[Updated to include latest ‘Blogs @’ services as of 5th June]
This is a draft of an article I’m submitting to the web-based version of the new magazine elearning. It’s half story, half link-fest and mostly focused on being short enough to easily digest, click off from in one quick scan.
What I’m wondering is whether I’ve missed anyone / thing out that I shouldn’t have (not difficult!) and if you think I’m taking the right tack in the last few paras… or if they could have a different ‘theme’…. all comments much appreciated!
(oh, and I wanted to get edublogs.org up and running for this but only a miracle in time management will make that happen!)
Edublogs are go!
Back in July 2003 there was a group called the Educational Blogging Network, there was Schoolblogs and KairosNews, there was EdBlogger 2003, De Anza College and Middlebury CET, there were pioneers like Will Richardson, Jay Cross, Anne Davis, Ray Schroeder, Maish Nichani, Charlie Lowe, Stephen Downes, Jenny Levine, Jim Flowers, Albert Delgado, David Carter-Tod, Sebastian Fiedler, Patrick Delaney, Sarah Lohnes, Alan Levine, Sebastian Paquet, Lilia Efimova, Mario Asselin, Pam Pritchard and many many more.
The idea of using blogs in education was getting knocked about a bit, people were playing with Userland’s Manila (climaxing in the Weblogs @ Harvard project), thinking about the impact of blogs in education and, of course, mixing this in with their discipline, professional experience and lives. As blogs are wont to do.
Around 2004, however, something started to happen. Stephen Downes identified it in Educational Blogging as ‘a trend that is sweeping the world of online learning: the use of weblogs to support learning’ and it was coming from both ways. By 2005, students had started to blog their everyday experiences, the teen focused LiveJournal boasting some 5 million users alone, Blogger 8 million, Microsoft 4.5 and educators and academics starting to recognise the power of sharing, reflecting and, discussing and recreating their own online space.
At around the same time academia started to realise the value in sharing and discussing issues through the web. The success of Crooked Timber and the emerging literature citing and examining weblogs as research sources and tools demonstrated that it was far from just the kids who were blogging.
Which brings us to now, where ‘weblogs @’ programs are coming up strong. There’s weblogs@upei, UThink: Blogs at the University Libraries, weblogs.ucalgary.ca, Warwick Blogs, Blogs @ Case, weblogs at Dartmouth, weblogs at usc, Blogs@SI, Blogs@USF, Blogs @ Rice, the Friends World Program East Asia Center, schoolof.info, Educause Community Blog Services and many marketing departments sharing authentic blogs from learners including Taylor, UW-L and Eller (I’m not going to link to the fake, non-blog, ones!) 2004 even saw the inaugral Edublog Awards.
So, where too from here? There are many questions that are going to start being asked about open versus closed environments, about the exact role that blogs might play in learning, about where they sit in relation to portfolios and, perhaps most significantly, what the dominating Courseware Management Systems, WebCT and Blackboard, are going to do as demand for blogging grows.
As learners and academics start to speak to each other and the world on the web, one thing that is becoming increasingly clear is that they are doing it with open source platforms such as WordPress and Drupal together with free-to-use platforms like Blogger, LiveJournal or Xanga. Throughout higher education, however, learning and courseware management systems are almost entirely proprietary with enormously attractive returns to the suppliers of these systems.
Consequently there are two types of openness that blogging might bring to online education and elearning. The first being a movement towards openness, towards expression in the pubic arena with a move away from the cocoon of the discussion board and highly authenticated environment. The next is that in this move there is every indication that institutions might forgo the usual ‘all-in-one’ solutions and explore the new edublogging world through established, mature and open source technologies. And once organisations realise they can simply do that, quite a change could start to happen.
Even if there is no seismic shift, however, one thing is undeniable. Edublogging is taking hold and with it a shift in online communication is coming that will change the way we teach and learn. Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride.