Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ School Blogs

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jun 13, 2002

I have had a number of responses to my newsletter last week about the use of blogs in education. It appears that my claim to having created the first blog for educational purposes is intact, however, some of the submissions dramatically predate the blogs described in the Wired News article.

About my claim, David Carter-Tod wrote from Wytheville Community College in Virginia,

Depends when in 1999 you launched it (and how you define a weblog). Mine started Dec. 6th, 1999 and the first date-defined post to my personal site was Feb. 24th, 1999. Also our college's daily bulletin was the first educational news site with an RSS feed (Sept. 1999) and it started publishing in January 1998.

I was forced to respond:

Thanks for the note. I'm afraid I have you beat on both. The MuniMall Newsletter launched in September 1999. The first dated posts on my website go back to 1997 (still archived). I have had RSS feeds from the start; my Netscape RSS Feed number was something like 61.

That said, David and I have exchanged notes about RSS and content syndication an number of times over the years and as I recall we met and chatted about it a bit when I was in Virginia last year, so David certainly ranks as an education web logging pioneer.

Ken Tompkins wrote to tell me that Richard Stockton College in New Jersey has been using web logs in education for many years. He writes,

At Richard Stockton College, the Literature Program has been using weblogs in its classrooms for almost three years. We use them in two or three ways: (1) we use them as student portfolios of their writings, (2) we use them as class group projects. We will be using them (3) this fall -- when a new faculty arrives -- for the production and display of hypertexts and various other textualities.

Here is a list of some of the class projects done in the last couple of years:

As you might expect, the quality is uneven; some students in group work pull their weight and some don't. Still we believe these are significant collections of work which, as we build a blog culture, can only get better.

I have written to others interested in blogs in education but never seem to get listed anywhere. I certainly would be interested in a larger discussion if one gets started. I would also be interested in any "weblogs in education" conferences -- it is certainly time to have one -- that occur.

Just thought I'd let you know that there are others out here not mentioned in magazine articles or press releases.

Depending on the exact date in September of 1999 that they started their first weblog they may even have me beat, at least for the use of a weblog to support instruction. Their work certainly shows that they were well ahead of the pack and with some justice their innovations and contributions will be recognized by the wider press.

Peter Ford of Schoolblogs wrote in,

Thanks for the interesting coverage about edublogs today. Just thought you might be interested to know that is a place where educators can create their own weblogs for free. About 800 schoolblogs have been created already - mostly in the US

PS What does 'recursive coverage' mean? Is there a cure?

It should be noted that the Schoolblogs website continues to carry up to date articles about educational blogging. Today, for example, I see a new article about the Holy Grail of web logging software.

And for the record, recursive coverage is a series of weblog posts in which the last post references the first post in the sequence. It's not simply a loop: to be recursive, the site in question must be the topic of the post. For example, NewsTrolls, a weblog, covers a certain topic related to blogging that appeared on Fred's weblog. Fred's weblog in turn refers to Jill's weblog as its source. Jill's weblog refers to Uberweblog, which set the discussion about weblogging going by referring to NewsTrolls as an example of what it was talking about.

Also worth noting is work done in the area of online newspapers in education. After my posting of my presentation Distance Learning in the Daily News, Ugur Demiray of the Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education sent me a copy of this article presented at the 1998 Turkish International Distance Education Conference. The article analyzes and discusses the uses of journalism, including online journalism, in education.

In this paper Demiray and his colleagues identify four major benefits to journalism in education:

  • Education Function: Newspapers develop personality improve socialization.
  • Giving Information Function: They motivate students to think about what is going on the world or around him.
  • Amusement Function: They provide a distraction from the problems of day-to-day life.
  • Promotion and Advertisement Function: They promote personalties, places around the world, and new knowledge or data.

For those of you who missed it, here is the text of the original OLDaily special on web logging in education:

Weblogg-Ed Ever since I launched the MuniMall Newsletter I have been interested in what are now called blogs in education. For the record, the MuniMall Newsletter was launched in 1999 and I am laying claim to having created the first weblog used in education (unless someone can show me a prior one).

Anyhow, today we look at the use of blogs in education in some detail. This follows from a Wired News article published today about some journalists using blogs to teach jorunalism (see below). Tracing back from that site led me, through the links that comprise this issue of OLDaily, to this site (it pleases me to see that this site links even further back - to NewsTrolls, the blog I and some friends started in 1998).

Anyhow to get the most out of this site follow the links in the right hand column, including the 'History of Weblogs' site (a skewed version of the story by Dave Winer) and the 'Complete Guide to Weblogs' article, a glossary of major weblog terms and concepts. By Will Richardson, June 6, 2002.

Edcational Applications of Weblogs Overview site describing the uses of weblogs in education. This website (and a number of related websites and articles listed below) are worth looking at for those of you who were interested in my recent Distance Learning in the Daily News presentation. "Blogs can be a useful resource for educators to find information related to their particular discipline or interests. In effect the blog allows colleagues to act as filters or judges of content form many sources and to allow as many editors as they like." By Anonymous, TAFE Frontiers, June 6, 2002 6:39 p.m.

School Blogs Short discussion and a list of some school based web logs, including Peter Ford's 6F blog (see below) and the RMIT TAFE Frontiers blogging in education site. By Livewire, Sydney Morning Herald, May 16, 2002

Weblogs in Education Blog about the use of weblogs in education (just the sort of recursive coverage you expect in the blogosphere). Check out the FAQ page for more information. By Peter Ford, June 6, 2002

Bartholomeus Gasthuis Blog by Peter Ford and his 6F class in the British School in Amsterdam. This blog is mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald article (above) but not in the Wired news article (below). By Peter Ford, June 6, 2002

[alterego] Blog from an instructor referred to in the Wired News article on blogging. Lists a number of educational blogs, an educational blog ring (I thought web rings were dead - silly me). This one has been running for about a year, which makes it one of the oldest educational weblogs around. By Sarah Lohnes, June 6, 2002.

Blogging Goes Legit, Sort Of John Batelle, a co-founder of Wired magazine, and Paul Grabowicz, the Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism's new media program director, will be teaching a class about blogging this fall. Not everybody is impressed; one blogger says the program treats bloggers as a "vast pool of unpaid researchers who do a lot of leg work while the journalist gets the kudos in mainstream society and gets paid."

The article also contains some discussion of the use of blogs in classrooms along with the completely unsubstantiated assertion that "efforts to get students to participate in classroom blogs have, for the most part, fallen flat". My explorations today through the world of school weblogs shows, if anything, the opposite.

By Noah Shachtman, Wired News, June 6, 2002

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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