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Blogs (and other social software) in education

I stumbled upon an interesting discussion on how blogs and other other social software (wiki, bookmarks, forums, etc) can be used in education. The discussion is mainly between Scott Moore and Bud Gibson. Basically, Scott is preparing for a class for 1000 students (yes, you’ve heard me right – one thousand. Read more about it here.). He wants (and he surely needs) to embrace the technology as much as possible. Social software, such as blogs, RSS, forums, wiki, etc should be of a great help to him.

Here is the discussion so far:

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Why do I find it so interesting?

Well, it’s been a long time since people were talking about computers and other technology integrated into educational processes. Classrooms of the future were supposed to be filled with computers and networks. E-books combined with email and real-time chats were supposed to be the way of the future. At least, pictures like these were drawn to us by teachers of the high-school that I was attending.

10 years has gone since I have graduated from the high school. Computers and networks are way cheaper and wider spread. Students use these a lot and there are plenty provided by schools and colleges. But they are yet far away from being integrated into the educating system. Computer science and MIT students excluded, rarely anyone does anything with computers. Typing in homeworks and finding bibliography on the web is too simple of a task for such advanced machines that we have available these days.

And that is no surprise. The culture was missing.

The progress was going with its own pace, but there was nothing boosting it. Social software stepped in and started to kick it in the bottom. IRC and other instant messaging protocols really pushed the youngsters towards the Internet. Kids were chatting 24×7. In groups and individually. The culture started to form. Netiquette was looked up and learned from those Usenet and FidoNet geeks. Smileys and abbreviations exploded. People learned to communicate over the Internet.

With all the crowds talking (and with adults kicking in) there were too much of valuable information lost and repeated over and over again. FAQ lists emerged. But these were slow and complex to update. Forums provided for a better medium. Combining thse two was cumbersome though, so wiki got some attention.

So people not only knew how to communicate over the Internet, but publishing of content became a routine. Published content felt so good, that blogs started to blossom. Several recent researches show that millions of blogs are spawned yearly. And that is just the start…

With all of these, the world is getting complicated. People who followed the process can still keep up. But the younger generations (well, so far some of the older ones too) need to be teached these new culture and technology. Schools and colleges need to introduce students to the terms and methods. But the fun part here is that schools and colleges can benefit from this culture themselves. Things need some thinking over. The technology looks like to be available, but the methods should be tried and reviewed.

And that is exactly why the discussion between Scott Moore and Bud Gibson is so interesting. They are trying to develop the methods. And, for once, someone is doing it openely. Others can learn, help and participate.

These are interesting times we are witnessing indeed.

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