A lot of the interview, as usual, didn’t make it to the final cut – but luckily for me I blog! So here are the offcuts for anyone else interested in recycling content.
What is the aim of the edublogger awards?
There are three main aims behind the awards:
1. They provide an opportunity for an international community who are interested and involved in scholarly and education based blogging a chance to come together as a community, have fun, discover new ways of using blogging to support learning, and highlight the wealth of fantastic work going on around the world.
2. They provide an amazing resource for those involved in or thinking about using social software and user generated content sites to support education communities of all kinds. They also demonstrate the diverse use to which blogs, wikis, pod casts etc can be put to our nominees showcase contributions from infant school pupils to Professors, and everything in between.
3. As a community of education professionals who understand the use of new technologies, we are using the awards to demonstrate that new technologies can be used in positive, powerful, safe and transformative ways. We want to argue against the moral panic that threatens the innovative and creative uses of technologies, most recently apparent in the US’s DOPA proposals. The message we’re sending out is pretty clear in that regard – digital literacy and social participation, for our students, staff and institutions, is the way to address potential dangers – not banning access to tools that are perceived as potentially threatening.
Who organised / runs the awards?
I’ve convened the awards for the last two years, taking over from Incorporated Subversion’s James Farmer, an Australian-based Online Education and Training/Social Software guru, who runs edublogs.org – a free blog service for education workers. I also received invaluable Awards ceremony assistance from Jeff Lebow (US) and Dave Cormier (Canada) from the Worldbridges webcasting initiative.
What do you make of the winners, any personal highlights?
Time moves fast on the internet, and it’s interesting that most of this years winners can be characterized as second generation edubloggers – bloggers who have been inspired and guided by the pioneers of educational blogging – for example Stephen Downes, Anne Davis, and Will Richardson, (although edublogging luminaries Barbara Ganley and David Warlick did both make it to the finals). Along with so many new faces it was also great to see edublogs and projects from so many different countries being put forward.
Christopher D. Sessums, Director of the Office of Distance Education for the College of Education at the University of Florida, won best Individual Blog this year, and I’m a big fan of his work – he was one of the most popular winners we’ve had to date.
The Polar Science 2006 teams work is pretty exemplary – they won best Group Blog for their Polar Science collaborative learning environment which allows teachers and students, (aged 8-18), to take part first-hand in the research of Dr. Shane Kanatous and his “Ice Team” in Antarctica, and Canadian biophysicist, Dr. Thomas Hawke and his “Lab Team” in Toronto, Canada.
I also awarded a conveners prize this year – the Edublog Star Award, to a blog that ran in April and May this year to document the short-lived adventures of a duck and her egg at a US school, A Duck with a Blog. I love how the school community has used the technology to create a focused resource, sharing pictures, writing and photographs – it’s a really wonderful example of how blogs can be mobilized to facilitate and extend learning communities and opportunities. And it isn’t precious or time consuming – the blog was just used for a few weeks, for a specific purpose, which it serves brilliantly.
How do you think edublogging has progressed since last year (or the early years)?
Edublogging has come a long way! Both tools and practices have proliferated, and there has been an explosion of practice at individual, group and institutional level. Educators are increasingly seeing the benefits of using the whole range of new media – blogs, audio and video files, web feeds, wikis and social networking sites – tools which are easier than ever to use.
I think educators could do with a lot more support in terms of face to face training and in-house resources – the edublogging community have been extremely busy providing a wealth of support material and advice, but it’s not necessarily easy for people new to the technologies to track down the examples and information they need.
I’ve been working hard this year to lobby for the inclusion of social software training in Initial Teacher Training, in Continuous Professional Development and for education leaders and managers. It’s vital that our learners are properly supported in developing their skills – most of them use social networking sites, games, instant messaging, and mobile phones and regard these as basic tools. We need to ensure that we are supporting them to use them creatively, safely and responsibly.
Has UK edublogging stalled? If so, why is that?
UK edublogging hasn’t stalled at all – it’s growing from strength to strength. That it is doing so however has be largely dependent on the commitment, passion and energy of individual teachers, researchers, librarians and educational professionals, who are able to see how to take advantage of distributed networks to create formal and informal learning opportunities.
There are increasingly examples of whole institutional use of social software, the campus wide implementation of Elgg at the University of Brighton is a great illustration of cutting-edge practice happening in UK education.
We still have a level of mistrust and misunderstanding of new technologies that has resulted in institutions and regional providers blocking access to sites that they consider to have no educational value. I’m unconvinced that this actually prevents anyone except for teaching staff – who are precisely the ones who need to know how these sites work and what their potential is – from visiting them.