Living to learn, Learning to blog

I attended tonight the first of a series of workshops Ivanoe Grammar is planning in conjunction with VITTA on the technology classroom. VITTA sees the role of information technology association as broadening, from IT teachers to supporting other professional networks, including this blogging event and they’re beginning to lead in that direction.

James Farmer from edublogs was the keynote speaker. I’ve heard James Farmer before but this time he began with E.M Forster’s vision of the future, which might be seen as a kind of vision for the internet.

He showed us the ‘machine’ we’ve been given (Blackboard and WebCT) and asked whether they were good. He showed us the discussion board in Blackboard (which he called a threaded bulletin board’ and talked about the loss of identity and ownership
in this kind of communication. He asked us what kinds of things these LMS’s offered (address book, tasks, calendar) and said we didn’t want them. (we already have calendars and address books don’t we?)

On the other hand, he said that mySpace offered young people ‘identity’. He talked about Facebook, instant messaging, RSS feeds and the ways that people connected with each other.

He argued that we were still getting transmittive Victorian pedagogies, mainly because we were asking for them. He showed a picture of a giant Swiss army knife, which represented an LMS.

What we really want, he argued, was collaboration and interaction, just as happens in real life good classrooms.

He argued for the iintegration of existing tools, not a giant one size fits all tool.

James Farmer said that blogs were now just ‘websites’, which integrated other tools like youtube, slideshows, Flickr, Twitter, in flexible ways that LMS’s didn’t allow. He argued for the possibility for ‘subversion’ and that we needed teaching presence (structure, process), cognitive presence (content, discourse) and social presence. He said that Blackboard discussion forums didn’t allow for developed social presence and that the new tools (esp. blogs) offered much greater potential here. The process isn’t one of creating a course that students ‘go through’ but co-creating course content with students with the blog as a hub.

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