Blog as educational platform, VLE even

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(http://flickr.com/photos/jbird/19650368/ JBrd)

This is really an re. loads of other people post, but I wanted to pull them together for my sake anyway.

There have been a few experiments recently in taking open content and putting it in a blog. Not mindbendingly innovative and yet very powerful when you see it.

I remember Tony showing me something like this around the early 19th century which he had knocked together using a penny farthing, carrots and a chimney sweep (Update: it was Nov 06), and he comments on the recent stuff. Then recently David Wiley took some of his open education course and republished it in WordPress. It looks really neat, enticing, well structured. Looks a damn site more inviting than, say, a Blackboard version of the course might.

Then Jim Groom took the OU’s openlearn Goya stuff and put it in WordPress. Guess what? It looks better than the original.

Brian Lamb (who easily has the best titles for blog posts around) sums it all up nicely and points to a session Jim Groom and D’Arcy Norman are doing at Northern Voice entitled  ‘Don’t call it a blog, call it an educational publishing platform’. Which sums it up really.

There are several things of interest here for us ed techies. The first is that presentation matters. I like the look of these blog courses, and that would make me more inclined to participate in them, make me feel well disposed towards them and make me feel as though the people running them were vaguely modern and knew what they were doing. The aesthetics of the interface is something we pay scant attention to in education.

The second thing is that you may be thinking it’s just a blog, it doesn’t have tool X or Y that my VLE might have. Well maybe, but I think we’re in disruptive technology territory here. Disruptive technology doesn’t do the same things better for the same audience, it is often worse on some things, but it offers some new features for a different audience. The new features I would argue here are:

  1. Ease of publishing – whether it’s your own content or others, getting in to blogs is fairly straightforward
  2. Ease of extendability – adding widgets and tools to blogs is just a click away, since blogs have become the universal platform across the web.
  3. Openness – you can pull content and tools in from anywhere
  4. Ease of navigation – blogs come with an inbuilt navigational structure that is easily co-opted for course structure.

I wonder if this isn’t another example of how we in education create complex solutions to complex problems, whereas simple solutions often work better.

4 Comments

  1. I was playing around with remixing open content using Notebooks (e.g. Google Notebook) then publishing straight to a blog (short how-to on my blog). I certainly like the feel of selecting and remixing content better than the straight republishing that we’ve seen so far, but it’s all about opening doors–if the instructors don’t go through them, what’s the use

  2. Thanks for this post which is very timely for me as I am thinking about pulling out of BlackBoard and running my courses on an open blog. But…there is some skepticism from the people I work with which may act as a barrier to this. So I have been asked to write a paper outlining the advantages and processes: http://tinyurl.com/2da9bu
    So I’ll be able to use this post as evidence-thank you. Sarah

  3. Hi Jared – not sure if you meant that instructors won’t want to use blogs like this? I think this will change, partly as more educators become bloggers themselves. Once they keep their own blogs I think they’ll start thinking ‘this could be a really useful tool in my teaching.’
    Sarah – good luck with the midwifery course!

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