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Blogs and Wikis: Two Outstanding EDUCAUSE Review Articles

Wow. That’s about all, i can comment. Wow.

The newest EDCAUSE Review has not one, but two top notch articles on things near and dear to the CogDog, blogs and wikis. These are so good I am ready to print them, something I almost never do (at least to stop that annoying Educause web design of having the graphi of the cover bounce with every page scroll).

In Educational Blogging Stephen Downes not only provides a wide and detailed view of weblogs and educators who are doing it well, but he hits the stride of the article in a most appropriate manner It opens not with a definition of weblogs or a proclamation that it will revolutionize education, but he opens with a real story, something meaningful, a description of Institut St-Joseph where elementary schools have been active blog portfolio creators for quite some time:

This last group of students, eight or so at a time, fire up their browsers and log into their cyberportfolios, a publication space that Principal Mario Asselin calls a “virtual extension of the classroom.”1 This virtual space is composed of three sets of weblogs, or blogs: a classroom Web space, where announcements are displayed and work of common interested is posted; a public, personal communication zone, where students post the results of their work or reflection; and a private personal space, reserved for students’ thoughts and teacher guidance.

After a riveting tour across some blog history amd a tasty set of educator blog stories, Stephen gets down to the thoughtful questions. What will educational institutions do about blogs? Will they continue to paint them as niche activities, as just “diaries”? I’m think Stephen even pulled some of his usual punches, but it matters not as he fires them from OLDaily on a regular basis.

Even better are some thoughts on what motovates blogging:

But perhaps the most telling motivation for blogging was offered by Mark Pilgrim in his response to and elaboration on “The Weblog Manifesto”: “Writers will write because they can’t not write. Repeat that over and over to yourself until you get it. Do you know someone like that? Someone who does what they do, not for money or glory or love or God or country, but simply because it’s who they are and you can’t imagine them being any other way?”

And then worries about what may happen if blogs get institutionalized, when students are not writing because of the internal motivation described above by Mark Pilgrim, but become hum drum homework assignments?:

And herein lies the dilemma for educators. What happens when a free-flowing medium such as blogging interacts with the more restrictive domains of the educational system? What happens when the necessary rules and boundaries of the system are imposed on students who are writing blogs, when grades are assigned in order to get students to write at all, and when posts are monitored to ensure that they don’t say the wrong things?

This article will be one of the top must reads I refer to for an introduction on blogging.

But wait, it gets even better, and let’s hear it from another Canadian, Brian Lamb, on his EDUCAUSE article Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, Ready or Not, where he takes on the daunting task of elucidating the mud of wikis.

Like his other articles, Brian tackles this with sharp writing, clever wit (the headings written as WikiWords!), and some of the most fitting quotes one could find. Where does he find them?

For example, under TheStandardObjection, why people fell uncomfortable taking wikis on:

There’s a very common reaction that newcomers express when first introduced to wikis: “That looks promising, but it can’t work for me.” Their objection to wikis is nearly universal: “If anybody can edit my text, then anybody can ruin my text.” Human nature being what it is, to allow free access to hard-earned content is to indulge open-source utopianism beyond reason.

This concern is largely misplaced. Think of an open wiki space as a home that leaves its front door unlocked but doesn’t get robbed because the neighbors are all out on their front steps gossiping, keeping a friendly eye on the street, and never missing a thing. This ethic is at the heart of “SoftSecurity,” which relies on the community, rather than technology, to enforce order.

Like Stephen’s blogging article, this one too is rich in great and lesser known wiki examples both in education and beyond. I’m clicking like made, and getting lost in these excellent set of nudged resources to explore.

Wikis will continue to be strange places, but with article’s like this one, it will help to light the way. I’ve already sent it to our folks involved with using wikis on our Ocotillo efforts, as they have struggled much to figure out “what to wiki”.

Wow. Read both of this over and over, send them to colleagues, make them required readings for your workshops.

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

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