Friday, April 01, 2005

No Foolin'...I've Finally Finished Fiedler!

Whew, Sebastian Fiedler has much to say about the educational use of blogs...good stuff.

In his Paper Draft for BlogTalk 2003, Personal Webpublishing as a reflective conversational tool for self-organized learning, Fiedler provides a wealth of support (data, theory, research, anecdotal evidence, and working learning environment designs) supporting the use of blogs (Personal Webpublishing) in an educational setting.

Describing a blog as “a reflective conversational learning tool for self-organized learning,” Fiedler convincing makes the argument that the blog can be used to allow learners “to take control over their own learning.” Fiedler argues against traditional models of education where knowledge is a product to be passively absorbed by the learner. He acknowledges that knowledge can be codified, but cautions against the codification of learning which denies the "open-ended, unpredictable, and continuous flow of our personal knowing and learning."

By supporting a "conversational framework for self-organized learning" blogs allow learners to build the skills they need to "take more and more responsibility for their own learning and to move gradually towards an idealized model of a self-organized learner," moving away from the concept of "expert-knows-best." A conversational framework means that learners are not just "submit(ting) to being instructed,” rather they are engaged in a conversation, both within oneself and with others, about the learning process. Often after traditional instruction, learners will fail in novel situations. Arguing against the view that learning just happens as a consequence of instruction, Fiedler surmises that when learners are in control of their own learning experiences, they will use the newly acquired knowledge and skills to adapt to a novel situation.

Exploring the use of blogs as conversational learning tools, blogs allow “a steady flow of items over time, ‘logging’ ideas, thoughts, reflections, commentaries, and observations,” along with the ability to add hyperlinks for reference and connection to outside ideas, and images, sound and video files or any other digital format to convey meaning. Fiedler strongly believes that this reflective process empowers learners to move “from a task-focused level to a learning-focused level of awareness” leading, most importantly to an “awareness of how one constructs meaning over time.”

When designing a conversational learning environment, Fiedler asserts that teachers must allow learners to take control of their own learning. He describes this as working “somewhere on the edge of teaching,” emphasizing meaningful learning over rote, and creating autonomous learners. That is not to say that the learner is to be released from any connection to the teacher. On the contrary, the teacher’s role is to set up the environment and tools to facilitate this style of learning. The teacher’s role becomes that of “Learning Environment Designer, Manager, and Coach,” with the learner as “Learning Project Owner.” Employing blogs to set up such an environment, each learner has a blog for reflections, links, commentary, etc., with a central class blog linking the various elements. Fiedler calls this “the intentional seeding of new practices and procedures through an initial design” requiring teacher support which in turn allows the growth of “new patterns of meaning and action” on the part of the learner.

Teacher as gardener, I like it.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Active, Collective, & Collaborative: Blogs as Social Software

Barbara Ganley gets it.

Citing Hamada and Scott that "learning is essentially a social activity," Ganley makes a strong argument that the classroom is changing, for the better, as collective intelligence forms "strong, resilient learning collaborative[s]."(Ganley)

In her paper Blogging as a Dynamic, Transformative Medium in an American Liberal Arts Classroom Ganley makes the point that with the advent of the web, communication has become immediate, limitless...non-linear and that students are "unaccustomed and unwilling to learn sequentially."(Duderstadt) Teachers are at this time in a unique position to actively involve students in their own learning by providing them with the medium and a central location where collaboration can take place. Students and teachers "must work as a social entity" for this to be successful as a classroom project.(Ganley)

Collaboration is essential in the new classroom model. Students assume the roles of apprentice and expert alternatively while interacting with each other. While one student is strong in one area and assumes the role of expert, at another turn she assumes the role of the apprentice, learning from the comments and links made by another student in class. Students are involved in a totally dynamic learning experience with the class blog in the role of a "localized learning network."(Ganley)

That students can take control of the direction of a course with the aid of a class blog, can be threatening to some teachers, but it doesn't have to be. The teacher continues to function in the role of facilitator, a guide, if you will. The teacher creates the central class blog for the purpose of disseminating essential class information (assignments, links, etc.), providing a location for class discussions, as well as providing a location for student publishing. The class blog becomes an "emergent behavior"(Johnson) as the teacher gives up control and allows the students' collective activities to steer the course. The class blog also exemplifies emergent behavior in that there are roles and boundaries governing the use of the class blog even though the teacher has given up absolute control. It is important to note that the teacher is not absent, or acting as a silent observer. The teacher is actively engaged in modeling and encouraging the students.

The collective body of knowledge (ie: the class blog) is the result of the many weeks of collaboration, with student articles, links, and comments offering "visual and tangible evidence"(Ganley) that they have accomplished something truly meaningful, truly dynamic, connecting themselves to each other in a truly unique way.

Bill-yuns and bill-yuns of blog resources...

All due respect to Dr. Sagan...

Reviewing many of the educational blog sites on Bernie's Blogging Resources page, I learned first hand one of strengths of the comments. They, too, are a wealth of information.

While reading Maish Nichani's blog which had a great deal of background information about the use of weblogs and addressed why he felt blogs were so successful, I came across the comments of Rose Grozdanic who took issue with his blog, asserting her belief that his entry was simply a comment and not a true weblog. It was on this site that I came across Will Richardson's wonderful article Blogging and RSS — The "What's It?" and "How To" of Powerful New Web Tools for Educators.

Believing I found a wonderful new resource for Bernie's list, it only took a few more clicks to realize he beat me to it.

Missed it by that much...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Ms. Kline is Online!

Created my second blog today.

Make that 7,000,002 blogs out in the world (unless you're reading Blog Herald who claims it's more like 34,500,002!).

And the new blog's name you ask?

"Notorious B. L. O. G."

No, that's not it at all...

This new blog is exclusively for my classroom. What a great way to share information with my students quickly and easily!

Ms. Kline Online is the place for my students to find out what's happening in class. I've already posted this month's project.

I was lucky enough to get my own domain name, for only $10 per year at

Too cool, way too cool...

Monday, March 21, 2005

Yes it's late, but I have homework...

Just finished reading the first assignment, "Educational Blogging" by Stephen Downes. Really informative piece.

Funny how you can tell it's a blog. Blog authors seem to have evolved a style (format?) of writing all their own. Can't quite put my finger on it yet, maybe it is all the connections Blog authors make while writing. Hmmm...

As a teacher, I'm very excited to figure out how to use blogs in my classroom.

Downes offers much evidence as to their effectiveness in an educational setting while pointing out a few pitfalls along the way. The central theme seems to be community and connectedness. People have a lot to say and even more people want to read about it. The links embedded in a blog serve as links to the outside world. Now, more than ever, people are aware that they are not alone in their interests, beliefs, or even experiences.

It's important to note that blogs cannot be forced on people. Teachers must allow students to read and explore first to get a feel of how to communicate/relate to the outside world. Teachers must also allow students leeway in writing blogs. There should be constraints/guidance, of course, but simply using writing prompts may end up stifling the creative process rather than encouraging it.

Farrell's "Five Major Uses for Blogs in Education" serve as a guide for teachers implementing blogs in their classrooms for the first time. I like the idea of the "Class Info" blog where I may communicate a variety of classroom information to my students. I also will make good use of the resource blog (most likely on the same blog as the Class Info blog). In the beginning I may simply use a Classroom Blog before I start individual student blogs. I haven't quite figured out how to use blogs with middle schoolers who do not have email addresses. I would love to have a blog for each student eventually, however, for I would like my students to use it as a sort of portfolio or personal space to express themselves with guidance by me, and a few appropriate constraints.

The bottom line, blogs are EASY to use and manage. That is exactly what I thought while sitting in Bernie's class at CUE and Downes agrees. Easy allows everyone to try using it, and free means they will continue to use it.

I will definitely explore using the "WordPress" GPL (free as in freedom, not free lunch-I'm paraphrasing here) installed blog application. What a great addition to a district's web site. Blogs for all! But seriously, the software is already written, available, and people understand how to use it, why not blogs instead of personal web pages?

This blog exemplifies Richardson's point "Blogging, at base, is writing down what you think as you read others," and this is what I was thinking as I read Downes.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Second Step

Step Two:

Begin online application for graduate school.

Rummage through old (way old) college transcripts and GRE scores.

Email college profs and school supervisors and hit them up for letters of req.


Saturday, March 19, 2005


After 15 years of teaching, I have finally decided to start my Master's Degree. A big step...

First step, a one-unit class at San Diego State University entitled, appropriately enough, "Blogging in the Classroom." (You don't want to rush these things).

I'm so glad I went to CUE last week. I was able to attend two great sessions with Bernie Dodge, aka the "WebQuest Guru." His sessions about WebQuests, Wikis, and Blogs were full of fantastic info I can use in my middle school technology classes. I also learned about the "Saturday Seminars for Teaching with Technology" offered through SDSU. Although I will be enrolling in the online degree program, I'm able to take some of the classes on site...which is a nice contrast. It's also easy to fit a one-unit course into a busy teaching schedule.

First class, first blog.

Ready, set, go...