Panel discussion. I recognize Will Richardson and Anne Davis is talking via Skype, but I don’t recognize the other three people

Anne is starting off. She’s saying that blogging has built learning communities like never before. With students, they spent a lot of time talkinga bout weblogs, what they were and what were the key components of them before giving her students their own. She didn’t start off with comments on, she started slow and then added things in gradually.

Students would write about current events, their own ideas, and and making connections between those things and their classwork. At some point, Will’s journalism students mentored Anne’s students.

Weblogs make students feel like they have some control over what they’re doing in class. It’s giving them a choice. They really liked having a choice about what they were writing, within certain grounds. They liked voicing those opinions, and the teacher helped show them how to make those opinions count. Best to start small and keep the administration informed. She really likes the idea that they work together. She writes, they write, they collaborate as a team. You should really think about what you want to accomplish and have a plan, don’t just ‘start blogging’. She uses Manilla and has all comments made on any weblog emailed to her. You also need to build in time for reflection. Teachers should help students reflect upon their work, help to identify strengths and weaknesses. The process is more important than the final product. She says that she has learned more from weblogs than from any other inservice she’s ever had.

She’s had inappropriate comments this year for the first time, and only a few. She thinks it’s important to teach students to just delete them and move along. We need to help students learn to deal with them.

Will has taken the stage now. He has 600 weblogs running at his school right now. They have around 350 student blogs as well. It’s not just a writing tool. He has phys-ed teachers, art teachers, science teachers all using them as well. The power in this comes from the ability to publish and for students to share their work with a larger audience. They’re contributing to the greater body of knowledge that’s out there. He points out that in many places, blogs are starting to get a bad name.

Blogs are more than just a diary, it’s a writing and publishing tool. You really force students to think in ways that they don’t do on paper. Someone is asking whether they have an editorial process before they go live (student weblogs). His blogs are public to the world, but the general world cannot comment on them. Comments are just available to kids in the class (and teachers I assume).

Someone is up there doing his spiel, but I don’t know who it is! They probably did their introductions at the beginning, but I got here five minutes late.

Tom Hoffman is up there now. He’s giving a brief introduction of School Tool and talking about how he’s trying to bridge the gap between hackers and teachers to create some interesting Open Source software. He started reading technical blogs before educational blogs. In the technology field, many of the elite ‘experts’ are blogging every single day. That isn’t happening quite yet in education. We’re getting there, but we’re still a ways off.

Tim Lauer is up there now. I’ve never met him before, so it’s nice to finally put a face to the name. At Lewis Elementary, they use blogs for their main school web page as well as school bulletins. They actually discuss issues through comments on the staff blog. For the record, I think Lewis Elementary is probably the best elementary school web site in the country right now. It is dynamic and truly breaths. It gives parents a reason to go visit it each and every day (or even better, a reason to subscribe to it). Teachers write a paragraph just about every day and it gets aggregated into one main news page. Parents have a single place to find out all the information that they might want to know, across grade levels.

Wikis, fourth and fifth grade teachers used instiki. Runs on a laptop but accessible from anywhere in the building. The kids go to the computer lab, edit their work (they each have their own page on the wiki for each assignment), and then the teacher can take that laptop home to grade, edit, comment on work.

Aaahhh…. He’s talking about the importance of syndication. How it can take something rather unwieldy, like checking up on 30 blogs daily, and make it a simple task.

Lots of question and answer at this point and since I’ve been pretty interested in the conversation, I’ve forgotten to type up notes! We’ve been bouncing around between how you use blogs in math, how you deal with security issues, and some of the finer aspects of wikis.

A question has come up about threaded discussion versus blogs. Tom reminds everyone that if you like your discussion board, you should keep it. Blogs are not the solution to every problem. Blogs create a body of work, something you have ownership of like a portfolio. There’s no way to pull together all of your various posts on discussion boards all over the web.

Why aren’t there more women blogging? There’s a large body of women that are blogging and are very popular. Will mentions that of the 80 or so educators in his blogroll, only 10 of them are women. There are a lot of women who blog about what’s going on in their classroom, but not as many talking philosophy, educational practice and so on.

You know what, I think they may be right. I’m thinking about my own blogroll, and I think it’s mostly men. There are definitely some very notable women, but the majority are men. Interesting. Will points out that there are an incredible number of girls on Live Journal, Xanga and other sites like that who are blogging.

This is turning into quite an interesting discussion. A gender divide in the blogosphere… Sounds like an interesting research topic.

Time to move along. Interesting discussion. Got some nuggets that probably warrant their own blog entries or podcasts. Great way to start the final day.