Sunday, November 28, 2004

Unstable Knowledge

One of the required readings for my ECOMP 7007 class is FOCUS: Five Rules for Writing a Great Web Quest by Bernie Dodge, one of the innovators of the Web Quest. During a discussion of scaffolding, Dodge says, "In an earlier era when content was more stable..." This notion that content, and therefore information, knowledge, and understanding, can be unstable is a true construct of the information age. Being able to work with unstable content, with knowledge and understanding that may not mean the same thing, or even exist, in a few months or years, is a true 21st century challenge and an area where students need help developing the higher order thinking skills required to make sense of such a world.

Jack McLeod, as quoted at Weblogg-ed, discusses throwing away all of our current curriculum and starting to teach kids how to manage information. Perhaps this is where we are headed. I had a chemistry teacher in high school who insisted we not bother memorizing anything about chemistry. His belief was we would internalize what we needed on a regular basis (it took me ten years to forget Avogadro's number) and could look up anything else. He was very good at teaching us how to find what we needed.

We are all wrestling with just how unstable content has become. Blogs and the ability to create a community of shared meaning are a step toward sorting it all out.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Search Begins

I've begun researching the use of blogs in the classroom, and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and underwhelmed all at once.

Quite a few bloggers out there are rather rabid, and I'm beginning to wonder if somehow the internet has spawned the solution to everyone, everywhere, finally getting along. Ah, hyperbole. Still, the excitement surrounding the power of blogs to give voice to the world is real. This excitement is infectious; how will my students engage in the world through blogs? The little I have seen in my early diggings gives me hope.

I haven't, however, found much on many of the issues that a school-sponsored foray into the blogosphere ought to be creating. Where are the discussions of the child protection act? of protecting the privacy of minors? of protecting the teacher and district from lawsuits? I am fully enamoured with the glittering power of student-led publication, but the realist--the one who keeps me employed and pays the bills--knows this is not an area to charge into headlong. Indeed, there are very good reasons not to blog. The idea of the secret service visiting one of my students in the middle of the night because of something s/he wrote is chilling in the least.

I've only scratched the surface and there are so many questions. Questions are good.

Entering the Blogosphere

Hello World!

I have never been an early adopter of anything, but I do love technology and what it can do to give people a greater voice. So, now that blogs have been around for a bit and they appear to be sticking around, I have decided to play around with one and see what it is like.

I have been reading a few blogs for about three months now. My ongoing favorite is Aaron Swartz' blog. His frank, honest discussions of life now that he has started college are quite refreshing and remind me of what was going on in my head as a freshman. A true shame I didn't have the technology (or nerve ) to publish like this when I was in college.

My foray into blogs, though, is with a different purpose in mind. I see blogs as a wonderful, powerful way for my students to be heard beyond the walls of the classroom. I want them to start blogging, to extend and participate in conversations about what they are learning. But, before I can help them reach out into the ether and communicate, I need to know how it all works, so here I am.