As I am starting to really get around a bit here at the ADC Exchange it dawned on me that it is so close to a very powerful model for classroom utilization of blogs … we are missing a couple key components, but the start is really quite impressive given how all this came about (another story for another day). Right now, there are several blogs, written by several people, that cover critical themes related to the concepts of pervasive computing. All that is really missing is the front-end aggregator blog to pull it all together. What a learning environment! I have seen several good examples of the multi-user blogging system in place and it makes for quite a powerful conversation space.I teach with technology — I’ve done that since I started teaching six years ago. I am more than comfortable blowing things up and seeing where and how the pieces land. Students tend to get frustrated in the first week and say things like, “what the hell is going on here?” … but after that week, they come around, get excited, and get involved. That to me is the key to all this — trying things that will make the content, material, activities, and the other stuff of learning come to life. It sorts of fits that first level of instructional strategies — motivation. The technology aspects provide a spark … and I have to say the fact that students see their professor trying new things seems to get them interested in what I have to say. I guess they realize that I’m not worried about looking dumb or out of touch. Its kind of cool when you let your guard down, let your students call you by your first name (like friends tend to do), and just enter the learning space with them.
But, back to the Exchange place … the tool that drives this and all the other blogs is WordPress — IMHO, the best single user blogging tool available (did I mention its free?). It is so easy to install and get running. I used this instead of my University’s Learning Management System (LMS), ANGEL last fall and my students loved it. We looked at why they did and it just blew me away how much more they used the space than the “old-fashioned” message boards of the past. I have posted about some of these experiences in my Learning & Innovation blog, so head over to see some results. Interesting stuff. If you gave each student a space like this (or even, dare I say a Blogger space), let them respond to interesting questions, encourage them to write about what is meaningful to them, and them put a single access point at the front end in place (an aggregator) you’d have a very powerful, semi permanent learning environment. What do I mean by that? My goal with using a blog to encourage discussion last semester was to start a longitudinal space for students to use semester after semester. In the LMS world, once you finish the semester, the space is locked down and unusable by new members of your courses. Why must we start every semester from scratch? Why can’t our students stand on the shoulders of their previous peers? I think they can — but the tools have to support it.
Sorry for the rant, but it is nice to see a space like this with multiple perspectives all discussing a similar topic – sort of feels like a class. I think as you make your way around here, you should get sparks of ideas for how to change the landscape of your classrooms … doing so my provide either your students or you with the motivation to learn some new stuff. Isn’t that what education is all about? If you want to discuss any ideas, just drop a comment or email any of us! We’re dying to get the conversation started!