I was realizing the other day that last year my class didn’t begin to blog until the end of January. About half of my current class of 27 were in my class then so no one has blogged for a year, and half have blogged for about 2 months. Even in that short time my students have built an archive of work that I didn’t fully appreciate until this past week when Class Blogmeister (our blogging software and home) had a major hiccup. David Warlick provides this powerful tool for free for teachers and students, and it has become so popular and grown so much that his server became overwhelmed and started to have problems. To rectify the situation David programmed it so any post before May of this year was eliminated.
Now for many this would mean that last school year’s students’ posts would have been edited out, but this years would have remained intact. For some probably not a really big deal you might think … those kids are gone, my current class’s work can continue unscathed. And the full impact of this seemingly capricious, ill-advised decision by Dave to just hack away at what he obviously assumed were unimportant, forgotten posts didn’t hit me for about 30 seconds. When the realization hit me … there were posts there that have been read over 1100 times … that students point to with pride, its one of the aspects of blogging that makes it the “hook” that it is … that keeps students excited and engaged and wanting to write so much … NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!
David had sent out a message about doing this and In my busy-ness I probably missed something or didn’t do a good job of reading between the lines or something, but it didn’t seem to address this issue … didn’t state that all would be returned at a later date. So I fired off an email sharing some of my concerns with David, all the time thinking that he must “get this” … he must understand that the archive of work is an essential part of a blog. Doesn’t he???
Just last week Mark Ahlness posted about using a laptop during parent conferences … what he called “Parent Conference 2.0.
Mark shared that parents were able to see the “portfolio” of their student’s writing online on his laptop. Mark and I were on the same wavelength because I was doing the same in my classroom. Most parents had seen some work online, but some had seen none. Students showed off our wiki pages, Flickr photos and videos … but what really got them going and verbalizing (important for second language learners) was their blog. Now this was before Dave ruthlessly slashed their posts and comments, so students were pointing out how many times their posts were being read and comments from as far away from China and New Zealand and Scotland and Germany, and as close as the student that sits next to them in class. Parents were reading posts and asking questions about who could read these (everyone in the world) and were amazed. And students left smiling.
Last week I also introduced blogging to teachers taking my Thursday night tech class and I pointed out the same things to them as the students had pointed out to their parents … the reads and comments, but also the improved writing and my impressions about their enthusiasm for writing when they blog.
In 2 weeks I’m participating in a educational technology showcase to politicians, the press and state and school district education administrators at a local community college. I’ve been asked to bring students and their laptops to show off all the things we do with technology. We plan to Skype others in … maybe Ustream.TV part of it. I know that my students showing off their blogs would be a critical part of that showcase … will that be lost now? Nevada is always at the bottom in education funding and FINALLY we are going to try and show the powers-that-be the power of educational technology.
So when Mark emailed to let me know that all was well … followed by an email from David expressing the same … the archive would be coming back when Dave finished adding a new server – had always intended to – of course I never doubted … I was relieved.
One good thing that came out of this is that it gave me reason to think about what a valuable resource blogging really is, and what parts of it seem to be critical to its motivating power.
Learning is messy!
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