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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Revolutionary Practices Gone Right: Blogs without Preauthorization



David Warlick had a thought provoking post about Clarence Fisher's work (See my post on Clarence's amazing classroom) that hits at the heart of my edublogging contemplation for the summer:
One thing that struck me was that Fisher left my Class Blogmeister classroom blogging tool and chose James Farmer’s LearnerBlogs. The interesting story is that he left for exactly the reason why scores of educators from around the world are signing up for Blogmeister. They want and need the control that blogmeister is designed to deliver. Yet, Fisher found that it was the control that was preventing classroom blogging from working to the degree that he wanted. Therefore, he switched to Farmer’s Wordpress-based blogging service for students, a system that is open, where student blogs immediately go public.
First of all, let me say that Dave is refreshingly analytical about classroom practices, he does not have a hidden agenda (like selling Classblogmeister...a service he does for free) or telling one side of the story (like selling classblogmeister...), he seems to focus on classroom practices.

Here is my comment to Dave's insightful post:

This is the beauty of the edublogosphere: someone in Manitoba, Canada, the remote reaches of Australia, or rural Georgia can contribute to the best practices and thinking of education. Yes, cities attract many bright people but many of us who have been called "bright" at earlier times in our lives, also choose to go to towns of 2,000 people where if you talk about a "blog" people some people think you believe in aliens.

I have been wrestling with the control issue for a while. I love the ability to edit and control on Class Blogmeister and have enjoyed the work on Think.com this summer which has an incredible automatic profanity filter and blocker. The thing about think.com is that no one is allowed in BUT students.

I've seen some amazing work happening just using blogger.

I also had some kids make several comments about blogging on classblogmeister like the following:

How can I know when I am getting a comment when it has to be approved by the teacher first?
and

Blogs are also helpful because that is a website where everyone can come and comment on people's ideas and talk back and forth. One downfall of blogging is that it sometimes takes a while for your blog to show up.


Kids want it to show up NOW. They want to know who is commenting. They do not like the idea of the proverbial big brother watching. (Or big momma as we say in south Georgia...)

On the other hand, many of them do not have correct grammar and spelling. Sometimes things that are innappriate is posted. I think that in today's "point the finger" mentality of education, everyone is trying to blame the "bad teacher." In fact, our local newspaper's squawk box had someone complaining about why Albany, Georgia is so bad and said it was "all the bad teachers." I think we have some excellent teachers in South Georgia. We have a system that is not working in many places.

This blame game environment has created a system where teachers are expected to NEVER mess up and NEVER make mistakes and their students should not mess up or ever make mistakes. When we deal with children they are not fully developed adults. They WILL mess up and they WILL make mistakes. Teachers are inclined to want to catch it before another person does, and with jobs at stake more than ever, I can not say that I blame them.

I do wish parents and the public were more in partnership with teachers than in opposition to teachers.

I am still struggling with balancing the desires of students to be less "controlled" while still keeping a hawk eye on things. This is a major point of contemplation for me this summer and you have hit at the heart of the matter.

I admire you for not having any agenda but the best for education. I admire Clarence Fisher greatly and look forward to listening to the podcast.
Dave also points to a podcast that I will be listening too soon: Part 3 of Dean Shareski’s Telling the new Story series, an interview with award-winning Canadian educator, Clarence Fisher.
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