In several of the informal conversations I had with Ryan and David last Friday, they laid out their plan for a learning space whereby all of student work from moment they enter the high school will travel with them through the four years of high school. Let me clarify a little from what I gleaned from them.
A problem, as Ryan pointed out in our panel discussion, occurred at several points in their experience with student blogging:
- What happened if you were blogging in science class, in English class, and in social studies? Did you as a student have the responsibility for maintaining three distinct blogs?
- What happened when you finished the year with that teacher? Did your blog die? Were you able to take it with you and continue to write on your own?
These points came up as we were trying to get at what lies beyond the tools. Having students keep isolated, individual blogs goes against most of what we strive for: transfer of understanding from seemingly unrelated areas to others. We want students relating semi-permeable cell membranes to porous and non-defined border policies. Having isolated learning spaces goes a long way toward furthering that view of education that our learning is isolated into small, un-meshed parts, when in actuality we learn through our connections to already processed material.
What this calls for is a systemic change within a school whereby students are asked to create their own learning space and tie it into the appropriate places within their subject areas. For example, if a student sat down to write a piece for social studies on their blog, but found connections within the topic to a novel or short story they read in English, they could tag it with both socialstudies and english and the learning space would feed it to both of those courses’ Moodle site. The teachers could then review the writing and help the student make deeper connections between the two.
Having some platform for blogging that is external, but able to be configured to be private is key here. Google Apps may work, and I am sure you could configure WPMU to do this as well (both of which are beyond my realm). This way, the students, as they graduate in four years, are able to take a body of writing over time with them to the college level, thus it becomes their portfolio.
I am truly just beginning to think beyond the glitz and glam of this tool or that one and delve into the deep possibilities we now have. It’s empowering to know that we are capable of giving students this ability and that it really is very close to happening in certain places. However, the biggest hurdle is getting more of my staff on board with the architecture of it. Not every teacher understands blogging, tagging, or even what RSS is, nevertheless the connective and transformative nature of the tools.
That, however, was my second takeaway from last Friday.