Blogging in the classroom, Part…

Blogging in the classroom, Part 2. Forced blogging = flogging?.

Creating bloggers by fiat

  Although I decided early on in the design of TEC924 to require students to maintain a weblog as part of their individual course work I elected to be fairly non-directive about how and when to use the weblogs in the context of the course.

  On reflection, that was a mistake.

  With the recent attention to weblogs in the general press, it’s easy to forget that most of the world has no idea what’s going on with them. MBAs are very focused on the demands of the program and don’t have a lot of spare cycles to note one technology trend out of many. Which makes them a lot like knowledge workers in organizations for whom weblogs and k-logging may prove an important tool.

  Figuring out how to turn reluctant MBAs into competent bloggers should provide useful insights for turning other knowledge workers into bloggers as well. While I do believe that working with willing volunteers is the preferred organizational change strategy, even early adopters will benefit from some careful handholding and guidance.

  There are four hurdles to pass to move from willing volunteer to competent blogger: learning the technology environment, developing an initial view of blogging, plugging into the conversation, and developing a voice. These are not so much discrete phases as they are parallel tracks that can be managed.

Learning the technology environment

  All of the technologies for creating and maintaining weblogs have a significant learning curve. While all are a major step up from working in native html and ftp, they assume significantly more knowledge about the nature and scope of the web than experience with local PC applications and web browsing are likely to provide. One tool that I used to excellent effect was the “Warriors of the Net” animation produced by the folks at Ericsson Medialab. It helps build a good overview picture of all the moving parts that may become pertinent.

  For the moment, I am committed to using Radio as the class blogging tool of choice, as I’ve explained earlier. It does call for a discussion of the design of different weblogging tools, however. The key design decisions I would highlight include locating a webserver on the desktop, local storage of weblog data, single authorship, integrated news aggregator, and extensible design. The key goal here is to explain how and why these design decisions matter from an end user perspective. I expect to draw heavily on the excellent work of Russ Lipton, Don Strickland, and Al Macintyre.


One thing I noticed running the class last year was that my new bloggers quickly wanted to customize and tweak their weblogs to include the customizations I showed in my own weblog. There is a tension here between getting the basics down and becoming productive. Some of this is a function of Radio’s high tweakability. Jon Udell’s thoughts on Radio Deployment Descriptors will be one part of the solution. I may also end up developing a custom set of templates, etc. to distribute. From a process point of view, I expect to manage some of this by laying out the blogging assignments more explicitly and including some technical updates/upgrades in addition to the conceptual aspects of the assignments.

Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at developing an initial view of blogging

[McGee’s Musings]