Posts Tagged ‘blogs’

Evaluating a potential innovation

I am going to apply Petit’s framework based on Rogers’ 5 types to my attempt to introduce blogs (blogspot.com) for student records of work, shared through a course wiki (Wetpaint) which I started doing for all my classes last semester.

Relative advantage: wikis provide a more informal, personalised and user friendly learning space than the institutional alternative (BBVista). Individual wikis can be tailored to class needs, and the teacher has the option of removing the barrier of permissions (required in Vista) by making the site editable by all. Wikis are free, and include discussion boards. It is also possible to embed a chat widget, allowing users to communicate with each other at any time. This reduces more barriers and gives students the opportunity for community building that may not be possible in a  f-t-f context as it (potentially) has the democratising effect of giving all students a voice.

Compatibility

Some pedagogical debate arose around the issue of  paper vs digital records. I encouraged all students to post a link to their blog, containing examples of their writing, in the class wiki. Take up was varied and, although all of the students had a blog with one or two posts in it, only a few kept up their blogs. Their assessed task, decided by the course team, was to hand in a physical copy of their writing including first and second drafts. Keeping a record of how many students were up to date with their paper portfolios was time consuming and difficult to manage if students were absent. Many students ended up handing in hastily prepared work at the last minute. In future I think it would be beneficial to have institutional support for digital records of learning by making them part of the assessment.

Complexity

A short training session may be necessary to help teachers understand the functions available in wikis. Personally, I watched the ‘really simple’ video explanation and then used the FAQ section of the help forum to find answers. The ‘live beta’ global input from users is infinitely more accessible than the help available in Vista.

Trialability

The constant appearance of more and more free Web 2.0 tools necessitates some ‘playing around’ to appreciate how they can be exploited. Wikis are not a new tool, but ways of using them for collaborative activities take time to develop and limitations may need to be side stepped. For example, I learned the hard way that 20 people can’t edit the wiki simultaneously, but by embedding a Google spreadsheet the problem was solved.

Observability

Although the benefits of using wikis and blogs have remained between me and the classes I taught, just by discussing them with colleagues and conducting a PD session, more and more members of staff are creating their own class wikis.