Blogging in schools

Sep 27, 2005

Miles Berry

A few elgg related things have struck me over the last week or so, so thought I’d share them here.

The first was Jeff Flyn’s recent post about Young Learners, which resonated well with a lot of what I’ve been thinking – I was really taken with his idea of the blog as a page created for the young learner rather than necessarily by them, although it could mix the two, with a gradual move to more learner created content over time. This is a tremendously appealing way of presenting the whole personalized learning notion which is getting more attention in school policy here. The problem would be teachers finding time to add personalized content, links, ideas, whatever into the blogs of all their pupils, but something like elggs groups might provide a vehicle for this, or it could be possible to write stuff straight to the database for all the learners in a particular category.

The personalized learning thing is emphasized in the DfES e-strategy Harnessing Technology. Here’s an excerpt from the Secretary of State’s introduction:

I am particularly excited by the idea of giving every student and learner a personal online learning space […] And in the future it will be more than simply a storage place – a digital space that is personalised, that remembers what the learner is interested in and suggests relevant web sites, or alerts them to courses and learning opportunities that fit their needs.

OK, so Elgg can have a role to play in providing this, but it keeps the social dimension to learning too – instead of relying on the machine to ‘suggest relevant websites’, Elgg’s social model means that it’s the other learners who’re doing the suggesting, and thus far more authentic, situated learning becomes possible as the learners can continue the dialogue that those sites might initiate, in a way which automatically generated lists of relevant sites are unlikely to promote.

The other really interesting thing was an email from a product manager at a big educational computing supplier, asking about blogs, and how I thought they could be used in education. Here’s what I said:

I’m certainly not an expert on blogs, but I think there’s a huge amount that they can offer in a school based setting […] It’s relatively early days for most of this web 2.0 stuff in schools, so there’s limited practical work and hardly any academic research at school level, but lots of enthusiasm amongst us early adopters.

A couple of avenues suggest themselves,

1) as a learning journal, focussed on school work, with the opportunity for learners to reflect on their work in a course or across a range of courses, and providing ocumentation of work done for coursework etc, with possible linkage to e-portfolio type stuff.

2) as the learner’s personal space, closer to the classical’ blog, to provide them with opportunity to comment on issues as they affect them, some of which may be school related, but needn’t be so – perhaps closer to the personal homepages of days past or something akin to the pages, but with regularly updated content and most of the presentation stuff taken care of so users can concentrate on the content. This is the route we’re taking, but our context is a bit unusual, I suppose.

Integration into a VLE would be probably high up the list for most schools, but it’s been interesting here to keep the two separate – they seem to like the life / work distinction and it’s good for them to see more than one package. The moblogging (ie updating the blog from a mobile, either by SMS, photo, audio or video) would be cool if you could get it working securely.