This blog was birthed from an idea Jenn had while we were at a CSETL meeting. We both belong to this professional learning community and were looking for ways to replicate that feeling with other folks in our region who held similar positions. Although we created this blog almost one year ago - we haven’t exactly been successful in creating a community using these tools.
One thing I am investigating at our summer retreat this week is the roll that wikis and blogs can play in creating a learning community. I have read everything I can get my hands on (not too terribly much to be honest) but most importantly, I have experimented this past year with creating the community using these tools. There have been some roadblocks – some I expected and others I did not – that my fellow Fellows are helping me grapple with, as well as sharing with me this first week.
Nearing the end of our first day, some things keep bubbling to the surface:
1. There is a great deal of literature out about what it takes to build learning communities. Is it really possible to build these communities using technology tools? I believe that it is possible, but it will involve a shift for teachers and quite a bit of “unknown,” particularly in the use of the technology tools. I really like the model that Stanford University has developed in order to move through the phases of wiki use to build a community of practice. I think that using this framework, I am going to see if I can adapt it to blogging and then reflect a bit on where I have been the past year in the use of these two tools to see what steps I may have skipped that might have been critical to move forward.
Image from Using Wikis to Build Learning Communities, Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning.
2. One reason that I value the use of blogs and wikis for classrooms of the future are that they create an authenticity for writing that has been absent lately in our "test centered" world. When using Web 2.0 tools, you are published – and published for the whole world to see. But I was reminded today that while I might in fact be “published,” my work has not been “peer reviewed.” Hasn’t it? Don’t blogs provide an opportunity for feedback and exchange of ideas? Whether my peers read my work or not certainly speaks to whether it fits their criteria for “good reading.” Many of the teachers I know who use blogs are working on the fact that the work must be in final format – proper spelling and grammar, solid foundation for the ideas presented. Some even have their students' work reviewed to create a "Hall of Fame." All information about good blogs talks about “citing” your sources, particularly if you are citing a fellow blogger. Aren’t those some of the hallmarks of a “peer reviewed” piece of writing? If not – what are we missing and what could we put into place to “legitimize” blog writing?
3. Time continues to crop up as I discuss the use of these tools with others. We all have very crazy and hectic schedules – deadlines to meet, balancing family and work obligations. So how do we fit these pieces in? When I first ventured into the Web 2.0 world, I had the same concerns. I set aside specific times to read and to write blogs, but even then I have fallen off the wagon. In order to fit it in – I needed to take something out. The piece I have removed is the purchasing of a physical newspaper – I no longer receive our local daily. Instead, I have formatted my RSS feed to be my ideal newspaper. I have sports (hockey and football only!), I have the education section (missing from most newspapers) and politics, as well as local news. The time I used to take to read a paper version, I now spend reading on-line and from a much richer variety of sources. I know this is not for everyone – but it is one solution!! Another piece that I am committed to doing this year is to track how long it takes me to read/write blogs (I am currently at 3 minutes on this piece – it will probably be a bit closer to 7 minutes by the time I proof-read and add links.) Hopefully – this will allow me to share with others my process and the amount of time it actually takes to participate in this manner.
My head is spinning but I am putting this out on blog form in order to get pushed back. I am hoping my fellow Fellows will take a break from their work this week to pop into my world and ask me questions, respond to my thoughts, and push my thinking – as they always do in person, but this time virtually, so that I can explore new perspectives and find other paths to follow.
P.S. I was wrong - I spent closer to 20 minutes completing this post as you see it now!