Sunday, January 23, 2005

Reflection 1

The end of week one in EVO2005

Well, we've managed to get people "into the room" and it's STARTING to come together. I need to spend some time today rebuilding my aggregator. My trusted laptop died Friday night -- taking with it about 3 weeks worth of un-backed up work and I've spent the last 36 hours rebuilding my platform. I'm about ready to get back into the fray here now.

Back to the EVO experience.

Bee, Aaron, and Graham are doing a great job managing the group. I've enjoyed talking to the people in our group -- altho the conversation has been a little fragmented in the wiki. There's an interesting dynamic with wiki's ... They are MISERABLE to navigate in. You have to know what's there in order to find it. The collaboration sandbox pages are a great idea, but they're not supported by RSS so we need to keep checking and checking ... I wonder if there's a solution to that. Hm.

The group -- if the Ann Davis chat is any indicator -- is REALLY interested in the K-12 applications of this technology. I know the list has been filled with email about older students. And the main questions are technical. Which blog engine? How do you control access? How do you control the students? What do you get them to write about?

The more interesting questions are
- how do we build communities around this technology?
- what are the instructional goals that can be supported?
- what are some possible instructional strategies that the technology can support?

Of course, we haven't really gotten into aggregators yet, which is one of the reasons people are floundering on the listserv and wiki, trying to talk to each other. With about 70 active participants and almost 200 people in the Yahoo Group, that's a lot of floundering.

Enough reflection. I need to get some action going here. :D


Graham said...

Hi Nathan

I agree with you about the most important questions. It's easy to get tied up with technical questions, especially if the technology is new to you.

I think that it's easy for teachers interested in technology to get excited about a particular tool, and much harder to actually investigate it fully and see if it really does hold promise as a way of helping students learn. I must admit, that's what first excited me about blogging, when I came across a situation that showed me it really did work (with Barbara Dieu's Beeonline blog) - here were students who were obviously intrinsically motivated to read and write in English, and some of them were so into it, they were blogging whenever they got the chance. And then some of the students started to take and interest in the basics of HTMl so they could personalise their blogs. All that opened my eyes to the potential of blogging with students two summers ago.

I suppose that's why I stopped at Blogger for so long, which was the first blog-tool I ever used. I remember people trying to convince me to swap to other tools, or to try them out, but I felt it was more important for me to concentrate on getting the other things right, rather than experimenting straight away with new tools.

Since then, I think one of the most interesting questions is how to build a community around blogs, and we'll be looking at this later on in the course. I was lucky enough to attend an online e-moderating course with our week 6 guest speakers, and this course was full of very solid practical advice on community building, which I'm hoping they will share with us during their session.

As for the floundering, I see it as a necessary stage of getting to grips with blogging. It's a difficult thing to show people the advantages of an aggregator and RSS before they have picked up blog (or other news feed) reading habits - with potentially so much information flying about in the next few weeks, I think we'll here a collective sigh of relief as people realise the potential of an aggregator to make their life easier.

Meanwhile, I think it's a valid experience for people to be running around checking - I think I benefitted, before I'd ever heard of an aggregator, and spent hours visiting students blogs, checking if they had changed anything.

Well, Nathan, I've been reading your blog with great interest, and I look forward to reading future posts.

Chris said...

Hi, Nathan,

Clearly, you're more advanced in blogging and wikis than some of the rest of us though I did have a class blog last semester. I definitely agree with you about the more interesting questions, but I have to try things out for myself before I can come up with pedagogical uses.

Different people may attend the next synchronous session since it's at a different time of day and thus more convenient for people in different places.

Nathan Lowell said...

Thanks for the comments to both of you.

The group has been fascinating to watch and participate with and yes, I've been building blogs and working with blog engines for over a year now, experimenting with various ways to create communities. So the technology is not new to me.

The Farmer event today is particularly interesting to me, but the timing is unfortunate. It's the exact hour I have to pick up my daughters from school so there's no way I can participate. I'm REALLY anxious to see how the space is organized and administered, but I'll have to wait for another opportunity :D


Bee said...

Thanks for the OPLM file in YG. It works wonders! You have to teach me how to make one. It will come in handy next week and as Graham points out RSS will make sense then.

And yes...the questions you ask are the ones we all will be trying to answer at the end of this workshop.

The first questions and doubts are usually related to the technology itself...then the use...and finally the philosophy behind it ;-)