the school curriculum, all at once?

Assessment

For the first time this teacher had writing entered into a Commonwealth writing competition and had 6 students commended and one highly commended. Is this because they had been writing so frequently and with such purpose on their blogs?

Peter Ford at Weblogs in Education, ECML, Graz

The Cogs of a Watch

Peter starts off the real explanation of what we’re here to do.

What are blogs?

None of the long-winded explanations (yet) but a four-point outline:

  • Weblogs are fully-functional websites that can be created and updated from any internet browser
  • Weblogs are websites made simple
  • Subversion incorporated
  • No guru required

But if, as a languages teacher, collaboration, interaction and project team participation are not high on your list then read no further. Blogging is all about this.

There’s no curriculum to which you are constrained, he points out. Is this not a problem for many education systems where teachers have been brought up in this culture and do have to conform?

But when we are constantly encouraged to work collaboratively over the net, how exactly are we supposed to do that? On a blog. But why should students respond to this? Because we give them explicit instructions and guidance as to how they might do that.

Stats – “much worse than in my country, not as bad in my country.”

98% of UK children watch 23 hrs of TV per week.

80 % have a home PC

70% have internet

80% games console

Teens read 15 mins per day

and watch 200 mins of TV per day

and use computers for 80 mins per day

Is this a bad thing like many adults make it out to be?

Why would teachers want to publish to the web?

Help children make sense of what’s happening in the world and help them operate in it. We missed the boat with TV, according to Peter. Why is it that kids can concentrate on TV for 3 hours every night, yet cannot concentrate on a teacher for 3 minutes? Blogging, in the hands of a responsible teacher, can bridge the gap between home and school.

It’s teachers who make the difference.

Good teaching and blogging – not that far apart.

Being explicit about expectations: the  poem. If we don’t model what we want from kids – on a blog or not – we cannot expect results. The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The great teacher explains. The super teacher inspires. And so kids should try to do the same. What do kids normally do in school? They tell whatever they’ve been told to tell back in their exam.

Blogging provides a way out of that. A tutor blog sets the example. See Peter’s tutor blog http://class6f.basblogs.com, where he shows kids what he’s reading at the moment (because he wants them to read), what he think of it (because he wants them to review their reading) and which team he supports (because he thinks his team is best – let the debate begin!).

But modelling what you want a class to do is not new. It’s just good teaching. So why do it so publicly?

Live Projects

Who is going to read this? The average audience is two. But this student (Project Rain Forest) was determined to get it read by more people, her writing immediately taking on real purpose. In four years she had 21,230 readers of her blog homepage, with half a million hits over that time. In fact, most of the readers came from Google or web.ask.com. People found her site looking for knowledge. Her learning had become someone else’s knowledge. Now, does that piece of writing take on a little more importance? Does the accuracy of knowledge take on more importance?

But it gets better. Hans chips in: he’s in Costa Rica and has visited a rain forest project there. It has a website. He provides the link. This is real collaborative learning. That’s why this kind of project should be blogged publicly and not kept to the four walls of the classroom.

Real purpose, audience, responsibility, collaboration, real student experts.

Student experts

Kids are going to be better experts than us in some areas (embedding audio, making slideshows in blogs) but they will not be better teachers than us.

If we want kids to write well in a language that is not their own then they have to write a lot. There just isn’t time to do that in the classroom and blogs give an opportunity to teach writing, and above all, get writing done. How do you teach writing over the blog? The blog is less important than showing them the way, leading them to their peers’ good work, hyperlinking to other sources that might help them. Offering your own model of constructive criticism on a regular (daily) basis, that all can see, teaches a class how to constructively criticise. If you want them to do two stars and a wish, you have to show them how. It’s all about the “Cogs in the Watch”: one doesn’t turn without the other. But when they all turn together, the sum of the whole is greater than its parts.

The fates guide those who go willingly, those who do not, they drag. Seneca

An excellent piece of advice from Peter, that should stop us from banging our heads any further. Don’t worry about the colleagues around you who don’t want to “get into technology”.

Introduction to Weblogs in Education, European Centre for Modern Languages, Graz

Mario, the Blogs in Education project coordinator, started out the seminar in a great way. In a setting where many of the participants don’t yet know what a blog is, he didn’t try to explain what a blog was, he didn’t even hint at it. Instead, he talked about the empowerment learners experience when given the chance to blog.

Audience

Audience empowers learners and might encourage quieter learners, or those who would not normally participate, to take part: something I have always said is the biggest pull for language learners, especially boys. Have you ever seen a teenaged boy moving around a classroom quietly? No, they need and love having an audience and blogs give them just that for their writing. The empowerment also means that there might be more writing than would otherwise take place.

Is it possible to quantify success? Delphine, who’s been part of the pilot project buts in: “The kids got a lot out of this”. Not easy to quantify, but there are changes in the way students approach their subject. So the question remains: how can we use blogs to get the best when we don’t know how to quantify it? Is blogging examinable, assessable? Do we want it to be assessable?

Mario has built in some educational blogging tools to encourage security and safety.

Exposure of the identity of the student has been limited by not allowing email to be shown, the ability to use a pseudonym and such like are options that the teacher can turn on or off.

Accuracy

Are teachers prepared to allow writing to be published that is not grammatically correct? Some cultures believe that the blog can reflect badly on the school’s image. They see it as an official publication almost, and so are sensitive to error correction.

The ECML blog system facilitates private comment posting from the teacher at the pre-moderation stage, allowing the blog’s use of comment-conversation to continue without being usurped by sending one-way emails. It’s maybe not the non-pre-moderated blogging that I’ve been keen on teenagers being allowed to use, but it does kind of keep the conversation going on the blog.

But this makes me think carefully about the forthcoming Les Blogs 2.0. If the ECML and other public institutions are making blogging apps designed for the purpose, are private enterprises like SixApart and Microsoft are missing out on the biggest untapped market going? This model has been stripped right back and the features education wants have been added on top.

Nicole Simon had said the other night in an interview for the Les Blogs Pre-Conf podcast that companies might not see any money in education. I beg to differ. For SSDN we’ve just spent 37.5 million pounds on the national intranet. No money in education? No money in edublogging? Hmm…