Monday, July 30, 2007

Transformational Blogging

The crucial part of education outside of 21st century literacies…is that students learn to teach themselves…Their task is to become an expert in [a topic meaningful to them] and to share their growing knowledge with others. They should research the topic, decode what they find, evaluate it to select the resources that are most valuable, analyze, manipulate and assemble what they learn in a way that makes personal sense, and then create an information product that expresses their knowledge of the area in a way that compels other people. David Warlick, Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century

Classroom blogs are a place to be complex together
. David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous

I blogged a couple days ago about the profound effect this independent study has had on me this summer, and how I want to re-create that experience for my students this fall. In between writing papers contrasting the Semantic Web with Folksonomies and creating video tours of Botswana (it’s a long story!), I’ve been thinking about how to go about constructing such an assignment. My main worries focused on walking that fine line between allowing the students the freedom to engage in the process and create their own meaning, while still providing enough structure to guide them, give motivation to the initially less-than-motivated, and satisfy institutional requirements for grading.

I'm also trying to decide if I want these to be individual projects or if they should link up with an overseas partner. I'm leaning towards the latter, but need to check with a couple friends still teaching overseas to see if they want to work with us on this.

I’m not sure I’ve hit that line. I need to work out details—whether the blogs are personal or a group space (depends on age, I think. I’m not sure what grade I’ll be teaching yet), intermediate deadlines along the way, peer evaluation, plan of study form, final project, assessment rubric. But here is a rough outline of the project.

I'd love any feedback or comments you may have!


This semester, you’re going to become an expert. (You didn’t know it was that easy, did you? ) Well, it is. Moreover, not only will you be an expert, you’ll share your expertise with the rest of the class (and the world), basking in the ooh’s and aah’s as everyone marvels at your brilliance. How cool is that???!

So just how will this happen? Slowly, but surely.

First, pick a meaningful topic you’re interested in. No Britney Spears. No Paris Hilton. And no dubious moral explorations (you KNOW what I mean!); otherwise, the world is your oyster! You wanna write about extreme skate-boarding? Go for it! Are anime or graphic novels more your style? Fantastic! The function of mitosis in the morphology of cancer cells? Brilliant! My only caveat is that you choose a topic you are REALLY interested in, because you’re going to be spending a LOT of time on it.

You will also be exploring the topic from all angles. Thus, if you choose to write about extreme skateboarding, you won’t just study different tricks. You’ll also look at the physics of it, compare/contrast board designs, and…other stuff. (Hey, you’re the expert! You tell me what your study should include.)


First, complete the Plan of Study form and turn it in to me for approval/comments. This will act as your guideline through the semester, but it’s not written in stone. As you research, you may find areas you need to add or areas that fizzle into nothing. That’s just part of the process!

In the Plan, you’ll need to include:

1) Research Plan
  • What do you already know?
  • What do you need to find out?
  • Possible sub-topics, specialized vocabulary, etc.

2) Possible information resources, including
a) three books/articles
b) two blogs by experts
c) news feeds
d) websites
(I’ll teach you how to set up an RSS feed so you can monitor all of these quickly and easily.)

3) Final Project—How will you share the information?
  • Blog (required, see below)
  • Other possibilities include
  • video tutorial
  • wiki
  • podcast
  • Whatever best suits your topic/information


As you research, you will also keep a blog about your findings. THIS IS NOT A JOURNAL!! We’ll talk about it more, later, but basically this is a reflective analysis of your process and findings. In it you can:
1) Discuss your findings
2) Raise questions about topic, resources, findings
3) Link to important material and discuss it
4) Think about your process—is it working? Does it need to change?
5) Vent your frustrations
6) Celebrate your successes
7) Respond to feedback

My requirement is that you :
1) Post a MINIMUM of twice a week (on your blog)
2) Comment twice a week on your classmates’ blogs.

We will do a midterm assessment to:
  • evaluate your progress
  • make any necessary changes
  • start planning final project

We’ll also set up Furl accounts for you to store/share your bookmarks.

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