Monday, August 20, 2007

I'm Officially Back Online

A summer spent chasing waves in Hawaii, Southern California, Mexico, and Peru was just what I needed to recharge my batteries after a challenging and busy 06-07 school year. And I'm back to my blog with a renewed sense of direction, not to mention that it is now my official job as Technology Resource Teacher to help teachers explore ways technology can enhance curriculum (now that the roll-out of our school's 1:1 laptop initiative is beginning with freshman). Last year, while teaching a full schedule of English courses, I feel like I just dabbled on my blog. This year, with the opportunity to visit classrooms in all disciplines and work with faculty on all kinds of explorations, I hope WatsonCommon becomes more of a resource and classroom collaboration jump-off point.

I'd like to start by addressing a question raised by a fellow freshman English teacher. Some context first. In our English department, blogs have been the starting point for most teachers when it comes to integrating technology into curriculum. It just makes tons of sense in English class. So last year, many teachers set up their students on blogs and used them for a range of assignments, from journaling to documenting project to commonplace books. But the students didn't have laptops. Things are a little different now, and I suspect the use of blogs will become even more integrated into classes, hopefully, beyond English classes. There are all kinds of questions for our school now. I'm not going to get into them in this post. But I will pose the questions I find most interesting and imperative. Clay Burellfirst brought it up with me last year during one of our first Skype sessions: How do blogs not just become another place to do homework? How can they not lose the sense of ownership that they foster inherently?

Sorry, all of that to get to the question raised by my colleague: Should we use Blogger or Moveable Type--which is hosted on our school's server and is, therefore, private? So my assignment became to create a simple comparison between the blog engines with which I had some experience. But the real question becomes where does the blog fit in the curriculum? For example, there are obvious reasons for maintaining secure, private blogs. But for my classes, the public nature of the blog is the piece that connects to the curriculum. So here's a rundown of the blog engines I've tried.

Blogger: I think it's the easiest to set-up and maintain. And once you have a Google account, Reader goes really well with Blogger. For most of the more advanced feature it lacks, there are free html badges. However, I've heard that setting up a private set of blogs, say a whole class, makes things a lot more complicated.

TeraPad: I started to play around with it last year. For the tech-savvy, I think it could be very effective. It can host files and forums, amongst other features. I don't know much else about it. Anyone?

Edublogs/Learnerblogs: I've gone back and forth between Blogger and Edublogs, and I've ended up at Blogger each time. The one time I had a class with edublogs, there were some problems with reliability. But those seem to be worked out. And WordPress is a great tool. It's also kind of nice to be on an education-specific blog engine.

I'd love feedback and/or testimonials on any of the tools listed and others.


Clay Burell said...

And about time! Welcome back :)

Thought you might be interested in sth I just found here about Lyceum compared to WPMU. This forum makes Lyceum (never heard of it) sound like checking out.

Hey, we should form a little support group for some of the things we're going to be hitting this year, since we're obviously on parallel tracks.

I'm thinking learning how to administer the basic php and MySQL stuff on cPanel, etc. I've been stuck onscreen for hours trying to troubleshoot a crashed Moodle upgrade, and just wish there were a second head, voice, eyes, puzzling and talking through it with me.

I'm making progress, finding good stuff. But I just like teamwork.

Get in touch. Let's get 1001 monkeys off our backs!

Mr. B-G said...

Informative post. Check out my latest blog posting for info on how I incorporated Blogger into my classroom.

Care to collaborate on any student feedback initiatives, or are you out of the classroom this year?

C. Watson said...

I'll check out the Lyceum and link to your post.

And, I'd love a support group. I'm also hoping we can connect classes between our schools. I'll be using Moodle too, which you have much more experience with.

Is the Global Cooling Collective still happening?

As far as the eBook goes, I've learned a bit about Lulu. And I loaded all of the tales from the website as of last weekend. I'll check back for more. And I'm starting to get parent permission emails and author bios. Should get more this week, once the students are back on campus. The cover art is proving very challenging. I might go simple to get it done.

Oh, I'm working on my me-me 8 random things:)

Joshua Davidson said...


Thanks for your very interesting post and for checking out Terapad.

Perhaps I could answer your question and offer a bit more information about Terapad?

Terapad is a great platform for SME's looking to make use of blogs and other features such as forums and widget integration. It is a website generator which gives a lot more flexibility in design than a standard blog. It is constantly under development and getting easier to use with every new version.

If there is anything specifically you would like to know other than the 'sales' pitch...just let me know. Welcome back to the blogging world.