Yesterday I attended Moosecamp at the Northern Voice blogging conference. Highlights for a couple of sessions follow (selected simply because these are the ones for which I have the most notes). I’m afraid I don’t know the names of most who spoke, so can’t credit them.
This was primarily a discussion about how students (elementary to post-secondary) could use blogs in education. The first theme emerged from the difference between forums, which are public spaces, and blogs, which are owned1. Scott Leslie asked how educators can give ownership when they need to set boundaries to protect children. The question then became whether it would be more productive to teach critical thinking and decision making rather than exerting control. Scott pointed out that this is a matter of control by parents who are often less net-literate than their children. Someone in the audience asked how schools could hope to protect students who are already online, to which D’Arcy Norman replied that the schools have legal liability.
The second theme was holism. When a student writes a blog for a class, the blog may expire with the end of the class. There’s no history. Worse, students may be required to maintain blogs for multiple classes. One teacher in the session had experienced students who would copy and paste between blogs in order to fulfill requirements. This leads back to the ownership issue: a blog is an owned space, an instrument of identity. When that is fragmented it time and space – in this case by following the standard model of education2 – the blogger will tend to lose heart.
This presentation by Ken Rickard was sparsely attended in comparison with the Windows Vista demo in the packed room next door3. Apparently Bluffton Today is a small newspaper (owned by a big media company) in North Carolina. At first I was concerned it was a marketing demo. In fact, it was very interesting.
The paper’s front page shows blog posts and photos from the community above the stories written by journalists. The idea is not new. It’s something I desperately want to see at my university4, in my neighborhood, in my building. What’s exciting is to see it finally happening and succeeding.
Ken showed what he said was a standard slide showing a bulls-eye. From the center outward, it was labeled Personal, Social, Local, and Global. He said: “Newspapers live on the outer rims. The audience lives in the center. The Internet connects the two.” He added, “actually, we’re not connecting the two, we’re transitioning.” Other words: “It’s not the process, it’s the product. The problem we have with newspapers is that they’re only concerned with the product.” I.e., the focus is on producing and publishing an edition, then moving on to the next.
1 A woman in a late session described adding blogs to an established community that already had forums, and found they were very different: the blog emphasized the person, not the topic.
2 What has been called a factory or assembly-line model; see John Gatto for a strong view on this.
3 I never upgraded from Windows 2000 to XP because I dislike and distrust Windows Activation, so Vista holds very little interest for me (the built-in DRM hardly enthuses me either).
4 From my experience, SFU provides virtually no facilities for online community to the university at large.