Sunday, January 29, 2006

Group blogs don't work in education?

Last week I managed to find the time to attend James Farmer's presentation on blogging for the TESOL evo2006 Blogging session. (You'll have to create an account at Learning Times to watch this session, but it's well-worth it)



It was a shame that there were some audio problems, but all-in-all the session was very thought-provoking, but I think it raised more questions than it answered.



James was clear and provocative in his opinions on what a edublog should be and how you should use it, and equally so on how you shouldn't use one, and what it isn't.



For me, I had a problem with his insisting that group blogs (when they are not publications, if I heard him correctly) just don't work.



I disagree and think I have been involved with and seen many group blogging projects in education that do work.


Now don't get me wrong here, I do believe that the true power of blogging, and the ideal, lies in giving the individual the freedom to express him or herself, and that the best way of doing this is to give the student a space which they own and which allows a great degree of personal freedom for them to organise it as they wish and to post about things that really interest them.



However, I'm also convinced that this ideal is not possible in all learning or teaching situations (I'll outline this thinking in a future post), especially in the field of EFL, and I really didn't like seeing James's rules been delivered as edublogging law to a group of educators that have (mainly) just started to embark on their edublogging experience. I suppose my main problem with it was that it did come across as a bit of 'blog expert bullying' rather than an opinion.



I said during the session that I thought there was a strong argument for some teachers starting off in EFL edublogging to begin with a group blog. Again, I'd like to outline why I think this in another post.
Meanwhile, I know there has been a lot of discussion about this at James Farmer's blog, and that James has also written a paper. I read this only briefly when it was published, so I think before I start writing any more about this subject, I need to read all of this...(and see if the arguments can change my mind)...



...to be continued...

...when I find the time...between moderating the ELT Podcasting session...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Social Bookmarking: with del.icio.us

I just finished writing a post to explain to participants of the evo2006 ELT Podcasting group why we have decided to use del.icio.us, and realised that it was probably worth sharing with people here too:



Its use is not as obvious at first, but I find del.icio.us to be such a useful tool. I am going to try here to attempt to write a tailor-made explanation of why we're using this site:



1) Basically, the best way to approach it at first is as an online bookmarks/favourites space. Sign up for an account and you can store all your favourite links here instead of them being tied to your own computer (this is especially useful if you work in different places, or use several different computers)



2) But, this is only part of the story of why this site is so good. It's called 'social bookmarking' software and that gives us a clue to its real strength, especially for educators:



- Del.icio.us uses tags (key words). Saving links with a unique tag (podcasting_elt, for example) means you can share a body of links with a specific group of people.



3) Del.icio.us is perfect for finding out what the latest 'hot' links are - search on a specific tag (try 'podcasting', for example) and you'll find it works as search engine, the difference being that all of the results were selected by (usually savvy) Web users. Once again, perfect for keeping abreast of what's really new on the Web, without having to wade through irrelevant sites picked up by Search Site bots.



4) Finally, del.icio.us offers a way of people not only reading what you are writing, but also what you are reading. Stick a link to your del.icio.us account on your website or weblog, and people can see the interesting things you come across. Do this on a site aimed at students, with a unique tag and you have an easy way of providing them with up-to-date content relevant to their needs.



5) The easiest way to keep track of our http://del.icio.us/tag/podcasting_elt
links is to add the RSS feed of this into a newsreader (also known as an aggregator). This will let you keep track of everything without having to constantly revisit the site to find out what's new. If you don't have an aggregator, try http://www.bloglines.com, which is an online aggregator/news reader.



6) Make things really easy and download a del.icio.us toolbar to your browser : http://del.icio.us/toolbar/ (this is for the Firefox browser)