It’s only been a few days since a number of fabulous presentation as conversation sessions on blogs, social software, and education here in Vancouver (I am still lingering at chez Lamb). D’Arcy has already posted a superultimate summary that distills the summaries quite nicely, and I am one of many where at our UBC and Northern Voice sessions with a new sense of wonder at how we move forward.
From the words, experiences of colleagues here, I have a nagging ring about the phrase “Blogs In Education”, something I likely have used myself and of which are countless conference sessions, journal articles, PhD theses… It’s the “in” that bugs me. The disconnect for me is this phrase presumes that blogs can be something that lies solely within the confines of education, excluding the personal nature of blog writing, the personal ownership of blog writing, and the connectivity in our lives that naturally does not stop at the edge of campus.
So maybe I am just throwing darts at words, but the symptoms are ones I heard about just this week- where institutions decide for not so bad reasons, to set up a blog system for all their employees, students, even before they have a plan or notion as to how it will be used. Said systems are set up with boundaries, fixed templates with official logos, and likely can be visualized as nice store fronts with tumbleweeds blowing by. Or other cases, where we heard of schools where individual course blogs are set up, only to require students to log in/ post to 4 or 5 different blog sites (who owns the writing there?). Or where blogged course content evaporates because the course does. Some people have the notion that its a great idea to plug in blog functionality to a course management system where content has a life span of one semester (which as Brian aptly notes is about how long many bloggers take to develop their writing style and voice).
How arcane is it going to sound when the MySpace generation crashes on the shore and we ask them to write just their Chemistry notes in Big U’s Official Blog That Allows Only Lab Notes? This notion that an educational blog is something unique and separate from our whole experience is jarring to me. Our lives are strung together from an array of overlapping experiences that transcend boxes, yet we continue to advocate these boxes for learning experiences.
More than one educator has noted the significance of writing that is owned by the writer not the people who give them a pad of paper.
So the notion of “blogs” being something separate and alone inside “education” is a bit doomed for me to dismality (okay, there are some splendid exceptions or more than just some). To swing the opposite way is also not exactly all enticing, to rely solely on external hosting, or the notion of just pure aggregation into a SuprMyEduGluGlob all the disparate pieces from elsewhere. Technically possible yes, but real implementation? It needs to be more than just a pile of glue.
This would be something where there are filtering aggregation tools that can gather content by collecting information from tags or keywords. So a learner can be using many different internal or external tools and use the glu-like stuff to create different and dynamic reformulations. It is pretty vague and conceptual (but do-able).
I buy the concept, and even advocate it, but it seems so nebulous a construct totally devoid of design and structure, that I envision a giant blob of content that is hard to decipher. Again, that D’Arcy guy is got some good ideas flowing on the not so mythical EduGlu and is even plotting a forge for it. I think just for the sake of creating new tools and approaches to using aggregation, I am all for it. In fact, I have a huge amount of techno success by seeing which way the D’Arcy moves as far as looking at new technologies. Blaze on.
On the other hand, institutions have rightfully placed concerns about privacy (especially k-12) and needing by legal requirements to document student work used for asssessment (cache it baby?).
So the notion of blogging completely internalized to education makes me very cautious as does the ultimate disaggregation external, and the more vexing problem is sorting out where the middle ground lies. And there will not be singular answers or Laws to Blog by.
And even this discussion of blogs as single entities rubs me wrong– many people I know and respect have not a single blog but several, and blogs are not the whole enchilada anyhow. The ways many are using blogs to be just a piece in the ecosystem of disaggregated content (images at flickr, bookmarks at delicious, goals at 43things, documents at Writely, brainstorming at PBWiki, aido at OurMedia etc), that there is a whole lot more to this than just “blogs” in or out of education. And it is going to get more fragmented as we go.
So in the end here, I have no answers, but many, many more questions to flesh out, a la the blog as outboard brain. It is not as simple as just talking about “Blogs in Education” so please send me a crate of canned spam if I let that phrase slip out again. We need an integrated approach to all of this, not a bolt on one.
I wish I had a big prophetic statement, but I am blogging it as one of those things that is processed via my blog not pronounced. I just don’t know.